Friday, August 31, 2012

The Americans Across the Street

The News Tribune, Aug. 31, 2012
reviewed by Alec Clayton
Tom Sanders, Rheanna Murray and Ann Flannigan in "The Americans Across the Street"

"The Americans Across the Street" by Carter W. Lewis, now playing at Harlequin Productions, is filled to overflowing with rage, sarcasm and bitter humor. Hilarity dominates most of this three-person show, but tenderness, sadness and love also take their bows on the dilapidated porch of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and world-class curmudgeon Derek Slaughterhouse (Tom Sanders).

Derek spends most of his days on the porch of his run-down suburban home in a gated community shouting insults at his across-the-street neighbors: a “bank monkey,” the privacy fence guy, and a 400-pound weight-loss guru. He hates them all. The only person he doesn’t hate is his mail carrier whom he calls a hermaphrodite because she is a mail man — a silly but effective play on words. She never appears on stage but he mentions her often. 

Alexa (Ann Flannigan), whom Derek hasn’t seen in 17 years, recently lost her husband, she is now destitute, and she and her 16-year-old daughter, Phoebe (Rheanna Murray) show up on Derek’s porch and radically change his life. Derek has apparently forgotten her and the fact that she is his little sister,
Harlequin’s opening night marked the first full performance of this play on any stage, and as with first performances of any play there are some rough spots. Most of the dialog is brilliant and at least two of the three characters are compelling, but their backstories and motivations are not as well developed as they should be. 

There were also a few inconsequential problems opening night, including a gunshot that was confusing — the audience could not tell who or what was shot by whom. There were also some dropped lines — forgivable because the cast moved past them quickly and well, and because there are extremely difficult monologues and they had only three weeks to memorize lines, plus there were some late script changes as revealed in a talk-back with cast, director and author after the performance.
These minor problems are dwarfed by the hilarity of the script and by the inspired acting of Sanders, Murray and Flannigan.

Among the laughing-to-tears scenes is one involving magic mushrooms and roasting marshmallows that is insanely funny and which anyone who lived through the ’60s and ’70s should be able to identify with and maybe for those who wish they had. What Alexa does after getting thoroughly stoned (I will not give it away) involves a marvelous bit of interpretive acting of an equally marvelous bit of writing.
"The Americans Across the Street" is a play with a small and intimate feel despite the fabulous elaborately constructed Slaughterhouse home designed by director Linda Whitney and built by Marko Bujeaud and crew. The production values are excellent, the lighting by Olivia Burlingame is magical, and the acting is outstanding.

There are clever one-liners, laugh-out-loud absurd situations, and sudden and dramatic changes in mood. The playwright sets you up for comic bits and suddenly yanks your heart out, and just as suddenly changes serious scenes into outlandish comedy. All of this works beautifully because of precise timing and excellent acting.

Flannigan makes the audience really believe she is a strong and loving woman trying her hardest to love a thoroughly unlovable brother. Murray is gawky, bright and funny as the teenager who melts Derek’s ice cold heart. I’ve seen Sanders in many roles, from “Animal Farm” to “Cannibal the Musical” to “Macbeth,” but I’ve never seen him portray such a range of extreme emotions so convincingly as he did in this play.

Although the reasons for Derek and Alexa’s 17-year estrangement and their neurotic co-dependence are neither clear nor believable, "The Americans Across the Street" is intelligent and funny and touching, and I enjoyed almost every moment of it.

WHEN: Thursdays through Saturdays, 8p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. through Sept. 15
WHERE: State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia
TICKETS: prices vary, call for details
INFORMATION: 360-786-0151;

Friday, August 24, 2012

Objets Trouvés

The art of Reni Moriarity and Selinda Sheridan
by Alec Clayton

The Weekly Volcano, Aug. 23, 2012
"White Iris" by Reni Moriarity
Objets Trouvés is French for found objects, which very loosely describes at least some of the work or parts of some of the works by Reni Moriarity and Selinda Sheridan at Flow — another little gem of a show for this tiny gallery that’s open only for Third Thursdays and by appointment.

Moriarity’s sumi and watercolor paintings with collage and mixed media are nicely done, sweet and decorative. Selinda Sheridan’s paper sculptures with sumi, found objects and other media are even nicer. 

