Saturday, March 27, 2010

Paradise Lost - Intiman Theatre

Paradise Lost
Intiman Theater
March 19-April 25, 2010
Tickets and Information

Playwright Clifford Odets is perhaps best known for his explosively powerful one-act playWaiting for Lefty, a short show that packs an obvious political punch. Paradise Lost is a very different play, but equally powerful, and—in a less severe way—just as political. This play has three full acts, each one a slice of time within the Gordon household in the early 1930s, as we see the effects of the Great Depression hitting hard on a family—two parents, two brothers and a sister—and their friends and enemies who come in and out of the house and their lives.

Director Dámaso Rodriguez, in a rare move, lets the play move as slowly and gently as it needs to. In a couple places, moments lag; but overall, the realism of the pace adds to the weight of the play, and gives a better balance to the heightened instances of anger or passion. Every member of the large ensemble cast delivers precision performances, tuned to each other and the quiet urgency of the story unfolding onstage. One standout is Lori Larsen as Clara, the mother and wife of the Gordon family; Larsen's resigned practicality offers some of the most humorous and also most touching moments of the play.

Michael Mantell (Leo Gordon), Lori Larsen (Clara Gordon), Eric Pargac(Julie Gordon), Elise Karolina Hunt (Libby Michaels), Shawn Law (Ben Gordon) and Matt Gottlieb (Gus Michaels) in Paradise Lost. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Tom Buderwitz's scenic design takes advantage of Intiman's high ceilings and large space; what begins as a fully realistic living room moves upward into abstract shapes and hanging pianos past the second floor, opening the Gordons' story outward toward the rest of the world. L.B. Morse' lighting is, as always, subtle and evocative; afternoons move slowly into evenings, and—like the set—light is used to widen the reach of the story, spreading it out toward us.

This is, perhaps, an obvious choice of play, given the subject matter—the Great Depression—and our current economic situation, which many fear is far too close to the 1930s. It is unsurprising and yet still disquieting to hear characters written seventy years ago voicing economic fears and philosophies we could hear today on any news channel in the country. Obvious or not, the play is undoubtedly timely, perhaps disturbingly so. For that reason alone it would be worthwhile to see this rarely produced classic by an American master playwright, and the excellence of this production makes it especially rewarding.

As new Artistic Director Kate Whoriskey steps into Bart Sher's shoes, Seattle will be waiting to see what directions she takes the theater in. This reviewer hopes that Paradise Lost is an indication of what is to come; Intiman is at its best when producing large but intimate American classics like this play, and I hope to see many more of its kind in the coming seasons.

Review by Kenna Kettrick

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Two Gentlemen of Verona - Seattle Shakespeare Company

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Seattle Shakespeare Company

March 18 – April 11, 2010

Tickets and Information

Love is like a drug; one experience can engulf your entire body and mind. It can make you numb from reality and embark on adventures that you never would have dreamt of enduring on your own. Love, according to William Shakespeare, can even make you dress like the opposite sex and betray your best friend. This is the message that was brought from the Seattle Shakespeare’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona. The Seattle Shakespeare Company delivered this classic tale with such passion and comical energy that it was given an impressive standing ovation even before the final scene finished. [Right: Russ as Crab and Chris Ensweiler as Lance. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.]

Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Marcus Goodwin (author of House of Mirth, Howard’s End, Pride and Prejudice – Book-it Repertory Theatre), tells the story of two best friends, Valentine and Proteus (Connor Toms and Daniel Brockley), who travel abroad to Milan, Italy in hopes of gaining more life experience than continuing to live in their hometown, Verona. Valentine takes on this opportunity with enthusiasm, while Proteus is more obligated; not only because his father forces him to go, but because Proteus doesn’t want to leave his fair lady, Julia (Hana Lass), behind in Verona. It doesn’t take long for Proteus to find a new love interest in Milan, when he meets the charming Silvia (Emily Grogan), who happens to be Valentine’s love interest as well. This show is filled with witty bantering between the two best friends along with some hilarious characters that give the show a vibrant take on the philosophy of love and friendship.

Samie Detzer as Lucetta and Hana Lass as Julia. Photo by Erik Stuhaug, 2010.

What makes this production of Two Gentlemen of Verona so unique is Goodwin’s modern twist. For example, instead of letters, the characters pass their thoughts to-and-fro using cell phones and text messaging. The costumes consisted of 21st century fashion and the set (Jason Phillips), especially the arrangement of Julia’s bedroom with its shrine of Twilight posters, gave the show the chance to relate to the trends of the modern world. Also, it is important to note how the creative modernization affected Shakespeare’s characters themselves. For example, Proteus’s jester, Launce (Chris Ensweiler), was portrayed as a “stoner” who had deep, humorous conversations with his dog, Crab, and walked around with marijuana joints in his sling bag. Also, Silvia’s father, Antonio (Michael Patten), Duke of Milan is played as a powerful businessman of Milan, displaying his power, wealth and high status, but relating to the modern thought of what a potent, rich individual is today. By modernizing the set, but still using Shakespeare’s script and language, it helped the show relate to all audiences. Shakespeare can be a bit intimidating, but Goodwin’s creativity helped make it easily enjoyable for any audience member.

