Saturday, May 21, 2022

[title of show] at SPSCC

 

from left: Charlie Kuvangasan and Chris Bolduc, photo by Sara Gettys

from left: CGiselle Jensen and Jesse Morrow, photo by Sara Gettys

Reviewed by Alec Clayton

[title of show]— yes, that’s the title of the show, brackets, lower case type and all. It’s a musical about how a musical became an Internet sensation and ultimately . . . careful here, I’m giving away too much . . . suffice it to say it is a show about the writing and production of itself. This show has won an Obie Award and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.

Two young unknown writers, Jeff Bowen (Chris Bolduc) and Hunter Bell (Charlie Kuvangasan) challenge themselves to write a play and enter it into New York’s Musical Theatre Festival. The submission deadline is a mere three weeks away. It is clearly an impossible challenge for a pair of unknown and fairly inexperienced writers, which they express along with their hopes and dreams in the song "Two Nobodies In New York."

With the help of two actress friends, Heidi (Jesse Morrow) and Susan (Giselle Jensen) they write the story and songs, singing and dancing and dealing with their personal joys and fears along the way. When they feel down, unworthy and defeated, Susan encourages them to keep going and “kill their vampires,” an uplifting song that is worthy of a big Broadway production number thanks to video projections and great dance moves.

The story arc is typical of shows about the entertainment industry: a rise from nowhere, personal conflicts and doubts, and ultimate joy. There are hints at romance and same-sex attractions, but these are kept at a minimum. Ultimately, [title of show] is a feel-good show filled with music, physical comedy that verges on slapstick, and clever lines delivered with pizazz by the young cast. It’s like a lightweight “A Chorus Line” or “Tik, Tik, Boom.”

Half the cast, Bolduc and Morrow, are experienced community theater actors, and half are SPSCC students who each also have experience, and it shows. They, each and every one, dive into this performance with enthusiasm, great moves and excellent singing.

The direction by Lauren Love is outstanding, and choreographer Nicholas Main deserves kudos aplenty. The keyboard accompaniment was played with style by Kyndal Meister; and a fifth character, Dr. John Guarente as Larry, was in a small supporting role which worked well with the others in the cast.

Love wrote in a program note: “It sings to the ‘showmo’ in all of us; it venerates our nerdiest fantasies; it celebrates our adoration of this glitzy, gritty, glamorous North American form of theatre through the rose colored and sometimes lovingly critical glasses of the queer community. It inspires us to dream of a life where what we know, what we love, and who we love are valued.”

Her statement sums it up beautifully, although it implies a much greater emphasis on queerness than is in the show.

 

WHAT

[title of show]

WHEN

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through May 29

WHERE

Kenneth J. Minnaert Center Black Box, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW., Olympia

INFO

360.753.8586.

 

 

COST

Suggested $15 donation

 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Yellow Fever at Centerstage

 

Centerstage opens the noir detective thriller Yellow Fever by Rick Shiomi Friday, May 20. This one is set right here in our beloved Pacific Northwest, and told through the lens of the Japanese and Chinese immigrant communities in the 1970s. From the press release: “The shadows of the internment camps linger over a vibrant community as it fights to establish itself just a few decades after losing so much. In the midst of it all is detective Sam Shikaze, a nisei private eye...and he’s got a story to tell.

 