"Chrysallis," by Selinda Sheridan
Sheridan is showing a series of works called “Meditating on Ink” that consists of long, thin cylindrical objects like pieces of chalk or cigarettes in a pack that are lovely to look at. The cylinders, laid side-by-side, are white and decorated with delicate gray sumi painting. Verbal description does not do them justice. Almost minimalist and very soft looking, there is much more to these pieces than meets the eye at first glance. There are two versions of this work that lay flat in their boxes on a stand and a third — the best piece in the show — which stands upright on a small, book-holder-size easel. 

Another piece by Sheridan that I particularly like is “Remnants of Grief,” a small piece with cocoons-like forms nestled one inside another like rocks inside a shell. They’re made of papier mache, collage, sumi, a tea bag and a stone weight. The shell-like outer part is crinkled like dried mud in a desert. I was told she created that effect by doing the papeir mache over a blown-up balloon that was then deflated. However it was done, it is a nice effect.

All of her sculptural pieces are in tones of gray or in earth tones. She is also showing a group of four flat wall pieces in sumi and collage. The best of these is a simple little painting called “Tranquility: Barnacles & Rocks.”

"Inner Light" by Selinda Sheridan
Moriarity’s paintings in watercolor, sumi and collage are not as unique or as inventive. They are rather traditional paintings or fruits and flowers with soft edges to a wet-on-wet technique. The best of these are in a group of four paintings wall to the right and one on the back wall, each of which has flowers integrated into an atmospheric background that is painted with what appears to be some kind of resist technique — that is, something placed on the paper to prevent the paint from adhering in certain areas and then lifted off. These resist areas look like a tangle of leaves and limbs from trees. Moriarity unifies the flowers and the backgrounds very nicely.

Also featured is a collection of jewelry by Lisa Von Wendel.

[Flow, Objets Trouvés, Third Thursdays and by appointment, through September, 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253 255-4675]

Monday, August 20, 2012

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee/All in the Timing

Bob DeDea; Caitlin Frances. Photo: Laura Campbell
Top L to R Alex Smith; Brandon Walker: Ben Sasnett. Bottom L to R Chauncey Trask; Sierra Tinhof; Alicia Burch. Photo: Laura Campbell

Something familiar, something peculiar
reviewed by Michael Dresdner

One cast, two days, seven plays. That’s what’s afoot in Federal Way this summer, and if you’re smart, you’ll hoof it down there and take advantage of it.

Centerstage, a bastion of great theatre, has teamed up with the drama department of Central Washington University to stage a Summer Theatre Festival reminiscent of classic summer stock, where one group of actors puts on different shows on alternating weeks or nights.

In this case, a combined cast made up of three Centerstage and five CWU actors stages a fairly familiar and well-loved musical comedy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and alternates it with a rather peculiar set of six, short, one act comedies, dubbed All in the Timing, from playwright David Ives. Based on the results, it’s pretty clear that CWU’s talent pool can easily hold its own with the very admirable Centerstage troupe.

From the Centerstage side comes DuWayne Andrews, Jr., Bob De Dea, and Caitlin Frances. If you’ve been lucky enough, or wise enough, to be a regular patron, you’ll recognize them from past successes. Hailing from CWU comes a similar group of young talents; Ben Sasnett, Sierra Tinhof, Brandon Walker, Alicia Renee Burch, Alex Smith, and Chauncey Trask. There were too many great characters created by this universally talented troupe to call out a string of high points. I’ll simply say that this is an outstanding ensemble, and you’d be crazy to miss it.

As is so often the case at Centerstage, the top notch actors were abetted, on both nights, by clever and simple scenery, spot on costumes and lighting, excellent directing and choreography, and in the case of Spelling Bee, the best musical support around.

Spelling Bee, a popular and often performed musical, has a pair of quirky moderators proctoring a spelling bee peopled with a gaggle of peculiar and socially out-of-step savants, with a useless and suspect grief counselor in attendance. There’s a wealth of great music and dance numbers, both as a group and individually, as each of the off-center contestants exposes his or her odd back story and personal angst, and trots out an affectation or two used to make it through the competition.

