Sunday, September 16, 2018

My Husband Liked Beverly Better




by Alec Clayton

Syra Beth Puett as Eleanor the Queen in The Lion in Winter, photo by Dean Lapin
There will be a special performance of My Husband Liked Beverly Better, the engaging one-woman show written and performed by Syra Beth Puett that premiered in 2017 at Lakewood Playhouse. In the performance, Puett sits in a comfortable chair and chats with the audience in a most personal and revealing manner about her life both inside, and outside the theater. This intimate show spans more than 50 years in Syra Beth's life on and off stage in opera and dramatic and musical stage performances.

A Southerner by birth, transformed to a Pacific Northwesterner, Syra Beth has performed in Germany, Poland, South Korea, and in six states, and began her Tacoma acting career in 1979. In more recent years, she has been seen as Eleanor the Queen in The Lion in Winter at Lakewood Playhouse, as the loveable Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond at Tacoma Little Theatre and as Miss Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy at Dukesbay Productions.

I was privileged to see her in My Husband Liked Beverly Better at Lakewood Playhouse and was totally captivated.

My Husband Liked Beverly Better
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2-3:30 p.m.
The Spire, 710 S Anderson St off 6th Avenue




Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: Brighton Beach Memoirs



by Alec Clayton  
Published in The News Tribune, Sept. 14, 2018
Pamela Roza as Kate (seated) and Brynne Garman as Blanche, photo courtesy Lakewood Playhouse
It is coincidental that Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” opened at Lakewood Playhouse two weeks after Simon’s death, which adds an extra touch of poignancy to this realistic comic-drama, the first in a trio of autobiographical plays by Simon.
Ably directed by John Olive, Lakewood Playhouse’s first artistic director, the striking thing about “Brighton Beach Memoirs” is how down-to-earth and believable it is. Yes, it is peppered with Simon’s celebrated wit, but much more than that, it is relatable to everyone.
Fifteen-year-old Eugene (Drew Bates), clearly a Simon avatar, already knows he’s going to be a writer when he grows up, but before he can become a writer he has to do two things: play for the New York Yankees and see a naked woman.
Every character in the play is complex and multi-layered, and they clearly love one another even as they struggle and bicker. The actors display a grasp of their characters as real people in family situations.
from left: Andrew Box Burden as Stanley and Drew Bates as Eugene, photo courtesy Lakewood Playhouse
The comic highlights are when Eugene asks big brother Stanley (Andrew Fox Burden) to explain all about puberty and what girls look like without their clothes – and what about that dream he had last night. And as funny as Eugene’s coming-of-age scenes are, the clash between sisters Blanche (Brynne Garman) and Kate (Pamela Roza) are equally intense. One of the most satisfying scenes in the play is when Kate finally allows herself to confront her sister with resentments stretching back to childhood. And we admire and empathize with the father, Jack (W. Scott Pinkston), as he tries his hardest to be the glue that holds this volatile family together despite his own problems.
It is a wonderful story masterfully performed, with the largest and most elaborate set ever erected at the 80-year-old Lakewood Playhouse (designed by Olive).
Bates is a student at Auburn Riverside High School. For such a young man, he plays his part with the confidence and ability of a seasoned actor – nuanced, intense and funny. Burden, whose only previous acting experience has been in high school plays, also performs like an experienced professional. He captures the look and the voice and the gestures of what audiences have come to expect of a young man from a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The three adults in the play, Garman, Roza and Pinkston, bring years of acting experience to the stage, and they handle their parts well. That leaves the other two younger actors, Kate-Lynn Siemers as Laurie and Andrea Gordon as Nora. Both of them capture the looks and movements of their characters, but each of them needs to project better. It was difficult to hear them on opening night.
“Brighton Beach Memoirs” at Lakewood Playhouse is a fitting tribute to the late Neil Simon. It is three-hours long, and the theater warns that the sexual discussions between the brothers might not be suitable for younger audience members.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 30
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood TICKETS: $20-$26
INFORMATION: (253) 588-0042, https://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/ 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Olympia’s fall theater scene




Christopher Valcho as Mark Rothko and John Tuttle as Ken in Red at Olympia Little Theatre, photo by Jim Patrick.

From a loveable bear to a loveable transvestite
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 6, 2018
I know it’s the oldest cliché in the book, but Olympia’s fall theater scene has something for everyone, from mystery to comedy to children’s fare to musicals, and various mixtures of all that.
Harlequin Productions’ season runs later than other theaters, meaning as the fall season opens everywhere else, they are still running the last show in their 2018 season with a continuation of Ruthless, through Sept. 15, followed by Dry Powder Oct. 4-27, and finally the 2018-2019 season opens with Stardust Christmas Groove, the 24th installment in the Stardust series of Christmas musicals, Nov. 29.
Ruthless is a wonderful campy musical about a young girl who is willing to kill to be a star. A parody of such shows about show business as Gypsy, in this one it is the kid, not the stage mother, who is ruthless. But then everything changes and we discover people are not who they seem to be. Directed by Aaron Lamb and starring Charlotte Darling, Aubrey Thomas and Gregory Conn, Ruthless is the funniest musical you’re likely to see this year.
Olympia Family Theater starts their season with the delightful children’s show Corduroy. Follow the popular bear on his delightfully destructive chase through every section of the department store in search of his missing button. OFT says, “Will the night watchperson find him and return him to his shelf before he can find his important button? Will Lisa ever convince her mother to let her give the bear a home? This enduring story stirs up the stage with a bustling rumpus of action and a tender tale of true friendship.” Adapted for the Stage by Barry Kornhauser and directed by Jon Tallman, Corduroy opens Sept. 28.
From light hearted and silly to the most intense of dramas, we go to Red at Olympia Little Theatre. This two-man show is the story of the great Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko as he takes on the biggest challenge of his life, a group of large paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. In bad health and wracked with self-doubt, Rothko (Christopher Valcho) is locked in a battle over his artistic visions with his assistant, Ken (John Tuttle). Red is directed by Jim Patrick. It opens Sept. 20.
Following Red will be Clockwork, a wacky comedy musical directed by Robert McConkey, Oct. 26-Nov. 11.
Finally we come to the next offering from Olympia’s newest theater company, Broadway Olympia Productions: the one, the only, The Rocky Horror Show. Join innocent and naïve Brad and Janet as they stumble into the castle of Dr. Frank ’N’ Furter, an alien, transvestite scientist with a manic genius and insatiable libido. It’s an evening or horror, sci-fi and rock and roll.
Ruthless!, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 15, State Theater, 202 4th Ave. E., Olympia, $42 general. $38 senior/military, $25 student/youth, 360.786.0151, http://www.harlequinproductions.org/
Corduroy, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 28 to Oct. 21, with one Thursday show Oct. 4 at 7 p.m., $19 adults, $16, Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia, http://olyft.org/tickets, 360.570.1638.
Red, 7:25 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20-30, $9-$15, Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave NE, Olympia, 360.786.9484, http://olympialittletheater.org
The Rocky Horror Show, 8 p.m., Oct. 31 to Nov. 4, 2 p.m. matinee and midnight show Nov. 3, $20, The Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave SE, https://www.broadwayolympia.com/.