“The show brings exciting new talent to Centerstage, along with a few familiar faces. Tim Takechi, last seen in our livestreamed 2020 venture Theatre Magic, portrays our iconic private eye, Sam Shikaze, who’s every bit as hardboiled and cynical as a good noir detective should be. Takechi has been recognized for his work all around the Puget Sound area, and was recently seen in Lakewood Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol …. His easy style and comedic timing are an ideal match for our hero. Portraying Rosie, a café owner and mother-like figure to Sam, is Aya Hashiguchi, well known in the South Sound as one of the co-founders and owners of Dukesbay Productions, which provides a space for small theatres to produce their shows. Dukesbay also mounts their own shows throughout the year, including their recent God Said This, which also featured the multitalented Hashiguchi onstage. She is also an active member of the Centerstage Advisory Board. Annamaria Guerzon, last seen as both an actor and playwright in Centerstage’s afternoons of New Works, First Impressions, appears as the determined young reporter Nancy Wing. Guerzon is a bright young talent at the very start of her career, and she is one to watch. Van Lang Pham plays Chuck Chan, a lawyer and friend of Sam. His resume includes the critically acclaimed Washer/Dryer at SIS Productions and Pratidhwani in 2019. Minki Bai portrays Captain Kadota, a member of the police force torn between his loyalties to his community and his brothers on the force. Bai has appeared with Jet City Improv productions in Seattle, as well as other local theatres. Graham Arthur Blair is Sargent MacKenzie, a member of the local police who has it in for Sam and doesn’t make a secret of it. Kadota’s supervisor, Superintendent Jameson, is played by Danny Lacker, a local performer who has performed with multiple Puget Sound Theatres, (and made it to Hollywood on American Idol when he was in High School!). Travis Martinez plays the mysterious Goldberg, a man deeply interested in Japanese culture, who seeks to ingratiate himself with the locals in the International District. Finally, Keith Ordonez, recently of First Impressions, is our swing for the show.

 

Yellow Fever is directed by Mimi Katano. Katano is the Executive Artistic Director of Youth Theatre Northwest, with a long list of directing credits to her name and many theatre professionals who consider her their primary mentor.

 

During the many years I was The News Tribune and Weekly Volcano theater critic I often reviewed shows at Centerstage. Their shows were always excellent. For people in Olympia and Tacoma it might be a little off the beaten path, but it is well worth the drive.

 

RUN DATES: May 20th through June 12th 

TIMES: Fridays – 7:30 pm;

Saturdays –7:30 pm;

Sundays – 2:00 pm

 

 

TICKET PRICES:

$32 for adults; $28 for seniors/military; $15 for ages 18 – 23;

$12 ages 17 & under. Per ticket Facility Use Fees apply.

Tickets available online at www.CenterstageTheatre.com

or by phone: (253) 661-1444

LOCATION:  Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Rd, Federal Way, WA

 

 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Harlequin Productions' Sovereignty

by Alec Clayton


From my Oly Arts article on Harlequin Production’s Sovereignty
Sovereignty is a historical drama about Native Americans written and directed by Native Americans and performed by an ensemble of Native and non-Native regional and local actors with direction, set, costume and lighting design by Native artists who have been brought to Olympia from cities all over the United States. 

On returning to her homeland, a young Cherokee lawyer, Sara Ridge Polson (Josephine Keefe), balances personal life at work and with her family and friends with the strain of arguing before the United States Supreme Court the repeal of a long-standing law that makes it illegal for law enforcement by the Cherokee Nation when a non-native comes onto Cherokee land and commits a crime—specifically and most egregiously rape of a Cherokee woman. If she wins her case, it will confirm the Nation as a sovereign nation. And if she loses, she will lose the rights her family worked and died for.

Brilliantly, playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and director Esther Almazán (Yaqui/Yoeme) alternate scenes during the presidency of Andrew Jackson (Avery Clark in a dual role also as the white man who becomes Sara’s fiancé). There are interesting parallels between scenes from different centuries in which, in many ways, nothing has changed. There are lessons to be learned here. 

Harlequin has recruited professional actors from all over the country, and every Native American character is played by a Native, while white characters such as Andrew Jackson and Sara’s fiancé are played by white actors. Six of the nine cast members play two or more parts. Keefe is outstanding in the role of Sara Ridge Polson. Kenneth Ruthardt (Mescalaro Apache) is mesmerizing as the Cherokee elder dubbed “Major Ridge” by President Jackson. Nathan Rice, billed as “white chorus man,” who plays a contemporary barkeep and a vicious 19th century cop, two very different characters played convincingly. 

The set by Tommer Peterson and lighting by Olivia Burlingame are outstanding. Sovereignty runs approximately two-and-one-half hours including a 20-minute intermission. 

In the lobby is a show of artifacts lent and curated by the Squaxin Island Tribe Museum. 

