Warm, Fuzzy Christmas Vibes All Around

​Review of A Christmas Story: The Musical at 5th Avenue Theatre by Alyssa O

A Christmas Story 2

Are you staying inside this year to watch Christmas movie reruns and harvest your inner couch potato? You should move your potato buns to the 5th Avenue Theatre instead, where A Christmas Story: The Musical will warm your heart with bizarre leg lamp musical numbers, meta jokes, and all the ups and downs of being a kid again.

Not a single thing about this performance is normal. Sure, the storyline makes it seem so — a slightly geeky American boy named Ralphie tries to convince his family to get him a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas — but this musical is sprinkled with tons of quirky humor and bizarre holiday charm that will keep you at the edge of your seat. You can’t help but laugh at the overly exaggerated stereotypes hilariously portrayed by the talented singer/actor powerhouses at the 5th Avenue Theatre — or the dad’s strange obsession with his female anatomy-inspired lamp. All the funny quirks of this outrageous musical will have you entertained the entire night.

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A Production Unlike Any Other — Really

​Review of A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol at Unexpected Productions by Degraceful

Screen Shot 2014 11 21 At 5 13 11 P

The cast of A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol surely knows their improv. With jokes so witty you would assume they had been crafted over the course of days spouting out of actor’s mouths before they even have a chance to censor themselves, this production was unlike any other.

And truly, it is, for every night that Unexpected Productions puts on another show, the outcome is vastly different. Each night the audience gets a “choose your own adventure.” The audience is asked to call out answers to random questions such as “name a type of profession” or “something you would hide in your house.” Some answers are obvious as to how they will be incorporated into the show, but others are more subtle and unexpected.

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History Comes to Life

​Review of All the Way at Seattle Repertory Theatre by Degraceful

Great Society 2 Jg 2014

The infamous LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson, is most renowned for his civil rights activism. But did you know that he used the word “bunghole” in a sentence to a tailor and asked that there be some extra room left in the lower front part of his trousers for his “nutsack” to have some breathing space? Such hilarious moments are now immortalized on stage, and in the brilliant script written by Robert Schenkkan, with All the Way at Seattle Repertory Theatre.

The play All the Way (with the title based on the slogan used in Johnson’s reelection campaign: “All the Way with LBJ”) is a testament to the civil rights movement, politics, the accidental administration of Johnson, the activism of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the sketchy underground dealings of the government. Put on by Seattle Repertory Theatre in partnership with the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the production had a good head start on securing great actors to fill big britches. It’s a difficult job to do justice to great American leaders like LBJ and Martin Luther King, Jr., as Jack Willis and Kenajuan Bentley, respectively, are on task to do.

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Lovers vs. Fighters

​Review of Dogfight at ArtsWest by Tigerlily Cooley

Dogfight

Dogfight is the quintessential story of lovers versus fighters.

Set in San Francisco in 1963, a group of macho marines decide to celebrate their last evening by holding a dogfight — a long-standing tradition in which men compete for money to recruit the ugliest date for a party. The plan is set off course, however, when one of the girls, an awkward waitress named Rose Fenny (Devon Busswood), discovers she’s been tricked into being part of the cruel tradition and gets revenge by teaching her date, Eddie Birdlace (Kody Bringman), a lesson in compassion. The intimate setting of the theater truly transports the audience seamlessly from scene to scene — from the 1960s dinner to the San Francisco Bay, down to the lush jungles of Vietnam. I’ll admit I jumped when the bombs began going off, and I caught myself tearing up when Rose did.

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A Gender-bending Comedy of Love

​Review of Twelfth Night at Seattle Shakespeare Company by Indigo Trigg-Hauger

12Th Night

For many people, the biggest hurdle faced when reading Shakespeare is the language. It can be impenetrable on the page, and consequently very boring. Many of the words he uses are unfamiliar, and so much of the humor, meaning, and plot gets lost behind that. If that is your biggest problem with Shakespeare, though, this production of Twelfth Night will be a huge relief. The acting is near-impeccable, making it easy to discern the plot (though if you need a little more context, the synopsis in the program helps). Even better than simply knowing what is going on, you will actually understand some of that archaic humor. Turns out people were making jokes back then about the same things we do now: love, drunkenness, and fools.

