Saturday, October 26, 2019

Review: “Shakespeare in Love”

By Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, Oct. 25, 2019
left to right: Micheal O'Hara as Christopher Marlowe and Rodman Bolek as Will Shakespeare
Nobody writes like Tom Stoppard — except perhaps William Shakespeare. And when Stoppard does his take on Shakespeare, the result is comedy that is brilliant and hilarious. Witness “Shakespeare in Love” by Stoppard, Lee Hall and Marc Norman. You’ve rolled in the aisle laughing at the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola de Lesseps and Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare. Now you must see the live stage version presented by Tacoma Arts Live and starring Victoria Ashley and Rodman Bolek.
Will Shakespeare (Bolek) has agreed to write two different plays for two different patrons, but he is broke and struggling with a huge case of writer’s block. To the rescue comes fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe (Micheal O’Hara) who feeds him lines and an almost complete synopsis of a play to be called “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter.” He meets and is immediately smitten with Viola (Ashley), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant. In an insanely funny parody on the famous balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet,” Will tries to win Viola’s love with poetry, but he is stymied trying to think of beautiful words so Marlowe, hiding beneath the balcony, feeds him lines a la Cyrano de Bergerac.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s poetry, Viola – who is already a theater aficionado – becomes determined to act in his new play and auditions disguised as a man – because in Elizabethan England it was illegal for women to be actors.
Ashley and Bolek light up the stage with their acting. Their chemistry is palpable.
Bolek plays Shakespeare as lovably bumbling, while portraying his love for Viola with sincerity and passion. His physical comedy in fight scenes, along with that of the large supporting cast, is worthy of the Marx Brothers times about a dozen – aided by the scope of the large proscenium stage and the tall balcony, which gives the actors ample room to run about wildly (credit must be paid to choreographer Eric Clausell, fight coordinator Geoffrey Alm and director Chris Nardine).
Viola’s passion and distress and sometimes confusion is written all over Ashley’s face, and when she appears disguised as a man, she is a wholly different character. I actually double-checked the program to make sure there were not two actors in her roles.
The play Shakespeare’s actors rehearse and ultimately perform for the Queen (Kathryn Grace Philbrook, who is perfectly majestic and loveable) is, of course, a bowdlerized version of “Romeo and Juliet” with Viola playing the part of Romeo. The rehearsal scenes are farcical, especially when Shakespeare tries to direct the kiss between Romeo and Juliet, but when they perform for the queen, the love between the two and the tragic final scene are as beautiful and touching as the original.
Rachel Fitzgerald turns in a stunning comic role as the nurse. Her double takes and shocked expressions when coming unexpectedly upon people she did not expect to find (such as Will Shakespeare in Viola’s bed) are spectacular. The rest of the supporting cast is also outstanding. Kudo’s to O’Hara, Spencer Funk as the detestable Wessex, Steve Tarry (outstanding in drag), Lukas Amundson as the incompetent actor Wabash, and Brian Tyrrell as Fennyman.
Also worthy of great praise is costume designer Naarah McDonald.
I highly recommend Tacoma Arts Live’s “Shakespeare in Love.”

Shakespeare in Love
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 3, extra Saturday matinee Nov. 2 at 3 p.m.
WHERE: Theater on the Square, 901 Broadway, Tacoma,
TICKETS: $19-$39
INFORMATION: (253) 591-5894,

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Rocky Horror comes to Auburn

Doing the Time Warp again
By Alec Clayton

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 24, 2019

from l to r: Riff Raff (Alan Plaster), Brad (Hunter Roy) & Janet (Cami Werden), photo courtesy Auburn Community Players

America’s favorite cult classic musical, The Rocky Horror Show, is rocking the stage at Auburn Avenue Theater. Since the early 1970s, audiences have been showing up in droves for stage and screen versions of Rocky Horror, often in costume and prepared to open umbrellas, throw rice and shout lines at the actors. The show itself parodies such characters as Frankenstein and Dracula and makes fun of bad horror movies in general as nerdy couple Brad (Hunter Roy) and Janet (Cami Werden) knock on the door of a dark and threatening castle and are welcomed by the outrageous transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Jordan Melin).

In Frank N Furter’s creepy home, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters, including a rocking biker and a creepy butler. “With a bit of a mind flip; You're into the time slip; And nothing can ever be the same…”). From there on it is all campy rock and roll and sexy humor.

The Auburn Community Players’ production is directed by Chris Serface, longtime musical theater actor and director and Artistic Director of Tacoma Musical Playhouse. “Rocky Horror has always been a favorite of mine from the first time I saw it when I was in high school,” Serface says. “I've now been privileged enough to have acted in it and directed it before and have always had a blast. This time around has been even more fun. The creative team and cast have put their heart into this project, and it shows. Rocky is sometimes overlooked as a serious show because of its cult status. The message of acceptance, individuality, and love is clear when you listen to the lyrics and text.”