Harlequin no longer requires proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test to enter the State Theater, but all patrons are still required to remain masked while in the theater space. 

For more background information read the Oly Arts article: 
Celebrating Sovereignty at Harlequin Productions | May 3, 2022 | by Alec Clayton

WHAT 
Sovereignty 
WHERE
Harlequin Productions at State Theatre, 202 4th Ave. East, Olympia 
WHEN
7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday,2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday May 5-28
Thursday, May 19 7:30 PM - Pay What You Choose
COST
$35, Senior/Military $32, Student/Youth $20 
LEARN MORE

Friday, March 25, 2022

Sara Gettys ‘Warmer Days’ at Childhood’s End

Reviewed by Alec Clayton
In the early-to-mid 20th century, commercial art and comic art were considered something less than fine art. And then along came Andy Warhol with his soup cans and multiple celebrity portraits and Roy Lichtenstein with his blown-up comic strip images and the surrealistic comic art of the Chicago School, a.k.a. the Hairy Who. The border between so-called fine art and comics and advertisements vanished, and many people didn’t know what to take seriously and what to ridicule. As the song says, “Anything Goes.”

There are elements of all these approaches to art in Sara Gettys’ exhibition “Warmer Days” at Childhood’s End Gallery. In the front window hangs the massive “Exuberance,” a painting in acrylic on wood of two black bunnies boxing. The exuberant flair of this painting will hopefully draw many pedestrians and motorists into the gallery where they will find almost a hundred works of art by Getty, including paintings and porcelain/mixed media sculptures — all colorful, playful, and exciting. Yet, as playful and cartoonish as they are, this is serious art.

Her images are mostly of rabbits with a few horses and birds and flowers thrown in. Her sculptures include bowls, plates, and flowerpots with fantasy flowers that stand alone or hang on walls. Edges of shapes in her paintings are generally hard, but the paint application within shapes varies from smoothly to roughly brushed with interior patterns of dots or stripes, and large swaths of color. In other words, the rabbits and birds and flowers appear on first look to be flat cut-out shapes adhered to canvas or wood with all the painting being patterns and shapes within them.

“Hare” is a large red and pink head of a rabbit with overlapping areas of color and a dot pattern outside the image on a ground that appears to be behind the rabbit in places and to overlap the rabbit in other places.

“Rabbit 1-16” is a stacked series of 16 paintings with paper, ink, and thread with large areas of loosely brushed red, blue, turquoise, and orange with line drawings of rabbit heads that weave in and out.

“After Everything We’ve Been Through” pictures the silhouette of a bird soaring from bottom right to upper left with inside the silhouette expressively painted areas of yellow, orange and blue.

“Big Agave” dominates the back wall of the gallery going almost floor to ceiling. It pictures a stylize red agave plant above a line drawing in white and blue of three rabbits.

“Dream Rabbit in Moonlight” is a black porcelain rabbit imprisoned by what appears to be bands of gold duct tape. It is a morbid image among so many playful images.

Overall, this is an impressive show and a bright welcome to the warmth of spring after a long and depressive winter and fall. In a statement on the gallery website, Gettys said "Warmer Days is a project I started as a way to push back on the chill dreary days of our PNW winter and the anxiety and uncertainty of the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic."

On Dec 6th, 2021, the Cultural Key to the City was awarded by Mayor Selby to Childhood’s End owners, Bill and Richenda Richardson, followed by the Business of the Year award from the Olympia Downtown Alliance

Sara Gettys ‘Warmer Days’
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Childhood’s End Gallery
222 4th Ave W Olympia

Monday, March 21, 2022

God Said This at Dukesbay Productions

 

Reviewed by Alec Clayton


Jim Winkler and Aya Hashiguchi

James (Jim Winkler) is a gruff, profane and loveable Kentucky hillbilly, a recovering alcoholic obsessed with collecting and selling rocks. He serves as character in and narrator of Leah Nanako Winkler’s God Said This. The “audience” to his narration are fellow alcoholics (not seen on stage) at his AA meeting. He opens the play by introducing himself and saying he’s an alcoholic, that his wife, Masako (Aya Hashiguchi), is in the hospital with cancer, that his oldest daughter, Hiro (Leilani Berinobis), hates him, and his youngest daughter, Sophie (Jasmine Jaqua), has found religion. James and Hiro think Sophie’ religiosity is absurd, but Masako prays with her, and that just might have healing power.