Twelfth Night tells the story of Viola and Sebastian, twins who have been shipwrecked in an unfamiliar kingdom. Most of the play focuses on Viola (Allie Pratt), who disguises herself as a boy, and immediately everything gets turned around, with various people falling in love, not realizing who the object of their affections really is.

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Two and a Half Hours of Irresistible, Tubular Fun

​Review of Kinky Boots at 5th Avenue Theatre by Vivian Lappenbusch

Photo4 Kinkybootstour Photobymatthewmurphy 600X401

According to Kinky Boots’ tagline, sometimes the best way to fit in is to stand out. In the case of the production at 5th Avenue Theatre, the musical just stands out — no fitting in required.

If you’re into the musical theater scene, you’ve probably already heard of Kinky Boots. The musical first came onto the scene in a big way in 2012, winning six Tonys — including Best Musical and Best Original Score — and nominated for seven more after that. It even won a Grammy for Cyndi Lauper’s incredible score.

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An Engaging Love Story

​Review of Mary's Wedding at New Century Theatre Company by Hattie Sanders

Marys Wedding

Mary’s Wedding by New Century Theatre Company is an engaging, fantastic love story.

With only two actors in the whole production, a phenomenal performance is created between them. There’s a young British girl, Mary (played by Maya Sugarman), who moved to Canada with her family and the Canadian soldier (played by Conner Neddersen) who she fell in love with during the time of World War I. The whole play is a combination of scenes from their time together and scenes from his time at war based on letters he sent, melded together seamlessly.

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Parallel Lives, Unparalleled Tension

​Review of Slip/Shot at Seattle Public Theater by Evelyn Seo

2 Spt Slipshot Hi Res Quinn Armstrong As Clem

BANG! With a single gunshot, many lives change. Seattle Public Theater’s Pacific Northwest premiere of Slip/Shot evokes serious thought about the truth behind racial tension both in the 1960s and now. Written by Jacqueline Goldfinger in 2012, the play takes place in the racially divided town of Tallahassee in 1963, where a white security guard accidentally kills an innocent young black man. The first part of the play emphasizes the ideals of the American Dream as the characters look optimistically forward to the future with their families. Clem, a white security guard (played by Quinn Armstrong), attempts to establish an independent household away from his depressive father with his new wife Kitty (played by Jocelyn Maher). Likewise, couple Monroe and Euphrasie (played by Treavor Boykin and Marquicia Dominguez) look forward to their own future together as Euphrasie plans to attend college in the coming year. Bright stage lighting and fast-paced music evoke a sense of joy and giddiness within the audience. But the atmosphere changes when Clem accidentally fatally shoots Monroe. Everything becomes dark and turns into a blur; it’s as if time physically stops as the characters are unable to move on from the accident. Faith Russell, who plays Miz Athey, Monroe’s mother, does an exceptional job of showing the pain and angst of a mother losing her child. Her performance brings the audience to tears, including myself. Russell’s lingering eyes resting upon the spot where her son used to be arouses a sense of emptiness that cannot be filled again. Clem and Kitty seem to be caught up in the accident as well, unable to move on from the incident due to the fear of repercussions from the black population. They are unable to do anything without having to make sure that no harm would come to them. Their eventual fall into paranoia emphasizes one of the messages that the play is attempting to get across to its audience: Everyone needs to walk away from the past and work toward the future. Goldfinger also uses parallelism between the two families to illustrate the need for change in racial relationships. She shows that there is no difference between the two races when it comes down to their everyday lives. The blatant hatred and fear that both races have toward each other seem to be superficial as the play goes on to show how similar the characters of different races actually are. This effectively shows that one must have the courage to make choices for a better future for everyone, of all races, without having to fear each other. Slip/Shot prompts the audience to ponder whether we are caught up in false perceptions of the society today and make assumptions without learning the truth. Racial tension have been allowed to go on until now maybe due to lack of attempts to understand one another. In conclusion, this play offers a fresh perspective on still very present on social problems.