The musical teems with word plays, sight gags, and often masquerading as awkwardness, some fine dancing to go with the singing and acting. It’s a perfect vehicle for classic triple threat (singing, dancing, acting) performers, and this was, top to bottom, a perfect cast for it.

As usual, Centerstage pulled in an excellent production team consisting of director/choreographer Chris Nardine, musical director/keyboardist David Duvall (abetted by percussionist Troy Lund), set and lighting designer Christina Barrigan, and costume designer Jessica Pribble.

The next night I saw All in the Timing, a sextet of very funny, often very odd, comedies. All six were short but engaging, and the evening sped by.

Sure Thing is the classic boy meets girl in a café, and each tries to say the right thing so that a date ensues. However, there’s a delightful twist. Each time one says the wrong, or less than ideal, thing, a service counter bell dings. That’s the signal, often used in improv, to back up a line or two and try again. The result is a hilarious sequence of alternate offshoots that, after enough mulligans, finally gets the couple together.

Words, Words, Words has the classic “three monkeys at typewriters will eventually create Hamlet” conjecture, but in this case, we hear the monkeys’ point of view as they caper about and expound on their take of the situation. The Universal Language is another boy meets girl story, but this time with an entrepreneur offering lessons in an Esperanto-type universal language. It’s wonderful wordplay, and yes, you’ll understand everything they say, even though it is not, strictly speaking, in English.

Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread takes a couple of simple sentences by four people in a bakery and deconstructs them into a collage of song, movement, and rhythm. In The Philadelphia, a man explains to his hapless friend that everything is going awry because he is stuck in a Philadelphia, a day were you can only get what you want by asking for the opposite. Variations on the Death of Trotsky, is just pure silliness, with a buffoonish Trotsky, a climbing axe firmly imbedded in his head, dying, over and over again in slightly different ways, after his wife clarifies events for him by reading about his death from an encyclopedia clearly written in the future.

Cynthia White did an excellent job of directing Timing, backed up by costume designer Lacy Halverson, and choreographer/stage manager Kate Gregory.

As an actor myself, I was impressed – make that amazed – that one cast can manage to do what amounts to seven totally different plays, one of them a full length musical, and create some 25 diverse characters, without getting them all mixed up. As a reviewer, I was simply delighted to be able to beat the heat in air conditioned comfort while I got to indulge in two back-to-back nights of non-stop fun.


August 18th and 19th at 2 pm,
August 22nd, 24th and 25th at 8 pm.
All in the Timing
August 18th and 23rd at 8 pm,
August 25th and 26th at 2 pm.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Holly Senn is going places

Honeycomb by Holly Senn, detail from installation "Inhabit"

The Weekly Volcano
Aug. 16, 2012

by Alec Clayton
Nest by Holly Senn, detail from installation "Inhabit"

Nest by Holly Senn, detail from installation "Inhabit"

Tacoma artist Holly Senn is going places — both literally and figuratively. Figuratively she’s going places because at this stage in her career she may well be Tacoma’s most successful up-and-coming visual artist. Literally she’s going to Portland and Seattle, and who knows where she may go next.

She’s preparing for an installation called “Inhabit” at The Gallery @ the Jupiter in Portland, (800 East Burnside St.) that opens September 7. Like a busy bee (following the literal/figurative trend) she’s hard at work making wasp nests and honeycombs for that installation.

In Seattle she currently has a piece called "Coding/Uncoding," in a show called "Portraits of Pride" at Gay City Health Project, 511 E Pike St.
Back home in Tacoma she will have an installation at Pacific Lutheran University’s University Center, and in December she will be in a group show of past nominees for the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation Art Award.

Senn says “Inhabit” is an installation that is “site-responsive” to the Jupiter Hotel. “I am responding to structures that take hold temporarily in nature and ideas that temporarily inhabit the mind. I invite viewers to explore the making of a temporary home — a place of shelter to live and be present in, to make one’s own temporary space. Ideas engage the mind in a similar way; some ideas are temporary, others are more permanent, all are related in networks of connection. The temporal nature of my installation considers the permanence and impermanence of ideas dwelling in the mind, as well as the temporary nature of being physically situated in the world.”