During his drinking days, James was an abusive father. Now he wants to make up with his daughters, but they’re having nothing to do with it.

Hiro is a worldly rebel determined to crush the expectations of a dutiful Japanese-American girl. All of the women, in fact, shatter the cliched images of Japanese women, and James is nothing like the stereotypical redneck alcoholic. They are all well-rounded complex human beings.

Enter John (Jacob Tice), Hiro’s old high school friend. He is a single father who never left his Kentucky home, and Hiro assumes he’s a downhome, uncomplicated playboy. They get drunk and high together, and Hiro wants to “make out” (her term) with him. But he wants nothing to do with that. He wants their friendship to be one-hundred percent platonic (his terminology)—proving that he, like all the family, fits no stereotypes. He has a post-graduate degree and is dedicated to loving and protecting his thirteen-year-old son.

The cast is outstanding, including Berinobis as Hiro is a stand-in for the originally cast actor and had only four rehearsals before opening night. She performed with script in hand but did not need it all the time and did not let that hamper her performance.

Both Winkler and Tice fit so smoothly into their roles that it seems they are not acting at all.

Hashiguchi plays the wife/mother, Masako, as brave and loving with the sweetest of smiles, but

Hiro (Leilani Berinobis) and John (Jason Tice)

she sometimes breaks down into unstoppable sobbing.

Jaqua’s Sophie is the only character who comes close to behaving like the sweet and dutiful Japanese daughter. She is quiet and seemingly shy but stands up bravely in the practice of her brand of Christianity and surprises everyone from time to time with her rebelliousness (smoking a joint, for instance).

The family was not able to get along in the past, but in coming together to be with Masako they learn to forgive and to love one another.

Kudos to director Randy Clark, sound designer Niclas Olson and lighting designer Michelle Weingarden Bandes for their excellent work.

God Said This was the 2018 winner of the Yale Drama series competition chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Aktar, who described it as conveying “a deeply felt sense of the universal—of the perfection of our parents’ flawed love for each other and for us . . .”

 

God Said This

7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through April 3

Dukesbay Theater, 508 6gh Ave. upstairs above the Grand Cinema (no handicap access)

$15 at DukesbahyGodSaidThis.eventrite.com

www.dukesbay.org

Sunday, March 6, 2022

A Chorus Line at Tacoma Little Theatre

 

 


The ever popular A Chorus Line was scheduled to open at Tacoma Little Theatre two years ago but got shut down by Covid. Finally it’s back, with direction and choreography by Eric Clausell and musical direction by Jeff Bell.

From the pen of legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch, come seventeen Broadway hopefuls who divulge their very touching life stories as they sing and dance their hearts out in a cattle-call style audition for a new Broadway musical.

A Chorus Line brilliantly evokes both the glamour and grind of showbiz, and is the musical for everyone who’s ever had a dream and put it all on the line. The iconic score of this Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner features such classics as “What I Did for Love,” “One,” “I Hope I Get It”, “Singular Sensation” — and let’s not forget the hilarious “Tits and Ass.”

Tacoma Little Theatre’s production of A Chorus Line features: Heather Adams Arneson as Lara, Ian Bartlett as Mark, Haunz Stroschein as Gregory, Mallory Carbon as Judy, Richard Cubi as Mike, Loucas Curry as Richie, Roycen Daley as Paul, Emma Deloye as Maggie, Nick Fitzgerald as Bobby, Valentine Fry as Kristine, Melanie Gladstone as Val, Anna Herron as Vicky, Keola Holt as Diana, Devin Jackson as Ensemble, Danielle Locken as Sheila, Annelise Martin as Ensemble, Allen Melo as Ensemble, Derek Mesford as Don, Rebecca Nason as Ensemble, Micheal O’Hara as Zach, Alan Plaster as Ensemble, Whitney Shafer as Cassie, Natalie Silva as Bebe, Josh Wingerter as Al, Hannah Ashcraft as Ensemble, and Thea Frances Yumang as Connie.

