Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Christmas Carol - ACT

A Christmas Carol


November 27 – December 27, 2009

Tickets and Information

Kurt Beattie and Chloe Forsythe. Photo by Chris Bennion, 2009.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of the most beloved stories of all time. Likewise, ACT’s A Christmas Carol (adapted for the stage by Gregory A. Falls) has become one of Seattle’s most beloved holiday traditions. The story is one we all know well. We’ve seen it performed on screen by some of the finest actors to have ever lived, we’ve seen it performed by Muppets or on a 3-D IMAX screen, we’ve had it read to us by our elementary school teachers and perhaps even delved deeper into the story in high school or college classes. However, nothing quite brings the story home like seeing Seattle’s finest perform this immortal and heartwarming story in the beautiful Allan Theatre space at ACT.

This year’s rendition of A Christmas Carol gives the audience an opportunity to take a step back from life for ninety minutes and roll back into a simpler time (covered in snow!). Kurt Beattie and R. Hamilton Wright co-directed the production and share the role of Ebenezer Scrooge on alternating performances. They are surrounded with an outstanding cast and crew of designers and technicians who all come together to bring the story to life, waking the holiday spirit in all of us.

This particular production is also much more carefree and fun-loving than the darker take that last year’s production took. R. Hamilton Wright’s performance as Scrooge is fantastically child-like. His moment-to-moment reactions and attentiveness to the action at hand is unrivaled and he takes this opportunity to shine. Similarly, the entire production this year feels as light as a snowflake on the tip of Tiny Tim’s nose. Every detail glides together to form a heart-warming and loveable show for all who take the time to enjoy it.

On behalf of and (I feel I can speak for us) the Seattle theatre and theatre-going community, we thank ACT for kicking off the holiday season right. Happy holidays!

Review by Andrew J. Perez

R. Hamilton Wright. Photo by Chris Bennion, 2009.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Equivocation - Seattle Repertory Theatre


Seattle Repertory Theatre

November 18 – December 13, 2009

Tickets and Information

The play opens with the question we ask ourselves every day: “Why me?” In this case, the questioner is a man named Shag—short for Shagspear, yes, William. He is standing in the office of Sir Robert Cecil, the man who put the Scottish King James I on the throne of England, and who is now commissioning William Shag to write a play: The True History of the Powder Plot. Through protests that he doesn’t write propaganda or current events, and that his “cooperative venture” of a theater company won’t vote to do it, Shag accepts the money with raging doubts as to the possibility that the play can be written at all.

Shag’s doubts lead him on a quest to find the truth behind the true history of the Powder Plot which leads him to innumerable questions as to the loyalty and faith of his dearest friends and what price he is willing to pay to speak the truth.

The Cast of Equivocation. Photo by Jenny Graham, 2009.

Bill Cain’s script is tightly written, based solidly on fact (or at least well documented conjecture) without being a slave to the time period. Cain’s dialogue never tries to be Elizabethan, but flows seamlessly from modern dialogue to Shakespeare’s own words.

Four of the six actors play multiple roles, while Anthony Heald and Christine Albright anchor the play as Shag and his dark-minded daughter Judith. The other four men (Richard Elmore, Jonathan Haugen, John Tufts, and Gregory Linington) play actors in Shag’s company, as well as Cecil, King James, accused traitors and other characters of the story. They continuously shift from one character to the next with no pretense, creating a complete world in which all characters can exist in the bodies of six actors. When the company performs their final play for King James, John Tufts takes this shifting to a new level, portraying both the king and a player within the performance, jumping from throne to stage with naught but a crown and a flick of his cape to mark the change.

Director Bill Rauch brought this production to us fresh from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His work with Cain’s text and the expertise on the stage presented to him is, without a doubt, fantastic. There are, as with most productions, some elements of forced theatricality that can detract from the skill on display. However, overall, Rauch’s direction is taut enough for such a precise and delicate piece while still leaving room for the considerable humor throughout the play.

In regards to the elements of design, Christopher Akerlind’s lighting design not only shines out among the rest for its sharpness, but also gets special recognition as the only design element to be native to Seattle for this production. The Ashland designers who accompanied this production, transplanted from the Festival, similarly are among the top of their fields and do not disappoint.

Equivocation has obvious, and occasionally explicit, parallels to our own time, in themes of torture, terrorism, sociopolitical dealings and the conflation of religion and politics.

However, the play gets us thinking about our time without ever taking us out of the 17th century in England. It is a period play that is surprisingly modern, and like Shakespeare’s own work, discusses a specific time period and is, at the same time, timeless.

Review by Kenna Kettrick & Andrew J Perez

Saturday, November 14, 2009

HONK! - Seattle Musical Theater

Seattle Musical Theater
November 13-29, 2009
Tickets and Information

The onomatopoeically named Honk! is the story of the Ugly Duckling of Hans Christen Andersen fame, retold in a modern musical style by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (book and lyrics). The musical had its big break ten years ago, when it somewhat surprisingly won England's Olivier award, over more currently well-known shows such as The Lion King and Mamma Mia. Since then, it has been produced all over the world, and is currently showcased by Seattle Musical Theater at their stage in Magnuson Park.

The cast of local actors ably handles the light-hearted ensemble songs, the mournful moments, and the occasional quite complex harmony, conducted by musical director Paul Linnes and his small orchestra. The cast is led by Jeremy Adams as a delightfully awkward Ugly Duckling and is solidly anchored by Dawn Brazel playing Ida, Ugly's mother. Brazel shifts believably from scolding wife to surprised but loving mother, and she is at her best when the pure adoration of her strange son shows through in her singing, whether teaching him to swim or discovering he is missing from the farmyard. Also of note is a jazzy Cat (Jesse Smith), who sports a marvelous mustache and slinky footwork, and shamelessly, but hilariously, hams it up during his songs (especially “Play With Your Food,” as he becomes increasingly frustrated while trying to eat Ugly for lunch).