“In my work,” she continues, “I explore the lifecycle of ideas, how ideas are generated, dispersed, remembered or forgotten. Because I look at permanence and impermanence, forms of plants and other organisms that have visible regeneration cycles are interpreted in my art. An underlying tension in my work is that the discipline and practice of librarianship, from which I draw upon, is often romantically imagined to be aligned with print while contemporary practice is driven by patron desire for digital access. I transform books--recognizable symbols of recorded and shared information — and their pages into new forms, using the iconic materials to consider the recursive nature of ideas.”

As I have stated numerous times in reviews of Senn’s work, she is one of those rare creatures whose work is equally conceptual and visual. Her sculptures — usually small works made from pages out of old and discarded books and displayed on sculpture stands — and her room-size installations — generally made from the same materials, are all about ideas generated from the materials and their implications, meaning the pages of books and the trees they are made from and ideas surrounding the act of reading and the environment in which those trees grow. But there is much more to her work than the idea. Her work is also visually stunning. There is visual resonance between the individual pieces that make up her installations and the spaces in which they are displayed.

Her latest area of visually and mental exploration looks into the nature of nest building and all that implies, beginning with the materials (book pages as always) and metaphorically looking into the nature of nesting, home and security.

Information on Holly Senn and images or her work can be seen at

This just came in from Gallery @ the Jupiter


Sculptural Installation by Holly A. Senn

Reception for the artist: First Friday, September 7, 2012
6 – 8PM
Exhibition closes October 3, 2012

The Gallery @ the Jupiter is pleased to present Inhabit, a sculptural installation by Holly A. Senn. Inhabit invites viewers to explore the making of a temporary home or shelter. The artist creates paper forms which resemble nests and honeycombs. The overall installation plays on the lifecycle of ideas and how they are generated, dispersed, remembered or forgotten. Senn is known for her botanically inspired sculptures created from discarded library books and has exhibited widely, including at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York and the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle.

Gallery @ the Jupiter
800 East Burnside St.
Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Dragons

Convergence of the Summer Dragons at B2

The Weekly Volcano, Aug. 9, 2012
by Alec Clayton

What a wonderful title for an art exhibition! The word “convergence” in the title must refer to a bringing together of Eastern and Western traditions. Asian and American artists show works influenced by the Japanese art of sumi with both Western and Eastern traditions in landscape and abstraction. 

Featured are the works of Faye Clerget, Bill Colby, Fumiko Kimura, Sheri Neville and Jun Kang Ye.

"Beautiful Buddha," digital photograph by Sheri Neville 
Following on the heels of the bombastic Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt show, this one is quiet, contemplative and restful. Where the Hall and Schmitt was like a jaw-droppingly surrealistic movie this show is like a book of lyric poetry to be savored in a quiet mood.

The first works to be seen as you enter the gallery are a group of three Chinese brushstroke landscapes by Jun Kang Ye. They consist of horizontal sweeps of tree lines and buildings set against the horizon, mostly in muted tones of gray (ink washes, I presume) with occasional spots of color. These are nice little paintings, but a little too stiff and formal for my taste. The better of these is one called “Red Bridge,” which has looser brushstrokes except for on the bridge — the only spot of color — which lacks the delightfully impromptu look of the rest of the painting. 

There are about seven more similar paintings by Ye in the back hallway. The best of these is one called “Passage Through Oregon I.”
"Cliffside II," sumi by Bill Colby

Also in the front gallery are three sumi-style paintings by Bill Colby — a very well known name in the Tacoma art scene. I’ve seen a lot of Colby’s work in print media, but can’t recall if I’ve ever seen any sumi paintings. These are excellent, with a delicate balance between open spaces and density of paint and between abstraction and representation. The best of these is one called “Cliffside II.”

Colby is also showing some of his Helix series prints, which were shown last year at Flow. And there are more works from Colby in the back rooms of the gallery including watercolors, sumi and woodblocks. He adds a lot of variety to the show in terms of style as well as media.

Sheri Neville is showing a group of digital photographs of Buddhas which appear to have been computer-manipulated. There are overlapping images and fascinating textures — not literal textures, no bumps or ridges to be felt, but illusory textures so that the images seem to have been projected onto rocks and leaves.

