Thursday, September 26, 2019

Review: “The Addams Family”

Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, Sept. 27, 2019
From left: Linda Palacios as Morticia, Rafe Wadleigh as Gomez, Savana Masako Smith as Wednesday, Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson as Grandma, Jonathan Bill as Lurch and John Kelleher as Uncle Fest, photo by Kat Dollarhide.
Revising their production of the national award-winning “The Addams Family” from three years ago was a surefire move on the part of Tacoma Musical Playhouse. What could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing. Their opening night performance before a sold-out crowd was flawless.
The musical, with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, was based not on the popular 1964-1966 television series but on the cartoon series by Charles Addams. Yet the principal characters – Rafe Wadleigh as Gomez, Linda Palacios as Morticia, John Kelleher as Uncle Fester, Jonathan Bill as Lurch, and Savana Masako Smith as Wednesday – look a heck of a lot like the familiar actors from the TV show. It’s quite a feat and a tribute to the amazing pool of acting talent in the area when a local community theater can typecast to some extent based on appearance and still fill the stage with the most accomplished of actors. I am glad they managed to bring back so many of the cast members from their fine 2016 production.
As directed and choreographed by Jon Douglas Rake, “The Addams Family” is a quirky, silly, lighthearted entertainment with good music and dancing and absolutely spot-on acting by entertainers who are clearly having the time of their life. There is gallows humor galore, and many topical jokes are tossed into the crypt – for example: Ohio, where Wednesday’s boyfriend comes from, is dismissed as a swing state, and Uncle Fester tells Alice (Michele Bettinger) that he’s going to the moon (think Ralph and Alice on “The Honeymooners”).
Wadleigh, who has been outstanding in many TMP shows, is at his absolute best as the sneering, rubber-faced lampoon of a Spanish mobster. His adagio/flamenco/tango with Palacios and the ensemble is as good a comic dance performance as you’ll ever see.
Kelleher as Fester is sweet and weird and wonderful. His performance with puppet legs on “The Moon and Me” is delightful beyond measure.
Bill is the quintessential Lurch. Ted Cassidy from the TV series could have learned his chops from Bill. When he unexpectedly bursts into a deep-throated “Move Toward the Darkness” in the finale, audience members like me who had not previously heard him sing are stunned into awe.
Palacio’s singing is outstanding. Smith as Wednesday goes through a million facial expressions with comical subtlety and also sings beautifully. Jake Atwood as Wednesday’s boyfriend, Lucas, and Howy Howard as little brother Pugsley are both terrific singers and performers. Howard is a delight to watch and has quite the grand voice for a small boy. Atwood and Howard are the only principle characters who were not in the 2016 production.
Bruce Haasl’s set is wonderful, especially the backdrop painting on the cemetery scene, and Julles Milles’s costumes are great. Kudos to Milles on the inspired costumes for the undead ancestors’ ensemble.
TMP’s “The Addams Family” captured awards in eight or the 13 categories at the national competition including outstanding production and outstanding acting awards for Wadleigh, Bill and Smith.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through Oct. 6
WHERE: Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
TICKETS: $31 adult, $29 senior, military, students, $22 children 12 and younger

INFORMATION: 253-565-6867,

Part two of Neil Simon’s Eugene trilogy

So this is the Army
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 26, 2019
Aaron Mohs-Hale (Carney), Drew Bates (Eugene) and John Munn (Sgt. Toomey) from the Lakewood Playhouse Production of  Biloxi Blues. Photo credit: Lakewood Playhouse

Cassie Jo Fastabend (Daisy) and Drew Bates (Eugene) from the Lakewood Playhouse Production of Biloxi Blues. Photo credit: Lakewood Playhouse
Last year Lakewood Playhouse produced Brighton Beach Memoirs, the first part of Neil Simon’s autobiographical “Eugene Trilogy.” Now they follow up with the second part of the trilogy, Biloxi Blues, with the same director, John Olive, and the same lead actor/narrator, Drew Bates as Eugene Jerome. In Brighton Beach, Eugene was a 15-year-old kid bedeviled by the beginnings of puberty with three goals in life: to play major league baseball, to see a naked woman and to become a writer. Now, in Biloxi Blues he is a young Army recruit in basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is still determined to become a writer, and he wants more than anything to fall in love and to lose his virginity, preferably but not necessarily with the same woman. You’ll have to watch the play to see which of these goals he achieves and how.