Slip/Shot Seattle Public Theater September 26 - October 12

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Like Watching a Musician Destroy His Guitar

​Reveiw of Germinal at On the Boards by Tigerlily Cooley

Germinal

From the beginning of Germinal, one can tell it's an unconventional production. The stage lights flash repeatedly into the audience, followed by a mysterious light display on stage, all narrated by bursts of nervous laughter from the audience. After the stage lights finally come fully on, one expects the actors to talk, but they can't. Rather their thoughts are projected onto the back wall of the stage, a concept which later morphs into the natural use of subtitles. Both English and French are used throughout the play, and the dialogue is sophisticated.

Watching Germinal unfold is like watching a musician destroy his guitar at the end of the show, as the actors take pickaxes to the stage and rip down the curtains. And yet, somehow in all the chaos the creators, Antoine Defoort and Halory Goerger, manage to slip in profound thoughts regarding the laws of physics, existentialism, and philosophy.

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Throwback Thursday

​Review of A Chorus Line at 5th Avenue Theatre by Bella A.

A Chorus Line

Two hours and 10 minutes of sitting in the gorgeous 5th Avenue Theatre with no intermission immerses you in the stories of each character encountered. A Chorus Line has the elaborate dance numbers of a Broadway showstopper, but also the intimate feel of underground theater as characters twist, twirl, yell, and even weep before you.

Winner of nine Tony Awards, this musical is regarded as a classic in the world of theater. With its age in mind — it first opened in 1975 — the storyline seems notably edgy as it wrestles with questions of sexuality and daddy issues, and presents a brand new look into the grueling showbiz audition procedure through the eyes of 17 young dancers auditioning for a coveted place in a Broadway chorus line. You’ll meet Mike, the youngest of 12 siblings, who learned to dance to prove himself; Richie, an almost kindergarten teacher turned dancer; and Cassie, the desperately ambitious fallen starlet. These and other young men and women bravely step up and share their life stories. The show ends up being more of a process than the unfolding of a gripping plot.

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The Reimagining of an American Hero

​Review of The Mountaintop at ArtsWest by Griffin Scott-Rifer

Mountaintop

As I took my seat in the ArtsWest’s beautiful theater I was immediately was entranced by the set of The Mountaintop. Rain falling down windows transported me to another time and place. If I was at all distracted before, as soon as the lights dimmed in the theater, my mind was nowhere but right there in the Lorraine Motel with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the angel who comes to visit him the night before he is to die.

The lights come up on the well-known American hero, played by Reginald Andre Jackson. The Mountaintop begins as a raucous period comedy, complete with clever repartee between the two characters. But then about halfway through, it switches to an entrancing drama about the meaning of being a hero.

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A Provocative Conversation Starter

​Review of The Invisible Hand at ACT by Vida Behar

The Invisible Hand

At once thought-provoking, action-packed, and moving, The Invisible Hand opens up a conversation. It tells the story of an American economist held captive in Pakistan and tackles hefty themes — the role of journalism, the relationship between money and God, tensions between America and the Middle East, the nature of greed, racial issues, political corruption, and the desire for power — along the way. As the play unfolds, it proves to be a study of the relationship between the protagonist and his captors, both in terms of prisoner versus warden and their larger, thematic representations, namely capitalism versus Islam.

To amplify the intensity of the setting, The Invisible Hand uses some very original techniques on stage. Immediately noticeable is the circular format of the stage, with the audience seated a full 360 degrees around it, creating an up-close-and-personal feel. Additionally, before the play even begins, the scene is set when the pre-play reminder to turn off cellphones is spoken in Punjabi with accompanying subtitles on a mounted TV screen. This preemptively gets the audience into the world of the play, setting the scene in a very impactful and original way.