Serface says, I'm a Rocky purist and love the vision that Richard O'Brien created with this show. Come dressed up and ready to talk back to the show, because the audience is truly a part of the story.”

Brynne Geiszler plays Magenta, the maid. Geiszler has a BFA in Theater from Cornish College of the Arts. You can see her next in Broadway Olympia’s production of Songs For A New World this November. Geizler says, “Rocky has always had a special place in my heart. This is my fourth time performing in Rocky and each time the experience has been unique in its own way. This is my second time playing Magenta and I continue to learn new things about the character and show. I think the show itself is amazing because at its core when you strip away the camp and the sex, it's about being unabashedly true to yourself. But of course why would we want to strip away the camp and the sex, it's the best part! This cast has been incredible to work with. We've become a tight knit family and I am floored every day that I get to share the stage with these talented people.” 

Melin says playing Frank N Furter is “an absolutely blast. The show makes you transcend onto another level you never thought possible. There is not another show I know of that allows and expects the audience to take such a huge part of it by yelling some of the most obscene comments, and we as a cast relish in them. It heightens the experience for all of us and creates a sort of freaky-bond.” Melin has performed in many theaters in the Pacific Northwest and has toured throughout the state and in England.

Audience participation kits will be available for purchase at the performance. There will be no outside participation items allowed in the auditorium.

The Rocky Horror Show, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Oct. 31, 2 p.m. Oct. 13, 11 p.m. Oct. 19, and 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, presale $17 adults, $14 seniors/students, at the box office $22 and $19, 253.931.3043,

Monet, Renoir, Degas . . .

 Important PNW collections of Impressionists at Tacoma Art Museum
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 17, 2019
 “Patton Creek," oil on canvas by C.C. McKim, 1924, Tacoma Art Museum, gift of Esther and Jeff Clark, photo by Mark Humpal.
Well over 100 years later, a majority of the world’s landscape painters still paint in an Impressionist style. As if landscape art has not advanced — which it has — since the 1880s.
The French Impressionists Renoir, Degas and their contemporaries  were considered radical when they were painting. Their art flew in the face of everything that had been considered sacrosanct in art since the Renaissance 400 years earlier. They dared to paint common people and commonplace scenes, and didn’t even pretend to hide their brushstrokes. The establishment considered their art to be crude and childlike and definitely not museum-worthy.
Tacoma Art Museum offers a fresh look at the French Impressionists and at American Impressionists from right here in the Pacific Northwest who were inspired by the French movement.
The show is Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Their Circle: French Impressionism and the Northwest. Drawing on TAM’s own collection and collections from other museums in the region, it chronologically covers the development of their art from works by Impressionism’s precursors, such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Gustave Courbet, to masters such as Monet, Degas, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, to American Impressionists including C.C. McKim, Clara Jane Stephens and Fokko Tadama.
“The purpose of this exhibition is deeply connected to the same passion that drove the French Impressionists, to transform the way we see,” said TAM executive director, co-curator of this show along with Margaret Bullock. 
In some of the earliest works, such as Eugène Boudin’s “The Beach at Trouville” we see that beyond painting commonplace scenes, the important innovations were lightening the palette and painting with dabs of color not meticulously blended as was required  in previous work. In Boudin’s “Washerwomen at Trouville” we see small figures in vast landscapes rendered as simple globs of paint with no details whatsoever, yet easily readable as people due to positions, gestures and color.
In works by Renoir and Monet, we see significant brightening of the palette and lush laying-on of paint, and with Sisley and Pissarro paint application becomes dots and dabs of color with no blending. The rosy cheeks in Renoir’s “Heads of Two Young Girls,” which has been shown often at TAM, fairly glow, and the background colors are laid down with exuberant splashes of color.
Many of the Impressionists severely cropped images as in as in Edgar Degas’ “Dancers,” painted on fan-shaped silk, while others began to paint in more sketchy manners, the most radical of which, in this show, is Berthe Marisot’s “Jeanne with Doll,” which looks like it could have been painted in the 21st century because it is so loose and expressive with more concern with visual expression than with realistic rendering.
The American Impressionists of the Pacific Northwest are shown in a separate area of the gallery. None are particularly well known. They clearly mastered the Impressionist style, but were a little late arriving on that particular scene. Since seeing the latest European art without a time delay was almost impossible in the 19th century, most of them lagged behind the French artists, painting in the Impressionist style at a time when Picasso and Braque and Kandinsky were creating abstract art.
This is a large show and an important slice of history.

Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Their Circle, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, through Jan. 5, 2020, $12-$55, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 253.272.4258,

Monday, October 21, 2019

Pippi Longstocking at Lakewood Playhouse

 Presents in Collaboration with
OCTOBER 24th – NOVEMBER 3rd [8 Shows Only]

The Lakewood Playhouse is proud to present its 7th Annual “Special” Joint Presentation with its very own Lakewood Institute of Theatre — “Pippi Longstocking” for 8 Shows Only! The famous story by Astrid Lindgren is adapted for the stage for an amazing adventure for the entire family!!  The Show will run from October 24th through the November 3rd and be performed on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm!  There will also be a Special “Pay What You Can” Performance on Wednesday, October 23rd at 7:00pm

Ticket Prices are just $15.00 Each! The show is directed by The Lakewood Institute of Theatre’s Education Director, Deborah L. Armstrong.  This Production marks a true collaboration between the Lakewood Playhouse’s Mainstage and its Education Department as it brings all the production elements of a Main Stage show and combines them with the even bigger sense of wonder and adventure brought by its youth and educators!

The show has a Huge Cast with Over 20 Actors of All Ages from Seven Years Old and Up! It includes performances by our Youth Actors - Julianna Guzman (Annika), Nigel Kelly (Tommy), Makenna Kelpman (Pippi), Mia Uhl (Thunder / Sailor), Judah Sawyer (Bloom/ Sailor), Audrey LaRoy (Angel Mama / Townspeople), Gunnar Ray (Klang / Townspeople), Thayden Boom (Larsson / Townspeople), Chailia Wednland (School Children), Howie Howard (School Children), Juliana Heckard (School Children), Norah Gawryczik (School Children) and Selayna Rudolph (School Children) as well as our Adult Actors - JP Plinka (Carnival Manager / Sailor), James D Lett (Strongman / Sailor), Tad Isaac (Teacher / Townspeople), Matt Kelly (Captain Longstocking), Katie Howard (Mrs. Settergren / Townspeople), Libby Catalinich (Mrs. Prysselius / Townspeople) and Tuppence Cooney (Mrs. Granberg / Townspeople).

ABOUT THE SHOW: ​ “An Adventure for the Whole Family filled with Laughter and a Dash of Mischief”

On the outskirts of town stands a ramshackle house. It may not seem like much ’til you peek through the railings…then, there’s a horse on the porch, a monkey in the kitchen and a freckle faced, red-pigtailed, whirlwind of a girl in mismatched stockings presiding over all! This is the domain of Pippi Longstocking who is outrageously unsupervised and proud of it. When her father sails into town just in time to rescue her from a solitary life in the Children’s Home, she has the chance to join him in his adventurous pirate life, but she chooses to stay. As odd as it seems, and against all the rules, she has found a place where she belongs.

Lakewood Playhouse 

Lakewood Towne Center, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood
(253) 588-0042 

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Hound of the Baskervilles at Centerstage

A horror mystery unfolds on the Moors
By Alec Clayton

left to right:  Jacob Tice, Eloisa Cardona, Tom Livingston photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis

A horror mystery unfolds on the Moors
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 17, 2019
Director Krista Duval and her cast and crew went all out to present a harrowing version of The Hound of the Baskervilles at Centerstage, adapted by Seattle playwrights David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright, with an eye toward being true to Sir Conan Doyle’s original story.
The audience is transformed to England in the 1880s first of all by the elaborate set designed by Jyles Rodgers, costumes by Jocelyne Fowler (most notably the men’s coats and hats and Beryl Stapleton’s beautiful dresses), and lighting and sounds by, respectively, Michelle Mann and Xandria Easterday Callahan.
The beautiful set consists of a background with boulders and tattered hanging cloth that does not attempt to look like the Moors but rather like draped cobwebs which creates a Halloween mood, and moveable set pieces to represent Holmes’ London apartment and the drawing room of Baskerville Hall, with beautiful iridescent green curtains and many period portraits.
As good theater always is, this production of The Hound is a group effort. One drawback in this production is that the many scene changes become a distraction that takes the audience out of the feeling of being in another place and time. Plays with many scene changes can be the bane and challenge of community theaters with limited budgets, but given what they have to work with, this company handles the changes as well as any.
Dr. James Mortimer (Timothy Duval) asks Sherlock Holmes (Tom Livingston) to investigate the death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville (Craig Rock) who was found dead in the Moors near Baskerville Hall in Devon, England. Holmes is intrigued with the case because there are hints that Baskerville might have been killed by the legendary giant hound that lives in the Moors. But rather than going to Baskerville Hall himself, Holmes sends his companion, Dr. Watson (Jacob Tice) to investigate.
Livingston’s performance as Holmes is a bit overly affected in the early scenes, but he then in later scenes his acting is more realistic.
Tice, known for his outstanding roles in Tacoma Little Theatre’s national award-winning The Pillowman, and A Few Good Men at Lakewood Playhouse, is again outstanding as Watson, a role he plays with great subtlety and a bit of sly humor.
Eloisa Cardona is captivating in the duel roles as Mrs. Hudson and Mrs. Barrymore, Robin Mae Becar is likeable and engaging as the beautiful young Beryl Stapleton and then changes convincingly in ways that can’t be explained without spoiling the story.
Also turning in enjoyable performances are Dale Bowers as Mr. Frankland and Duval as Dr. Mortimer.
This is a show that is ideal for the Halloween season. It is spooky and witty, and for those who do not already know the convoluted plot it is an intriguing whodunnit.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through Oct. 27, Centerstage at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way, $30 adults, $26, Seniors, Military: $15; Youth (18-23): $12 17 and younger (plus 5% City of Federal Way admission tax), 253.661.1444,

