Aug 17, 2007
V 35 Issue 33

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Bits & Bytes
ACT, Intiman, ReAct present powerful dramas, Angie Louise sings out at Crepe de Paris, Flying Dutchman offers discount tickets, North Arcade & Technicolor Dreamcoat extend
ACT, Intiman, ReAct present powerful dramas, Angie Louise sings out at Crepe de Paris, Flying Dutchman offers discount tickets, North Arcade & Technicolor Dreamcoat extend by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

It's another busy week for Emerald City entertainment fans-and Bits&Bytes. Seattle Opera continues its solid production of Wagner's beloved The Flying Dutchman and offers 25 per cent discounts for selected tickets-such a deal. ACT and Intiman host world premieres of powerful new dramas, and ReAct offers an early play by the newest Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. Taproot and the Market Theatre have extended their summer productions of theatrical fluff, and the cabaret series at Crepe de Paris opens a new show tonight featuring Angie Louise, one of Seattle's most talented and versatile performers. What a week. Read on:

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire won the Pulitzer Prize this year for his stunning Rabbit Hole, which the Oregon Shakespeare Festival staged to critical and popular success earlier this season. His earlier Fuddy Meers, was a huge hit at Ashland and in Seattle. ReAct, one of the Emerald City's many dedicated small theaters with big ambitions, staged the wacky Kimberly Akimbo several seasons back and now offers his zany comedy/drama Wonder Of The World.

The solid, often illuminating ReAct production of Wonder is in the middle of a summer run at the Richard Hugo House theater on Capitol Hill. It continues through Aug. 26 and is well worth checking out. For fans of contemporary drama, it's a "must see" staging that offers multiple levels of theatrical rewards.

David Hsieh's clear direction guides the rambling, cinematic script. The founding artistic director of ReAct, Hsieh directs, produces and designs this challenging Wonder. ReAct's commitment to non-traditional and multi-ethnic casting makes it a favorite of Seattle's GLBT theater fans--and Bits&Bytes and SGN.

For Wonder, Hsieh casts the talented Gigi Jhong as Cass Harris, the leading character originated off-Broadway by Sara Jessica Parker (then on a production break from Sex And The City). Jhong is sharp and clever as a runaway wife on a mission to explore her future by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

As is usual for the playwright, who makes the term "dysfunctional family" into a new art form, Wonder Of The World hits a dozen zingers for every weak line. One of the male characters has an anal fetish involving Barbie dolls that left the audience in hysterics-and makes ReAct's program and poster design symbolically sound. As they often say, "you had to be there."

The large cast does solid work with Kerry Christianson getting a workout, as the playwright intended, in multiple roles. Wonder is great fun-check it out. It continues weekend performances through Aug. 26. Details and reservations at 364-3283.

Next on ReAct's busy schedule is the first local production of The Exonerated, the searing docu-drama about injustice in the U.S. prison system. It plays Aug. 30-Sept. 23 at the Ethnic Cultural Theatre in the University district.

Intiman Theatre's world premiere production of Craig Lucas' new Prayer For My Enemy is a total success. It's a terrific new script, a handsome physical production, a series of powerful performances that culminate in a breathtaking realization late in the play. It's obviously a new script from a major playwright that will have a solid future.

A co-production with Long Wharf Theatre, which commissioned the script, the play will be staged there following the Intiman run. A New York production is obviously in the hopes of both theaters and the playwright.

Lucas, the openly-Gay author of Longtime Companions, one of the first Hollywood films to explore the impact of AIDS on the Gay community, often includes Gay characters and/or Gay themes in his works. Prayer For My Enemy is no exception. The explicit past homosexual relationship between the two young men who take the focus in this seemingly domestic drama is the unspoken element here.

When the two former high school friend (and lovers) meet as young adults, they deny (even to themselves, it seems) their past Gay relationship. One is driven to join the U.S. Army to prove himself a man--to himself and to his abusive father, who delights in calling him "Liberace" and other Gay slurs. The other, a slacker who drifts through life, falls in love with the sister of the new soldier and they quickly marry when she gets pregnant. The past male-on-male lover relationship haunts (and possibly dooms) their future.

The playwright interrupts the tale of the Noone family (and, yes, dear reader, there is obvious symbolism there) with the ramblings of another character in this small town. Dealing with the illness and eventual death of her mother (and her own marriage), these monologues seems strangely out of place, yet mesmerizing in their own way. Only until late in the play does Lucas let the audience pull the two threads of the narrative into one braid of plotline.

Performances are first rate-Seattle favorite John Procaccino turns in another detailed study as the homophobic father who is fighting his own alcoholic battles. The production is first rate-with some scenic elements of autumn leaves remaining in the mind weeks later. The direction is first rate-Bartlett Sher and Lucas are turning into a major director/playwright team on the local and national level.

A brisk production with no intermission, Prayer For My Enemy is one of the few world premieres that this scribe is eager to see again-and soon. Highest recommendation. The provocative drama-with many genuine laughs drawn from character reality-continues with select matinee and evening performances through Aug. 26. Details at 269-1900.

Songs about "misfits, barflies and dreamers" take the focus in Notes From The Underground, the new cabaret show at Crepe de Paris that opens tonight for a two weekend run, The very talented, very versatile Angie Louise is the solo star in this cabaret outing. The talented singer, songwriter, actress, pianist is one of Bits&Bytes' favorite Seattle performers-and he predicts a terrific, offbeat show from the multi-threat performer.

Louise was showcased earlier this summer in Crepe de Paris' Movieola cabaret show. The back-to-back series of three shows have all proven to be artistic winners and audience pleasers. The short runs-two or three weeks-and the tight sequential stagings make it difficult for any of Seattle's many papers to give the shows the full reviews they deserve, but word-of-mouth and Crepe and cabaret regulars have produced decent and appreciative audiences.

Notes From The Underground-An Evening With Angie Louise runs only this Friday and Saturday and the same days next weekend. Plan now to make it a "must see" on your cabaret calendar. As usual, Crepe de Paris offers its cabaret shows as part of a dinner/theater package or on a "show only" basis. Full information is available at 623-4111. Check it out.

ACT Theatre continues its very successful 2007 season with another audience-pleasing hit, the world premiere of First Class, David Wagoner's tribute to his teacher, mentor and colleague, Theodore Roethke.

As a world premiere, First Class is close to being a first class script in an unquestioned first class production. Wagoner, now a retired poet/professor from the University of Washington, attempts to capture the illusive nature of Roethke, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet/professor at the UW from 1946 through his strange and untimely death in the mid-1960s.

John Aylward, a Seattle favorite from his decades of memorable work at virtually every theater in town, returns to the Emerald City-and to ACT-for a flamboyant performance as the bipolar poet/professor. For many, his scene-chewing antics (which are exactly right for the script) are the highlight of the year for ACT. For other, including this scribe, well&it's a different story.

Wagoner sets First Class, a title with multiple layers of meaning, in the first meeting of a college poetry course at the UW. Roethke enters and addresses the ACT audience as his college students. A strange collection of hats, coats, even a bathrobe on a hat stand hint at the second part of the classroom-set play, a trip into the mad, disturbed mind of the poet. The poet/professor starts the play wearing a white lab coat which quickly turns into a straightjacket-in both a literal and symbolic manner. The 90-minute play ends with a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone."

A full round of bravos to ACT-and its artistic director and director of this play, Kurt Beattie-for this assured world premiere. Many fans of contemporary drama are singing high praises for the work. It continues through Aug. 26 with evening performances and selected matinees. Details at 296-7676.
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