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Nothing and Everything

​Review of Waiting for Godot by Seattle Shakespeare Company by Lin G.

Waiting For Godot

The set is a stage within a stage. Red curtains flank a stark rock and tree — sparse and pathetic like a Charlie Brown tree — on a dull road. “There is no lack of void.” This is true of both the stage and the show. Waiting for Godot, written by Samuel Beckett, is a bizarre play in which nothing and everything happens. The plot goes in many circles from a nonsensical and hopeless beginning through many strange events and unexpected turns to an absurd but dismal end that in some ways leaves the audience wondering.

The story goes like this: Two miserable men, Didi and Gogo (played by Todd Jefferson Moore and Darragh Kennan respectively), find themselves waiting, endlessly, for someone named Godot. These two men try to pass the time in many ways, none of which seem to make time go any quicker. After a while, Pozzo (Chris Ensweiler), a proud and ridiculous merchant, arrives along with his exhausted and mistreated slave, Lucky (Jim Hamerlinck), who does Pozzo’s every bidding. A ton of crazy things happen, and Pozzo and Lucky leave. Soon a boy (Alex Silva) comes to tell Didi and Gogo that Godot cannot come today, but will surely come tomorrow.

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The Saddest and Hardest-Hitting Fantasia Around

​Review of Angels in America, Part 1: Millenium Approaches at Intiman Theatre by Vivian Lappenbusch

Angels In America

It's America circa 1986, the land of the guilt-ridden and home of the closeted homosexual people. And it's the world of Tony Kushner's award-winning play, Angels in America. Subtitled “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” Angels in America might just be the saddest and hardest-hitting fantasia around – and it’s fantastic.

Part 1 of the play, Millennium Approaches, follows two couples in mid-1980s New York City. The first is Prior (Adam Standley) and Louis (Quinn Franzen), a gay couple working to keep Prior alive in his fight against AIDS and keep Louis from leaving in fear of what the future may bring. The second couple, Joe (Ty Boice) and Harper (Alex Highsmith), fight over Harper’s agoraphobia and Valium addiction, along with Joe’s emotional and sexual distance in light of a recent promotion at work. Along with other family and friends, these characters are forced into making unwinnable decisions in the face of death, infidelity, religion, and sexual orientation.

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Charlie Brown Grew Up

​Review of Dog Sees God at UW UTS by Kelsey G.

If you ever wondered what happened when Charlie Brown got to high school, then you have to see Dog Sees God. The characters go by different names and love interests have been moved around, but it is easy to make the connections. That said, Dog Sees God goes down a completely different path than any Charlie Brown shows you have ever seen.

The play starts with CB dealing with the death of his dog, a beagle, which had to be put down because of rabies. After this loss he begins to ask his friends whether they believe in an afterlife, but none of them give satisfactory answers. His sister changes her personality every week, his friend Van is following the ways of Buddha, his ex-girlfriend (who is also Van’s sister) is in the mental ward for setting a girl’s hair on fire, his friend Matt is obsessed with sex and bullying Beethoven every chance he gets, and his friends Tricia and Marcy are too drunk to think straight. One day he finds himself in the music room, where Beethoven spends his lunch practicing piano because he cannot eat lunch in the lunchroom without being called gay, and after talking with Beethoven begins to think differently about his life and all he has ever done.

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The Intersection Between Intellectual Passion and Romance

​Review of Arcadia at Seattle Public Theater by Emily Hall

2 Spt Arcadia Marston Mar Photo Paul Bestock

Arcadia is a charming romance of the highest intellectual caliber, featuring a living, breathing, on-stage tortoise. Right from the beginning, you will find yourself immersed in the witty dialogue and guessing the age of the extraordinarily talented youngest lead, Isabel Mar, playing Thomasina. The play is the intersection between intellectual passion and romance, telling the story of two families who seem to coexist in the storied house, Arcadia, despite their separation of a few hundred years.