Faye Clerget is showing some sumi and pastel works that have smoothly flowing forms in soft colors that remind me of oil on water in sunshine — very soothing imagery. Clerget also has a group of six sumi watercolors of flowers nice brushwork and balance and placement of figure and ground. And one excellent little ink drawing of a bird’s nest in tree branches that reminds me of a Franz Kline but more delicate.

Finally, Fumiko Kimura has two of the finest works in the show. They are small sumi paintings in the back hall with square and rectangular shapes floating over and within atmospheric swirls of soft black and gray ink. I like the contrasts of hard and soft edges, openness and density. There is controlled energy here.

[B2 Fine Art Gallery, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and till 8 p.m. Third Thursdays, through Sept. 28, 711 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, 253.238.5065]

A look toward the Dome

Just got notice that 'View of the Dome' at SPSCC has been cancelled.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sentimental Journey

Love Letters at Lakewood Playhouse

reviewed by
Michael Dresdner

Because each performance of Love Letters has a different cast, Alec Clayton and I decided to go on three different days and then share our reviews on one another's theatre blogs. Here’s my take; if you haven’t read it yet, Alec’s is below.
Micheal O'Hara and Sharry O'Hare

If you have read Alec’s review you know the basics. Yes, it is a “play” consisting of two people sitting side by side, reading 50 years worth of letters to one another recounting lives that are largely out of sync. And yes, it is often done, as it is at Lakewood, with revolving casts.

If you are lucky enough to see it with the right actors, (and I was,) you understand immediately why; it is hard to imagine a cast being able to make it through the powerful and heart-rending Act II more than once in a year, much less several times a week.

At its core, Love Letters is a long and winding road; a lifetime journey of two people who meet at age seven, and through letters and a few rare personal contacts, follow each others lives as they unfold in very different directions. Yet through it all, they remain bound by a thin, unbreakably strong, spider-silk strand of affection. 

Act one is laugh-out-loud funny; from the giddy silliness of two seven-year-olds passing notes through the awkward and exaggerated tweens and teens, and on into the confusing absurdity of early adulthood. The actors imperceptibly age, through voice and mannerisms, as they grow into their lives.

Act two takes us through their successes, challenges, and for one, desultory destruction, and by its end, leaves us emotionally drained and decidedly tear stained.
Granted, with different casts, each performance will be different, and some may be stronger, better, or differently skewed. I saw two, and they were, admittedly, much different. Clearly, there’s no way to review all nine, but I will say this about one pair.

I’m one of those people who abhor frivolous standing ovations, but Sunday’s performance, a complete tour de force by the outstanding team of Micheal O’Hara and Sharry O’Hare, was one of those rare times it was truly earned. It made me glad to be a reviewer, proud to know the actors, and grateful to have experienced those two hours of my life.

In short, done well, this is powerful theatre, the true measure of what great theatre can be, a journey that will make you laugh, and will make you cry.

Alec is right. Go see it. It’s an experience worth having.

Still to come, performances by:

Friday, Aug. 17 - Stephanie and Jarod Nace
Saturday, Aug. 18 - Terri and Robert Puett
Sunday, Aug.19 - Aya and Randy Clark
Friday, Aug. 24 – Samantha Camp and Bruce Story
Saturday, Aug. 25 – Rachel and Alan Wilkie
Sunday, Aug. 26 – Bethany Bevier and Niclas R. Olson

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A few more never- or seldom-seen paintings

Here are a few more never- or seldom-seen paintings.

There's a story behind these. It was January 1990, the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century. I had been thinking for a long time that I wanted to start doing abstract paintings but didn't have much of an idea what I wanted them to look like. One day I stapled a large canvas to the wall and slathered on some paint with nothing in particular in mind, and then I picked up a paint scraper and started pushing the painting around on the canvas, and interesting and unexpected things started to happen. I let the paint dry and then started drawing on top of it with oil sticks. Out of this grew a series of paintings I called "Decade."

