Saturday, October 30, 2010


Seattle Shakespeare Company
October 27-December 5, 2010
tickets and information

No other play better depicts the calamitous downfall to insanity than William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. To understand the emotions that follow treachery, loss, and vengeance, is difficult enough,but to perform Shakespeare’s poetically tragic story of Hamlet is a challenge on its own. Seattle Shakespeare Company was no fault to the task however. The theater performed the play with such tenacity, it was a stupendous performance to celebrate their 20th year anniversary.

Cast of Hamlet. Photo by John Ulman

Hamlet (Darragh Kennan) is the young prince of Denmark who is trying to cope with the recent death of his father, King Hamlet (Charles Leggett). Not only has his father just died, but within a few months after his fathers death his mother, Queen Gertrude (Mary Ewald), marries his uncle Claudius (Richard Ziman) who becomes the next king of Denmark. Hamlet is both in a state of depression of his father’s death and deeply disturbed at his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle. It isn't until Hamlet sees the ghost of his late father that he begins to quickly plummet into madness; especially after the ghost reveals that he was murdered by Hamlet’s own kin. The rest of the story slowly unravels as Hamlet plots a number of schemes to avenge his father’s death. It doesn't take long for Hamlet’s dark state to deepen as he attempts to both process his revenge and the many calamities in his life.

Hamlet is considered one of the best tragedies written in the English language. At the Seattle Shakespeare Company, director John Langs intensified Shakespeare’s dramatic tale even more with loud, booming sound effects that made the seats shake. The use of lighting was also a creative touch to the performance.The lighting was used to shift the scenes between Hamlet's crazed soliloquies and back to the play. What also gave epic depth to the play was the cast who performed phenomenally. Each line was spoken with such passion and diligence that the audience forgot to breathe or even shift in their seats.

Although Shakespeare did write Hamlet as a tragedy, it doesn't hold a solum tone for the entire performance. It also maintains Shakespeare’s famous, witty humor. Darragh Kennan, who plays Hamlet, is one actor in particular who received a standing ovation for his performance. His portrayal of Hamlet’s sinking depression was heartbreaking as he gave emotional insight to his character, but also revealed the humorously, intelligent madness that Shakespeare holds within the character of Hamlet.

Darragh Kennan as Hamlet and Mike Dooly as Horatio. Photo by: John Ulman

If the performance and the dramatizing effects are not enough to make this play impressive, so is the hidden symbology.The Seattle Shakespeare Company’s costume designer, Pete Rush, had the cast wear black and white clothing. White symbolized happiness or innocence and black symbolized depression or madness. Hamlet was decked in black throughout the play while the rest of the cast wore brightly white clothing. As the story unfolds however, some of the character's clothing begins to change color. Apart from the clothing, Shakespeare has symbology in his words alone. If you listen carefully, the characters will foreshadow some of the future events that occur within the storyline.

Hamlet is a famous play that has been successfully re-produced for hundreds of years all over the globe. The Seattle Shakespeare Company has now taken a chance for their own unique production of Hamlet. The theater has again proved that through their creative talent they have the ability to turn any Shakespeare play into their very own.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

Seattle Repertory Theater

October 1-24, 2010

tickets and information

God of Carnage. The title of the play explains it all. No matter how hard people try to behave civilly something is always bound to set them off. For the Novaks and the Raleighs, it happened to be simply meeting each other.

(L-R) Hans Altwies, Amy Thone, Bhama Roget, and Denis Arndt in God of Carnage. Photo by Keri Kellerman.

God of Carnage (directed by Wilson Milam) is the sophistically humorous play that takes place when Michael (played by Hans Altwies) and Veronica Novak (played by Amy Thone) invite Alan (played by Denis Arndt) and Annette Raleigh (played by Bhama Roget) to their home for a parent meeting regarding a fight between their children. Annette and Alan’s 11-year-old son had hit Michael and Veronica’s son with a stick while they were playing in the neighborhood park. Both parents meet to discuss the fight, but it is apparent that no one is concerned about the brawl and neither want to be in each other’s presence. Everyone acts in a civil manner though; awkwardly polite while sipping espresso and discussing art. Alan, however, who is a workaholic lawyer, doesn’t play along and continuously answers business calls and speaks bluntly. It doesn’t take long for the rest of the characters to join in on their true feelings as they begin to make snarky comments about who’s son was a “snitch” and which boy really started the brawl. Finally, the animalistic nature is released! One argument about their children turns into a huge uproar of marital disputes, an argument regarding the ethical murder of a hamster, and a philosophical quarrel regarding the nature of human emotions and actions.

Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, this Tony Award winning comedy deserves its award for best play. Reza created an outstanding play that is cold, but hilarious. The key to her comedic talent is that there is no over-exaggeration. She simply bases her characters and script off of true human nature and circumstances, making it something that everyone can relate to.

As for the cast, its pure pleasure watching amazing actors behaving absolutely horrible towards one another. The chemistry between the actors is so well played I had to keep on reminding myself that its just a play and no one is really going to tear each other to pieces (even though things get pretty heated during each debate).

What also made this theatrical masterpiece so creative and well produced is how the play was slightly arranged to be set in Seattle. God of Carnage has been produced by many theaters all over the globe so interestingly, tiny changes are made according to what country or city the play is produced in. While gazing out the window in the Novak home, Alan declares that he can “see the Space Needle” and there are even a few Northwestern terms and Seattle neighborhood names hidden in the dialogue.

God of Carnage is a great opener for the Seattle Repertory Theater this 2010-2011 season. Its wildly entertaining to watch how Reza managed to write parts that ravenous actors can sink their claws into. The play will have you realize that your family might actually be human.

Friday, October 01, 2010

In the Heights - 5th Ave

The 5th Avenue Theatre
September 28-October 17, 2010
Tickets and Information

Catharsis: an experience or feeling of spiritual release and purification brought about by an intense emotional experience. This word could be the alternate title to In the Heights, of which the national tour remiered tonight at the 5th Avenue Theatre. This fairly new musical, with music and lyrics by the up-and-coming genius Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, snatched up four Tony Awards in 2008 for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

In the Heights revolves around the lives and events of a community of Latin Americans in Washington Heights, New York City during the hottest days of summer. There is a lot of struggle toward goals, a lot of celebration of culture, and a lot of dancing. We are led through it all by Usnavi, a twenty-something bodega owner who raps to us about his people and their stories. What threatens to break them apart—and what saves them in the end—is everyone’s dream to find home and happiness.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

What this show does well is showcase a culture and population traditionally ignored or marginalized by musical theatre by tweaking and revamping standard musical theatre conventions to fit the hip-hop and Latino beats. Much like the characters within, it praises its background and identity while recognizing and embracing its predecessors. Just look for yourself at the similarities between the opening number “In the Heights” and “Anatevka” from Fiddler on the Roof.

Thomas Kail’s direction, along with Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography, was inspiring and unrivalled in attention to detail. Every moment and every movement was carefully and tenderly crafted toward the message of the piece. Extensive light effects and intense dance sequences only served to elaborate on the vulnerability and talent being showcased in performance. Each actor performed as if nothing else mattered, which is a quality highly sought after and rarely achieved.

In the Heights is the perfect way to start off a stellar season—the exuberant “paciencia y fe” reflecting these hopeful and forward-looking times. It is the catharsis that we all need from time to time to connect us to what is truly important: family, friends and embracing who you are. No wonder it won the Tony for Best Musical.

Review by Kacey Shiflet.