Arcadia is difficult to place into a genre. The play includes the full spectrum, with interpretations of carnal embrace involving “wrapping one’s arms around mutton” on one side and a candle-lit waltz with the dancer’s fate predetermined on the other. The tagline is “a witty romance,” however, I don’t feel that it would do the play justice to discount the more tragic components that will sneak up on you toward the end.

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A Classic Story Entertainingly Executed

​Review of A Room with a View at 5th Avenue Theatre by Hattie Sanders

A Room With A View

The Fifth Avenue Theatre’s musical A Room with a View was, to say the least, very well done, and that is coming from someone who does not prefer that type of production.

The plot of story is actually quite simple and quite predictable (It is a classic, after all.). A young, adventurous British woman travels to Italy with her overbearing, much more traditionally British cousin. She meets a young man, and he falls in love with her. Of course, there is a “but”: She is engaged to a complete snob who is filthy rich, which is the only reason for their engagement.

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We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes

​Review of King Lear at Seattle Shakespeare Company by Chloe C.

King Lear

Shakespeare's King Lear reminds us that we all go a little mad sometimes, and that there is much uncertainty in the world whether it be in your mind or your relationships with others. With only one subplot, this is one of the easier Shakespeare plays to follow, and the cast and crew of the Seattle Shakespeare Company do a fantastic job of making it accessible. King Lear features plenty of inspirational insults, witty humor despite its status as a tragedy, and relatable themes that make it easy to see why it is still being performed more than 400 years after it was written.

The play follows the emotional and goofy King Lear, played by Dan Kremer, as he goes mad. The king’s advisers, the Dukes of Gloucester (Michael Winters) and Kent (Amy Thone) are not happy about some of his less sane decisions, and Kent even goes so far as to argue with the king until she is banished. The Duke of Kent was orginally written as a man, but Seattle Shakespeare Company's choice of gender change worked marvelously, and Thone did a fantastic job with the part. As the play progresses, the king goes mad as those faithful to him dwindle from all the kingdom to only Kent, Gloucester, his fool, and his youngest daughter.

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The Day and Night Are Alive and Dancing in Harmony to the Music of Our Souls

​Review of Hair at ArtsWest by Vivian Lappenbusch

Hair

The Age of Aquarius is dawning on us, fellow human beings, in this glorious universe of ours. The day and night are alive and dancing in harmony to the music of our souls. The stars and moon are reaching out to you to say, “Seriously, you should go see Hair.”

Hair follows the story of Claude (Mark Tyler Miller), who is taken in by a tribe of hippies during the 1960s, including their leader and Claude’s best friend Berger (Jeff Orton). It’s celebrated for being one of the first “rock musicals” — complete with drums, electric guitars, psychedelic colors, bending backdrops, and even some super-scandalous nudity.

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Stop, Rewind, Play It Again

​Review of Ernest Shackleton Loves Me by Balagan Theatre by Leah F.

Ernest Shackleton

It’s Winter in Brooklyn — so naturally, it’s freezing as I walk into the theater and it’s snowing on stage.

Enter Kat, a purple and blue-haired punk rock vixen with a ridiculously filthy mouth. Kat, played by Valerie Vigoda (who, according to the program, is Disney’s go-to lyric doctor!) brings the energy and verve from the very second she steps on stage, stomping around in combat boots in her sleep-deprived stupor. Kat is a video-game composer, and her apartment is strewn with instruments, mixing equipment, and loop pedals. “OK,” you think, “that’s just the set. There’s no way she’ll use any of that.” BUT SHE DOES. THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE SHOW. Within the first minute, she’s rocking out and live-mixing the hilarious first number, “This Sucks.” Every part of the song is created by her with the equipment — and then it gets better. She walks over to an electric violin and begins shredding, which is awesome, but then she tops herself yet again. She starts singing and playing at the same time! The audience’s collective jaw drops.

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