(Reality check regarding the script: there is no Army base in Biloxi, the nearest one is Camp Shelby, 70 miles to the north.)
New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, heaped lavish praise on it in the mid-1980s, saying it was much better than Brighton Beach. I must disagree. I think Brighton Beach was much more down to earth and believable, although both have plenty of Simon’s famous humor and humanity. In the first play in the trilogy, there was more Jewish humor and puberty jokes; in this one it is barracks humor, which does not go over as well in 2019 because it is crass and sexist.
Typical of plays and movies about basic training — think Full Metal Jacket, No Time for Sergeants and An Officer and a Gentleman — there is a hardnosed drill sergeant the recruits fear and ultimately love. At this camp it is Sgt. Toomey (John Munn). Also typically, the genre has to include at least one misfit who doesn’t belong in the Army. Here it is Arnold Epstein (George Blanchard), an intellectual who Eugene suspects is gay. The major conflict throughout is between Epstein and Sgt. Toomey, because Epstein, the true hero of the play, refuses to buckle under what he sees as Toomey’s arbitrary and inhumane treatment of the recruits. The other major conflict comes to light when the men in the barracks sneak a peek at Eugene’s personal journal, which includes his assessments of their personalities, much of which is significantly less than flattering.
Mostly handled with compassion and humor, the play deals with antisemitism and, somewhat less sensitively, with homophobia. And there is love interest as Eugene comically visits a whore house and then meets and falls in love with Daisy (Cassie Fastabend) at a USO dance.
Epstein is the most complex character in the play, and Blanchard captures the many aspects of his personality, from his sweetness and intelligence to his sometimes arrogance and snarkiness.
Bates’ portrayal of Eugene is as likeable and humorous as it was in Brighton Beach. Believably five years older, his humanity shines through. Munn is outstanding as Sgt. Toomey. He looks the age and size for the part, and his bluster does not seem fake. His toupee is the mother of awful toupees. Fastabend is not on stage often, but when she is, she is marvelous as a young woman in love but constrained by the nuns at her Catholic school from expressing that love.
The other recruits are played by young actors, as they should be, but their relative inexperience shows. We see them straining to act their parts.
Lakewood Playhouse warns that the play includes “mature military language and conversations of an adult nature.”
I would not be going too far out on a limb to presume Lakewood Playhouse is going to do the third part of the trilogy, Broadway Bound, in a coming season. It should be in the cards.

Biloxi Blues, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 6, $27.00, $24.00 Military and seniors, $21.00 students and educators, pay what you can Feb. 28 and March 6-7, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. Lakewood, 253.588.0042,

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Live Radio Broadcast at Lakewood Playhouse

Lakewood Playhouse presents the “Live radio broadcast” of Dashhiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon.

This year’s 12th annual Halloween radio gala celebrates Radio Noir and the Hardboiled Detective Story with THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammet with RED WIND by Raymond Chandler! The show will be presented as if it were live from a radio studio straight out of the '40s; complete with live sound effects.

This year’s Gala is directed by James Venturini and includes the talents of both new and returning, favorites:  Andrew Fox Burden, Christian Carvajal, Nicole Lockett, W Scott Pinkston, Marcy Rodenborn and Virginia Yanoff.

Complimentary hor d’oeurves will be served with additional glasses of wine for only $5 per glass.
Halloween costumes are welcome but not required.

Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. Lakewood
8 p.m., Oct. 11-12, 2 p.m. Oct. 13

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Bubble is coming to The Crypt

Elizabeth Lord (back) and Lauren O'Neil (front)

Lord (front) and O'Neil (back)
The Bubble number four is coming to The Crypt Bar in Olympia. All woke Olympians know we live in a bubble out here in the left-leaning left-hand corner of the Unites States—a bubble that satirists Lauren O’Neill and Elizabeth Lord say “can blind us to what is really going on, and blind us to our own foibles.”
This fourth installment of their bi-monthly variety show just might burst that bubble with
improv, storytelling, singing, and acting talent “utilizing humor and satire to help audiences laugh at their own ridiculousness.”
Lord and O’Neill describe it as  a cross between: TV Game Show, “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Laugh-In.” Each show features a show-and-tell segment with a special guest.

Produced by Elizabeth Lord and Lauren O’Neill in coordination with Cryptatopa and collaboration with Sound and light technicians/atmosphere artists: PHILIP ALLISON and DONALD PALARDY III of Puppis and String and Shadow Puppet Theater.