The production of Two Gentlemen of Verona expressed the extraordinary talents of the Seattle Shakespeare Company. The performance was magnificent; it is a show that must be bragged about to the entire theater scene of Seattle.

Review by Darsha Squartsoff

Flying with Color - Solo Performance Festival / Best in Shorts

Solo Performance Festival

Best in Shorts performed 3/23/2010

It starts with the sound of a car – maybe a bus – whizzing by. Then the sound of a chicken chatting away takes over… We are in the dark. More sounds of what seems like a quiet, rural town stream in and now we just need to figure out where exactly we are in the world. Finally, a little boy calling for his “Papa” begins to sing a song, and the lights eventually come up on Ben Gonio, who begins to tell the story of a man’s journey to America from The Philippines.

Flying with Color, written by Ben Gonio, at first seems like just another story of a man’s immigration from a third world country to the “land of opportunity”. You expect to hear about his struggle; his discoveries; maybe the sacrifice he makes going away from the love of his life. But it’s more than that, and yet so very simple. Flying with Color is ultimately about the never-ending relationship between a boy and his Father. And without giving away its poignant ending, we are able to appreciate this immigrant story we may have all heard before from all the Kitchen God’s Wives and Hannah is my Names through a window: the bond a boy made with his Father, even after two years of separation…oh - and a hat. (You just have to go see the play.) [editor's note: since the play has concluded its short run, you can find more info about Gonio and his productions at]

Aside from some minor sound level issues that may have drowned out some of the dialogue if it wasn’t for Gonio’s projection adjustment, this show was well produced, theatrical, and very touching. His ability to seamlessly go back and forth from the charming, “machismo”, but later somewhat frail character of his Father to the sweet, challenged, and feminine character of his Mother is what tops this actor’s performance in this year’s Best in Shorts. Gonio somehow, with his wonderful story-telling, improvisational, and multimedia skills takes us on an emotional journey from the Philippines to America, from fear to triumph, and from loss to legend, in just fifteen minutes.

Guest Review!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Solo Performance Festival: Monologue Slam

Solo Performance Festival
Monologue Slam!
Tickets and Information
March 13th, 2010

I arrived ten minutes after ten, thinking I was late. Hardly. The doors were still locked. But within a few moments, someone opened it, and the other waiting guests and I were welcomed warmly. Despite having no proof of my free press ticket, I was ushered in for free. The first thing I did was order a Sodo Brown at the bar and settle on one of the cushy couches for a front row seat. At this point, I was one of only a dozen or so attendees, and the number barely doubled the rest of the night. But the hostess, Babette, did not seem in the least bothered by the small turnout. Babette was a woman dressed in a French maid costume of sorts, with a bad black wig, heavy makeup, and a gorilla-like way of stomping around and making noises. Using lettered signs, Babette began the monologue slam without the main hostess herself, Fou Fou.

I learned that a monologue slam goes a bit like this: the host calls for contestants. Contestants are called on stage and then must respond to a command of sorts by the host--such as tell a story using a title someone in the crowd makes up, or develop a character with only the name of someone’s great-aunt for inspiration. The contestants this night seemed drawn to participate less out of enthusiasm than out of resignation- like well, since no one else is here, I guess I might as well. That said, they gave a number of entertaining performances. In total, there were four monologue slammers- oddly, all of them blonde (including the short balding gay man). They began their rounds, when in walked Fou Fou herself- wearing little else but a leotard, some fishnet, and high heels. Fou Fou was a drag queen of supreme elegance, with a voice dripping like honey and oozing with high praise for the participants. Fou Fou and Babette did a fine job leading the slammers through the rest of their turns.

Some highlights included a team monologue, where two of the female participants created a story about two women who, angry about the reaction of their bosses at Hooters to their recent weight gain, come up with a plan that they think is clever indeed. Their plan is to open up a competing restaurant called “Bootie” in which the lower, rather than the upper part of the woman’s body is flaunted. Other highlights were the story of a farmer who invented the idea of a milking carousel, and a traffic accident where the offender was a giant crawfish. When the night concluded, I had gained a new hefty respect for monologue slams. Contestants are gutsy, and the good ones can think on the spot, whip numerous stories and accents out of their pockets, and have magical timing to get to a punch line before the host calls “time.” Congrats to the winner, who won two tickets to Teatro Zinzanni. I encourage all of you to get yourself to the next monologue slam- and to compete.

Guest review by Megan Horst

CURIOUS? The next Monologue Slam is March 27th. Get down there and show 'em what you got!

For more information and tickets to the festival, check it out here:

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Solo Performance Festival: The Dwellers & Samson

The Dwellers and Samson
Solo Performance Festival
March 8th, 2010

The breadth and depth of Seattle’s solo performance talent pool is remarkable, and the Solo Performance Festival brings many of them under one roof. Monday night’s billing matched an experienced solo performer, and his story of an apartment building “where the floors are thinner than the walls,” with a talented musical actress going solo for the first time as she explores a new form of musical theater.