WHEN

7:30 p.m.   Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through April 3.  

WHERE

Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I Street, Tacoma

COST

$29.00, $27.00 (Seniors 60+/Students/Military), and $22.00 (Children 12 and under), pay what you can March 24

A Chorus Line is recommended for ages 12 and up. 

TLT requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination at the door for all audience members and masks will also be required while inside the building.  For our full COVID-19 protocols please visit www.tacomalittletheatre.com/covid.

Photo courtesy of Dennis K Photography

 

 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Olympia Little Theatre fractures the season with The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley

Reviewed by Alec Clayton
Anne Tracy as Lizzy, Jennie Jenks as Mrs. Reynolds and Erin Cariker as Lydia; photos courtesy Olympia Little Theatre

The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon is a companion piece to their Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (OLT 2019). Both plays take off from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If you liked P&P and “Downtown Abbey,” you’ll like The Wickhams

To quote local actor, director, novelist, former critic, all-around good fellow and my colleague at Oly Arts, Christian Carvajal — “ ‘For what do we live,’ asks Mr. Bennet in Jane Austen’s 1813 classic Pride and Prejudice, but to make sport of our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?’ Austen may be two centuries in her grave, but her gift for sly satire earned her A-list celebrity- -writer status to this day.

 Ably directed by Kathryn Dorgan, who recently retired as theater teacher at Olympia High School, with beautiful period furniture and gilded wallpaper (properties by Barb Matthews) and costumes by Diana Purvine and Bitsy Bidwell, this production gently sweeps the audience into the Darcy’s palatial estate, Pemberley in England, Christmas time 1815. 
 Erin Cariker and Anne Tracy

The action takes place downstairs in the servants’ work area while upstairs Darcy (Alex Tracy), his wife, Lizzy (played by Tracy’s real-life wife Anne), and Lizzy’s sister, Lydia (Erin Cariker) await guests for a Christmas party. Lydia, who in the first act appears to be a stereotypical airhead with an irritatingly squeaky voice, is at-the-moment, the sort-of-estranged wife of George Wickham (Andrew Stashefsky), a nasty and self-centered if not downright evil man who is Darcy’s sworn enemy. Cariker is reprising her role as Lydia from OLT's afore-mentioned Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.)

Downstairs, head housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds (Jennie Jenks), young servant girl Cassie (Kaylee Hawkins) and footman Brian (Leo King) are preparing for the party when the loud, obnoxious and drunken Wickham bursts in. What ensues is well-mannered farce and mayhem, with a bit of romance. Exception: there is nothing well-mannered about Wickham. 

Most of the cast, except for Jenks, are new or relatively new to Olympia stages. Jenks has performed in many OLT shows including Jekyll and Hyde, Dixie Swim Club and others, and has performed in area theaters for almost 30 years. As Mrs. Reynolds she is the glue that holds this play together. Her emotions, matching her character, are kept in check as subtly expressive. 

 Hawkins was recently in Go Back for Murder at OLT and How I Learned to Drive at the Twilight Theater Company in Portland. She plays Cassie as sweet and innocent. Alex and Anne Tracy are recent transplants from Chicago and will be valued additions to the Olympia theater scene. Stashefsky is outstanding as Wickham — the only character in the play who is not restrained by 19th century manners. His acting is enjoyably over the top. And finally, this is Leo King’s first ever onstage performance, and he does a splendid job portraying the likeable Brian. 

Having said all that, The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley is a mildly funny period comedy that is well acted and directed. It is enjoyable, but I don’t suspect many people are going to rush to their phones to tell all their friends about it. 

Masks and proof of vaccination are required. 

The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley 

7:25 p.m. Fridays, Dec. 10 and 17; Saturdays, Dec. 4, 11 and 18 and Thursday, Dec. 16; 1:55 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 19. Note: I just heard the Sunday shows Dec. 5 and 12 are sold out. 

Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia 

$9 – $15 360-786-9484