The entire musical is peppered with in-jokes and animal puns (“come on down and don't be strangers / in our duckyard of free rangers” is only one example). This could get old quickly, but for the fact that director and choreographer Ann Arends never hits too hard with the jokes, keeping the pace light during the humorous moments and not taking the puns seriously. While it shifts in mood and has its share of mournful moments, the play keeps continuously moving and never loses its audience.

Deane Middleton's costume designs are wonderful representations of the animals in the English farmyard and beyond: bustled skirts or tailed jackets imitate the back tail of poultry, wide-rimmed bonnets show beaks, and fluffy white skirts and sleek white suits give us the splendor of the swans, without ever a glimpse of a literal animal costume. Jason Philips' set design is a plethora of cat-tails and a movable bridge, allowing for smaller set pieces to move in and designate places on Ugly's journey with a minimum of fuss, and Richard Schaefer's lighting ably guides the action in each scene.

Honk! is a sweet story, with an almost too-pat ending for the teasing that Ugly endured as a duckling. But the play, and this production, is witty, warm-hearted and sincere, and imparts a lesson we could all stand to learn again: don't judge by appearances, because that awkward duckling just might turn out to be a beautiful swan someday.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Help Fight Prostate Cancer One Moustace at a Time!

Gentlemen, start your moustaches! Ladies, help them out! We're fighting Prostate and Testicular Cancer with the best weapon our natural creation has given us: Facial Hair! Welcome to:

Movember is a a month-long donation-raising expedition raising money that will go directly to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Testicular Cancer foundation.

Andrew J. Perez of has shaved off his handlebars to regrow whatever moustache he can while raising money to fight Prostate and Testicular Cancer. Kenna M. Kettrick of is supporting his moustache growing with donation-getting of her own!

This is where you, our loyal readers and friends, come in.

We need donations. We are trying to reach a goal of $1500.00. It's a modest goal considering some of the amazing fundraising that is happening around us, so help us smash it and blast forward with as much as we can muster. Prostate Cancer affects one in six men in their lifetimes and Testicular Cancer is the most common cancer affecting men ages 18 to 35.

Help us raise awareness by growing a moustache! Help us fight back by donating! Join our team (The Illyirans) and raise money as well! Every cent counts. When I sent out a facebook invitation I've tried to get people to understand that if every person who received that invitation had donated $2.00, we would have hit our goal in one shot. Help us get there and help us go the extra mile. Fight Cancer, look hot with a moustache and be part of the newest craze that's sweeping the Nation and the World: MOVEMBER!

To donate, join or track our progress, follow any of the links above or this one right here:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Opus - Seattle Rep


Seattle Repertory Theater

October 30 - December 6, 2009

Tickets and Information

Michael Hollinger’s Opus begins with the four original members of the Lazara String Quartet, in separate pools of light, each holding their instrument. They speak to us as though each is alone, but their words overlap, come one after another with perfect tempo, and occasionally are spoken in unison—their words played together in concert like their music will be just a moment later.

When the lights return to full stage, the profoundly talented but “unpredictable” violist Dorian (Todd Jefferson Moore) is gone, replaced by Grace (Chelsea Rives), who is auditioning for the empty spot. Opus is the story of that quartet, their ambitions and characters, like their music, distinct but entwined.

Carl, the cellist (Charles Leggett) is the low note, attempting to anchor the group, but with difficulties of his own; Leggett is a master at both subtle gravitas and drought-dry humor, both of which he brings to bear on Carl. Alan, the second violinist (Shawn Belyea) is the most normal of the four, punctuating Grace’s nerves with jokes and a little flirting. Elliot, the first violinist (Alan Fitzpatrick) is high-strung, ambitious and stubborn—and not-so-secretly Dorian’s lover. It is this relationship that is the beginning of the group’s breakdown, and newcomer Grace becomes the catalyst for both revisiting their past and their attempts to move forward. Moore, in his flashback and present-time scenes, invests Dorian with physical grace, slight awkwardness, and a pitch-perfect touch of melancholy, stemming from his “buggy” mind and his deep connection to the music.

Director Braden Abraham uses the Rep’s Leo K. stage and his actors’ talents to great effect. Etta Lilienthal’s simple but versatile set has the pale wood and clean lines of a concert hall, and Abraham’s staging gets the most out of it. L. B. Morse’s light design is a symphony in itself, using deep pools of light, gentle washes, or, perhaps most effectively, a color-tinted scrim against which the actors, swaying to their own music, are silhouetted at the end of scenes. In a play that revolves so closely around music, the sound designer is vastly important, and Matt Starritt rises to the challenge. All the music from the Lazara Quartet is recorded, but it sounds different in each scene, if they are in a house rehearsing or in a vast concert hall. Most impressively, during a rehearsal scene in which the quartet restarts the same five measures three times, those three recordings are subtly but clearly different (an obvious act for a sound designer, perhaps, but one much appreciated by this reviewer and her companion).

Nods must also be given to Michael Jinsoo Lim and Melia Watras, music consultants; their work showed in the obvious reverence each character had for their instrument, the movements of each actor while they “played” those instruments, and the clear understanding the actors had when they spoke of music.

Opus is a one act, but it packs a wallop in those 90 minutes; the scenes and dialogue move at a fast clip, and only slow down for the music itself—like the characters themselves, which occasionally seem to be moving too fast or in the wrong direction, and yet are able to, with their music, create something complex, intimate and beautiful in its mortality.

(Image coming soon!)

Review by Kenna Kettrick