WHEN: Sunday October 6, 2019  (Show #4)
TIME: 7:00 pm (sharp)  doors at 6:15 p.m.
WHERE: The Crypt Bar  ,421 4th Ave. E Olympia
COST/COVER: $5-$10  (Suggested donation - No one turned away for lack of funds!)
TICKETS: Available at the door
21+ only

Friday, September 20, 2019

Lord Franzannian Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show

Elizabeth Lord and her troupe of wild and whacky entertainers are doing their thing again.

BigShowCity presents the 13th annual Lord Franzannian Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show! Hosted by storyteller Elizabeth Lord. Working in the tradition of vaudeville shows from the early part of the 20th century, this fast-paced variety show promises a little something for everyone. Dance, music, comedy, storytelling, burlesque, even feats of amazement! 

Octapas CafĂ© offers a delicious full dinner menu and full service bar.  Come early, eat dinner, and then see a great show in the self-contained performance space in the back . Perfect date night location.

Proceeds from show ticket sales benefit working performers and BigShowCity, a non-profit Performing Arts Organization whose mission is: To help burgeoning artists realize their ambitions by providing financial and emotional support. Recently BigShowCity donated $500 to the String and Shadow Puppet Company.

2 Special shows for an ALL AGES audience on Sunday October 13th and 20th at 2 pm!

Friday-Sunday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., Oct.11-20
Octapas Cafe, 414 4th Ave E, Olympia,
$15-$25 at the door (however, no one will be turned away at the door for lack of funds - all are welcome).

Thursday, September 19, 2019

More than meets the eye at 950 Gallery
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 19, 2019
Klimt's "Judith II"
Paintings from Lynette Charters’ Missing Women Series have been shown in eight different gallery shows in the past year, with more to come, including a one-woman showing in a Los Angeles gallery scheduled for next year. It is tempting to say enough is enough, we get it. The Missing Women concept is clever and meaningful — bigger and more important than the individual paintings — and never before has Charters had an opportunity to show the paintings in a way that brings home the heart of the concept.

The exhibition space at 950 Gallery is turned into a mock museum complete with mock museum lighting, viewing benches and do-not-get-too-close areas marked off on the floor. There is even talk of the artist’s husband, a professional actor John Serembe, appearing at the opening as a museum docent and a gift shop in the lobby selling refrigerator magnets (every museum must have its gift shop). And there will be a 10-minute video.
This mock museum setting highlights approximately 30 of Charters’ paintings, each of which is a takeoff on a famous painting of a woman or women (most nude or partially nude). There is Tiepolo’s “Woman with a Mandolin,” Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring,” Yves Klein's "Petite Bleue," Picasso’s “Seated Girl on a Beach,” de Kooning’s “Woman,” Felix Vallotton's "The White and the Black," Klimt's “Judith ll” and many more.
The clever bit that makes them stand out is that the women’s bodies are not there. Their clothing and their surroundings are painted on wood panels in almost exact duplication of the originals, which they simultaneously honor and disparage, but their bodies are left as unpainted wood. The painting is strategically placed on the wood in such a way that knots in the wood become eyes and nipples. The paintings are done with plaster and acrylic and collaged candy wrappers.
Vallotton's "The White and the Black"
The Guerrilla Girls famously posed the question, "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" and followed up with, "Less than four percent of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 76 percent of the nudes are female." This is the point Charters drives home relentlessly in this series of paintings. “I hope to highlight how women are presented but not represented in art, society and history and how the accomplishments of women are often uncompensated and unrecorded,” Charters says in a wall statement.
At first glance, the paintings, not withstanding the missing body parts, look like exact duplicates of the originals; but there are significant and intentional differences, some for comedic comment and some for aesthetic purposes. Her most recent painting, done specifically for this show and much larger than any of the others, is Klimt’s “Judith II.” The original is framed by wooden strips; in Charters’ version those strips become elaborate patterns of gold foil made from candy wrappers. In her version of “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” the earring is the familiar cone shaped Hershey’s Kiss (but with no chocolate inside). In Vallotton's “The White and The Black,” the background is a solid color with few brushstrokes showing, but in Charters’ version is it painted with strong slanting strokes that mimic the grain on the wood in the women’s bodies. Almost every painting in the show has some such change that can easily be overlooked. Look for them; you’ll be glad you did.
There will be an artist’s reception Thursday, Sept. 19 at 5 p.m., and informal chat with the artist from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 5, and  closing reception from 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 17 with a performance at 7 p.m.