The Dwellers, written and performed by Jonah Von Spreecken, is not quite a mystery, but writing too much about it runs the risk of ruining some delightful surprises. To keep it simple: Yerda, who is a sort of manager of an urban apartment building, has brought most of the tenants together. We in the audience are in fact “the dwellers” of the building. With the help of some recorded conversations which he plays on his phonograph, Yerda tells us his story. Von Spreecken as Yerda is a very engaging performer. Every expression and action is very specific, including a catalogue of repeated hand gestures that provide some of the funniest bits of the evening. You feel a part of this world before the show even begins, and long after it ends, just what a successful solo performance hopes to achieve.

Billie Wildrick’s Samson is an entirely different animal. She admits this candidly when she breaks the fourth wall and introduces her “plus one, even though you’re supposed to go stag in a solo performance,” Josh Carter, who provides live musical accompaniment. Samson, she tells us, is a work in progress. Her aim is to take musical theater in a new direction, where intimate spaces and acoustic music take the place of enormous sets and flashy dance numbers. Rather than interrupting the story occasionally, music is to be a constant throughout the narrative, coming in and being a part of the story when necessary. This piece, a re-telling of the story of Samson and Delilah, is her first foray into a new world and it is an excellent start. When the piece hits its mark, and her beautiful voice intertwines with Josh Carter’s haunting music, it soars. She asks for audience feedback in her introduction, and she deserves it, to help her fine-tune the work. It sounds like she will be working on the show throughout the festival, so repeat viewings would not be amiss. The final product, for this festival anyway, on March 29th could be significantly different than what was on display Monday night.

You have three more chances to see each of these works, including one more chance to see this same double-billing. Monday night’s audience was disappointingly small, and both of these performers are deserving of full houses. For the full festival lineup, visit

There are still three more weekends of shows to go—enjoy solo performance!

by Guest Reviewer Patrick Lennon

Monday, March 08, 2010

Solo Performance Festival: Pipa & Frontier: Valley of the Shadows

Solo Performance is back in Seattle! The Solo Performance Festival #4: Can you Get My Back? is up and running at the Theater off Jackson in the international district. Curator Keira McDonald has brought together acts from across North America in a huge variety of genres: storytelling, stand-up, dance, burlesque, and much much more.

To view the full festival lineup and buy tickets, visit

All this month, reviewers and some new guest reviewers will be writing short pieces about various shows thoughout the run of the festival. Ever wanted to be involved in BroadwayHour, or see what reviewing a show is like? Now's your chance! Send an email to broadwayhour AT and let us know what shows you're interested in reviewing, and you too can be a reviewer for an evening.

Below, read the first review, from this past Friday night:

Pipa and Frontier: Valley of the Shadows
Solo Performance Festival
March 5th, 2010

One of the best parts of Seattle's Solo Performance Festival is the sheer amount of variety in the acts brought to the stage. Curator Keira McDonald pairs performers that otherwise might never share the stage, and that pairing brings out nuances in each act. Such was the case with Friday night's show, which paired Tamera Ober's Pipa and Ki Gottberg's Frontier: Valley of the Shadows.
Ober opens Pipa by rushing onto the stage and bumping straight into the microphone. Adorably sheepish, she makes her way down to the mic—pointed close to the floor—and begins to narrate her story. With a mixture of live storytelling, voice overs, music and dance, Ober shows us the story of Pipa, a girl who sees the world slightly differently from the rest of us. Ober's movements are beautifully controlled, whether she is carefully measuring herself out on the floor, or catapulting around the stage. Ober's control extends to her set as well, as she both climbs and carries a velvet-covered stool and a long bench. Her quirky and charming choreography takes us through her house and on a journey to the supermarket that quickly turns fantastical.
Ki Gottberg's Frontier is a ride from India to Germany to the United States, from parents to children, about taking in the fullness of life and facing the hardships. She tells the story of her parents, one a German knife-seller, the other an Anglo-Indian woman, and their journey to meet and move together to America. Gottberg is a master storyteller, able to change her voice and body at a moment's notice to imitate her father's gruff German accent, or her mother's wispy Indian voice. Interspersed with this—and the true driving force of this tale—is Gottberg facing her daughter's diagnosis of cancer. Though the story has a happy ending, Gottberg does not shy away from baring her grief to the audience, and bringing us close to her.
Though Pipa never mentions the word “frontier,” the character within it faces many frontiers, and finds her way around various boundaries, both physically and metaphorically. And though Gottberg standing center stage with a music stand may not seem a likely pair with a lively dance act, her story of family generations beautifully complements Pipa's solo journey.
Unfortunately, Tamera Ober performs this weekend only, but Seattle audiences have one more chance to catch Gottberg's show, on March 13th. For the full festival lineup, visit

There are still three more weekends of shows to go—enjoy solo performance!

Reviewed by Kenna Kettrick