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe

Tim Hoban as Edgar Allan Poe, photo by Jason Ganwich

Local actor Tim Hoban will appear on the Lakewood Playhouse stage as Edgar Allan Poe in An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe Friday and Saturday, October 18th & 19th only.

Presented in the Lakewood Playhouse’s thrust configuration with seating facing the stage as well on both of its sides, this performance invites you into Poe’s parlor to hear some of his most famous stories of the macabre and imagery-filled poetry. 

The performance is a revival of a very successful show created by Northwest playwright Bryan Willis and originally directed by David Wright.

Hoban recreates an audience with Edgar Allen Poe as he promotes a magazine called “The Stylus” and the stories and poetry found within.

Parental Advisory:  Some of Mr. Poe’s stories might be too scary for little ones. Parents are encouraged to read some of his stories, and poems, and decide if the material is appropriate for their young family members.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 19
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. Lakewood, 253.588.0042,
TICKETS: $10.00 Each

Monday, October 7, 2019

Princess Rubyslippers: a fairytale mashup

A fun romp for all ages

by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 3, 2019
Amanda Stevens, left, Gabriela Tatone, right, photo by Alexis Sarah
Like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Delicious Revenge of Princess Rubyslippers by Brendan Murray is a tasty romp that appeals to audiences of all ages. Now playing at Olympia Family Theater, directed by Pug Bujeaud, Rubyslippers is 80 minutes of laughter.
Ruby (Gabriela Tatone) is girl of indeterminant age. She’s bored. Her mum (Amanda Stevens) is anything but bored. She is harried and worn out. It’s her so-called day off and she has a gazillion things she has to do, not the least of which is taking care of her children, Ruby and her big brother, Jake (Skylar Bastedo). She wants more than anything for a simple five-minute break to relax without the kids bothering her. Their friend Tom (Emily Bittrick) comes for a visit, and Ruby to decides to hide from them. Dressed as a fairy princess with a single red ruby slipper —the other one is missing, shades of Cinderella —she climbs into a huge box and magically disappears into a make-believe world peopled by her fairy godmother, the big bad wolf, the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, the wicked witch (all played by Stevens) and Prince Charming (played by Bittrick, who clearly loves it when Ruby asks him to kiss her).
Jill Carter’s set design is lovely and playful, complete with posters from popular fairy tales and beautiful backdrops and cut-out images behind windows. Jonnita Thompson’s costumes are smack-on exactly what you’d expect these kids and their mum would wear. (As readers might guess from the term “mum,” this is a British comedy, and the cast does a good job with the British accents.
from left: Emily Bittrick, Gabriela Tatone nd Skylar Bastedo
Tatone and Bastedo are boisterous, exuberant and over-the-top funny, Bittrick is slightly less loud and raucous and equally delightful. Stevens does a terrific job of portraying a woman who is at her wit’s end, and she transforms nicely into the various fairytale characters she portrays. As the giant she is comically ridiculous with her gruff voice and posing with a spread-leg stance and hands on hips like Mister Clean. This cast will have you falling in love with them.
All-in-all, Princess Rubyslippers is a less serious and more child-friendly Into the Woods, but without music, which is unusual for Olympia Family Theater.
Bujeaud is one of the Olympia area’s most well known and deeply respected theater professionals. She has written, directed and/or acted in more than 150 productions and served as Artistic Director for Theater Artists Olympia. For the past 15 years she has headed up St. Michael’s 5th grade Shakespeare program. This is her second show to direct for Olympia Family Theater, the previous one being The House on Pooh Corner.
The Delicious Revenge of Princess Rubyslippers, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through Oct. 20, $20, $16 student, senior, military, $15 children 12 and under, Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia, 360-570-1638.