The Missing Women series, 1-5 p.m. Thursdays and by appointment, 1-9 p.m. Third Thursday, 950 Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave. Suite 205, Tacoma, 253.627.2175,

Thursday, September 12, 2019

What’s happening on Olympia stages

Photo – poster image for ‘The Women” courtesy Harlequin Productions

2019-2020 season preview
By Alec Clayton

Harlequin Productions starts its season with Clare Booth Luce’s classic comedy The Women with a huge all-women cast directed by Erin Murray. (It’s really the last of their 2018-2019 season as their season runs later than most theaters.)
“At first blush, I wanted to dismiss the story under the notion that women no longer live in a patriarchal world spending every moment thinking about pleasing a man and championing his home,” Murray said, “But those pressures are still very much alive. I don't want women to be consumed with getting married for stability and maintaining their physical appearance, I want women to be able to chart their own path and establish their own definition of joy, and part of self-actualizing is accepting the struggles. The women of The Women are smart, considerate, and capable of running the world. While the generation depicted in this story was not permitted that option, their insights and instincts live on in the smashing of the ceilings we are targeting today.”
The Women is a large production with 15 women in the cast, multiple locations and dozens of sumptuous outfits, wigs and millinery designed by Harlequin’s longtime costume designer Darren Mills and lavish set by Bruce Haasl.
In November and December, it’s Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol, and in January it’s the outrageous comedy Noises Off. Beginning Feb. 26, Harlequin offers Olympia audiences a very special treat, The Highest Tide, set in Olympia and based the bestselling novel by local author Jim Lynch.

Olympia Little Theatre begins its 80th season with The Consul, the Tramp & America's Sweetheart. To commemorate the 80th birthday, there will be a celebration at the theater on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m.
Directed by Kendra Malm, The Consul, the Tramp & America's Sweetheart is a comedy about Charlie Chaplin, who is getting ready for his first talking picture, The Great Dictator. It’s a comedic look at art, politics, free speech, and anti-Semitism.
Next up at OLT is Vino Veritas in October, followed by Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pembery in December and Equivocation in February.

Olympia Family Theater opens its season with The Delicious revenge of Princess Rubyslippers, directed by Pug Bujeaud, Sept. 27 to Oct. 20. Join Ruby on her hilarious adventure as she dresses as a princess and magically disappears into a world of make-believe. Ruby’s adventures will be followed by the classic tale The Wind in the Willows, Nov. 29-Dec. 22 and Number the Stars, adapted from the Newbery Award-winning book in January and February.

Finally, there’s Olympia newest, Broadway Olympia, specializing in short-run, professional quality musicals. Broadway Olympia founder Kyle Murphy said, “The plans (for the season) are a little bit up in the air right now. What is official is that we are doing our first ‘Passion Project’ this November. Lexi Barnett will direct and choreograph Songs for a New World Nov. 1-3 and 7-10 at the State Theater. This show has been a dream of Lexi's for a while, so we decided to make it happen.”

Later in the season, Murphy will produce a one-woman show for Sara Geiger, which is a fully developed version of a performance she did at the Inteman. Details will be announced later.

Harlequin Productions, State Theater, 202 4th Ave East, Olympia,
Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Avenue NE, Olympia,
Olympia Family Theatre, 612 4th Ave. E, Olympia,

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

'Outside Mullingar' Off the Shelf at TLT

One night only, Tacoma Little Theatre's Off the Shelf program presents John Patrick Shanley’s, Outside Mullingar, directed by Curt Hetherington.

Anthony and Rosemary are two introverted misfits. Anthony has spent his life on a cattle farm in rural Ireland, a state of affairs that—due to his painful shyness—suits him well. Rosemary lives right next door, determined to have him, watching the years slip away. With Anthony’s father threatening to disinherit him and a land feud simmering between their families, Rosemary has every reason to fear romantic catastrophe. But then these yearning, eccentric souls fight their way toward solid ground and some kind of happiness. Their journey is heartbreaking, funny as hell, and ultimately deeply moving. Outside Mullingar is a compassionate, delightful work about how it’s never too late to take a chance on love.

Outside Mullingar features Peter Cook (Tony), Jed Slaughter (Anthony), Brynne Garman (Aoife), and Alyson Soma (Rosemary).

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 19
WHERE: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma
TICKETS: $10, free to members
INFORMATION: (253) 272-2281,