Monday, June 09, 2008

Namaste Man - Intiman Theatre

Namaste Man
Intiman Theatre
Tickets and Information
May 30 – June 22, 2008

The Tony-award winning Intiman Theater, under the Artistic Directorship of Barlett Sher, has produced several classics in the past few years, both American and European. This theater, however, is also a haven for new works and premieres. The most recent of these is Namaste Man, also directed by Bartlett Sher, and written and performed by Andrew Weems.

Andrew Weems in Namaste Man. Photo by Chris Bennion 2008.

Intiman audiences may be familiar with Weems from recent productions of Three Sisters and Arms and the Man; but in this show, Weems moves away from the classics and into his own childhood. Weems' father, an employee of the US government, took his family all over the world: Weems was born in Korea, and lived in Nepal for several years before highschool. In this piece the focus is on that time in Nepal, both the actual years spent there and the memories and effect it had on him in later years. Weems tells of family and friends and experiences he had in brief stories that intersect with each other. His great talents in these anecdotes are his humor and his specific use of character - he creates different evocative voices for his mother, father, schoolgirl crush, household servant and a myriad of others - all precise and all very entertaining. His tale of his theatrical debut with an amateur acting group in Nepal is made particularly enjoyable and real with his depiction of Peter Cross, the Anglo-Indian director with artistic style galore.

Throughout the ninety minutes, Weems tells stories from Nepal and New York, about being lost and found, about family and leaning his place in the world. Yet although themes sometimes resonate through several anecdotes, there is less of an overarching story, and it is here that Namaste Man falls short of what it could be. Weems storytelling is undeniably entertaining, often humorous and sometimes emotionally affecting; but it is never clear why, exactly, Weems is telling us all of this now, what his overall purpose is, or what our reaction or role - besides being an entertained listener - might be.

Certainly, though, this does not detract from the spectacle that Namaste Man is. Elizabeth Caitlin Ward’s scenic (and costume, but specifically scenic) design is undeniably impressive. The towering tin roof slats, the candles in numbers to make the fire marshal cry himself to sleep creating an ambience little known to Seattle theater audients and the ever-utilitarian boxes, oranges and figurines make the world our own. Similarly, Greg Sullivan’s lighting design sets the world alight and brings it to life.

While it is confusing in retrospect why the show has happened, the stories and the path alone are well-worth the journey.

Review by Lia Morgan and Nigel Andrews

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