Decade No. 12. oil snd oil stick on canvas, 44" x 48"

Decade No. 25. oil snd oil stick on canvas, 44" x 48"
Even though I had started to "go abstract," a few parts of figures still crept into the new paintings  - quite evident in Decade No. 25. These two and the next two were shown in exhibitions at University of Texas El Paso and in a now defunct gallery in Portland in 1991. The only one ever shown in the Olympia area was Decade No. 25, which was shown at Childhood's End Gallery in '91 or '92.

unnumbered from the Decade series. oil snd oil stick on canvas, 44" x 48"
Decade No. 26. oil snd oil stick on canvas, 44" x 48"
unnumbered from the Decade series. oil snd oil stick on canvas, 44" x 48"

Unseen paintings

Daydreaming, oil stick and acrylic on canvas, 32" x 24"

These are paintings that have never been shown publicly, all done in about 1988-89. All of them will be in my studio sale. Click on images to see larger.

Venus Warrior, oil stick and acrylic on canvas, 32" x 24"

Vargas Llosa, oil stick and acrylic on canvas,14.75" x 19.5"

Video Series: Catherine Arising, oil stick and acrylic on canvas, 32" x 24"

Skinflicks, oil stick and acrylic on canvas, 23,5" x 31,5"
untitled, oil stick on paper, 8" x 5.5"

untitled, oil stick on paper, 8" x 5"

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review Love Letters at Lakewood Playhouse

reviewed by Alec Clayton
There are many degrees and types of intimacy, but it is rare to have experienced a theatrical performance as intimate as Love Letters at Lakewood Playhouse. And what a sweet and original concept: nine performances of the same two-person play, each performance by a different couple who, off stage, are actual lovers, spouses or partners.

Since it opened off-Broadway in 1989 Love Letters has traditionally been performed with revolving casts. The unique twist to the Lakewood Playhouse presentation is that each of the performing couples met and fell in love while working in theater.

 As written by A.R. Gurney, the play is not to be “performed.” The couple is introduced. They sit side-by-side in chairs and read a series of letters to each other. Theater-goers will notice that no one is credited as director or costume designer. The only thing theatrical about the show is the lights come up at the beginning of each act and go down at the end. Otherwise it is just two characters reading letters written to one another over a lifetime. That sounds boring, but it is anything but. It is fascinating. It is one of the most personally engaging bits of theater I have ever witnessed.

The characters are Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, a boy and girl who met in the second grade and whose first correspondences were notes passed back and forth in school, and who continued a relationship, mostly through letters, throughout their lives. They grow up. They experience the pangs and hopes and disappointments of puberty and adolescence and young adulthood. They go their separate ways, both physically and psychologically, yet keep getting back together mostly through the letters as they build careers and family and grow into middle age and old age.

Alex Smith and Jen Davis were Andrew and Melissa opening night. Smith is a South Puget Sound favorite who has performed in a slew of plays in Olympia and Tacoma, most recently turning in an amazing performance in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Lakewood Playhouse. He has endeared himself to audiences primarily through wild physical comedy. In this show he is much more restrained physically, but his facial expressions offer a look into the soul of Andrew Ladd. Davis is not as well known to me. This was my first time to see her on stage, and according to a curtain speech by Playhouse Artistic Director John Munn it may be the last for quite some time, because she is leaving the area soon for California. I’m glad I got to see her in this show. She absolutely becomes Melissa Gardner, frustrated artist and lover.

The amazing thing about Smith and Davis’s performance is that they each seem to thoroughly inhabit their characters yet remain most definitely themselves. Smith has a favorite hat that he wears everywhere he goes, and he wears it throughout this performance as if saying, “Look folks, no costume. It’s just me.” Having gotten to know him a little over the past year I felt like I was watching Alex Smith be himself, opening his own heart for the world to see inside and revealing that Andrew was as real as Alex. That is what we call acting. I suspect everyone in the audience opening night felt the same way — privileged to be invited into their lives. I’m sure the experience will be much the same at each succeeding performance as audiences are given a chance to see many of their favorite actors perform this show, so this is one show that would be good to see more than once because it promises to be different each time.

The actors are:
Saturday, Aug. 11 - Jen Ankrum and Blake York
Sunday, Aug. 12 - Sharry O’Hare and Micheal O’Hara
 Friday, Aug. 17 - Stephanie and Jarod Nace
Saturday, Aug. 18 - Terri and Robert Puett
Sunday, Aug.19 - Aya and Randy Clark
Friday, Aug. 24 – Samantha Camp and Bruce Story
Saturday, Aug. 25 – Rachel and Alan Wilkie
Sunday, Aug. 26 – Bethany Bevier and Niclas R. Olson

Love Letters is sweet, poignant, funny and revealing. I not only recommend it, I recommend seeing as many performances as possible.

Video interviews with each of the couples at

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 26
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood
TICKETS: All tickets $15
INFORMATION: 253-588-0042,

Friday, August 10, 2012

This is a video project by my wife, Gabi Clayton.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Anna in the Tropics at Burien Little Theatre

reviewed by Alec Clayton

We braved rare tropical Northwestern heat on one of the hottest days of summer to see Anna in the Tropics at Burien Little Theatre, and the play sizzled like the sun bearing down on the parking lot outside. Thank you, BLT, for air conditioning, and thank you, Director Roy Arauz and cast for an engaging summer afternoon.

Anna in the Tropics is a co-production of BLT and Latino Theatre Projects.

Written by Nilo Cruz, it was a 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner. The story takes place in a Cuban-immigrant, family-owned cigar factory in an old warehouse in Ybor City, Tampa, Fl., in 1929.

Santiago (Fernando Luna) is the patriarch of the family, but like many a family no matter the culture, it is his wife, Ofelia (Eloisa Cardona), who keeps the family united and functioning. Their daughters Marela (Idalia Limón) and Conchita (Maria Knox), and Conchita’s husband, Palomo (Erwin Galán) all work in the factory. They keep the tradition to bring lectors in to read to the workers in the factory while they hand-roll cigars. The new lector, Juan Julian (Gabriel Sedgemore) chooses to read from Anna Karenina, and the workers especially the women are intrigued with the story and find many parallels in their own life. Stories of familial conflicts, loves, and infidelities emerge along with a bitter fight over modernizing the factory. Santiago’s half-brother, Cheché (Jason Pead) wants to bring in mechanized cigar rolling and do away with the lector, but most of the family wants to cling to the old ways.

It’s a fascinating and emotionally charged story well acted by a cast balanced with new and experienced actors, all of whom are part of the Latino Theatre Project.  Mireya Beltre, who plays factory worker Eliades, is a native of the Dominican Republic, Cardona is Latina and Asian, Limón and Luna hail from Mexico; the others do not list their countries of origin.

The play opens with a pair of alternating and beautifully stylized set pieces. Stage right: Santiago and Cheché are betting on a cock fight; stage left: Ofelia, Conchita and Marela are excitedly waiting on the arrival of the ship bringing the new lector. In these alternating scenes the personalities of the various characters come to light and the audience is given clues about what is to come. We see that Santiago is a good man but perhaps naïve and easily manipulated and that Cheché is passionate and strong willed; we see that both sisters are dreamy and romantic, that Marela is excitable and loving, and probably easily hurt, that Conchita is the more even tempered and level-headed older sister, and Ofelia is the glue that holds them all together, but she is not so rock steady that she doesn’t have passions and dreams of her own.
There is some very accomplished acting going on here, especially on the parts of Pead, Luna and Cardona. And Limón’s bubbly personality is infectious. Since Conchita is very reserved at first, Knox’s acting seems almost too restrained, but she allows her passions to gradually emerge as she fights with her husband and as we see her making love (tastefully but passionately) first with her lover and then with her husband. My one complaint is that even though the love scenes were well acted and coyly kept in the dark, Knox could have shown more fire; there needs to be more electricity between the lovers.
The set design by Steve Cooper is simple but highly effective and Addie Keller’s costuming looks authentic. The saddle oxfords were a particularly nice touch.

It’s easy to see why Anna in the Tropics won a Pulitzer, and this company does it well. It is well worth the drive from Seattle or Tacoma. We drove all the way from Olympia and were glad we did.

WHERE: Burien Little Theatre, 14501 4th Ave. SW, Burien
WHEN: Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Aug. 26