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Delightful Clowns, PNB's mixed program
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Intiman Theatre pays a visit to a simpler time of life in its spirited revival of Herb Gardner's classic comedy, A Thousand Clowns, and Pacific Northwest Ballet opens a two-week run of its three-part director's choice. Bits&Bytes is happy to recommend both. Read on:

INTIMAN SCORES WITH NOSTALGIC VISIT TO YESTERYEAR

Intiman Theatre wisely spends two full pages of the program for its current revival of Herb Gardner's fondly remembered A Thousand Clowns bringing 1962 to life for the theater's appreciative audience. A Thousand Clowns is anchored in that era - the post-Eisenhower age of conformity. Renegades, like Gardner's Murray Burns, were delightfully offbeat, unconventional people who lived life as they pleased. Living on unemployment insurance seemed refreshingly unconventional then.

For the record, Intiman notes that the minimum wage in 1962 was $1.25, JFK was in the White House, John Glenn orbited the moon, Wal-Mart opened its first store. Top songs of the year were "The Peppermint Twist" and "The Stripper," and Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" won the Grammy as Record Of The Year. Spartacus and West Side Story were tops on the movie list while Lawrence Of Arabia won the Oscar as Best Picture. The Beverly Hillbillies, Lucy, Red Skelton, Andy Griffith, Danny Thomas and Dick Van Dyke ruled television while Ship of Fools and Sex And The Single Girl dominated the best-selling book lists.

In this landscape, Murray Burns, one of the most loveable nonconformists in entertainment history, was a bright spark of rebellion. Raising his incredible precocious nephew in New York, Murray runs afoul of two social workers, who, in all honesty, have Nick's welfare at heart. Matthew Boston is solid as Murray, and Seattle's Nick Robinson is a constant delight as the far-too-bright nephew, Nick.

Bradford Farwell is all stuffed shirt as Albert, the anal retentive social worker, and Julie Jesneck is delightfully ditzy as Sandra, Albert's co-worker (and secret sweetheart). When Sandra rebels against Albert, that relationship ends and she lets her hair down to become involved with Murray and Nick. Local favorite David Pichette is wonderful as Murray's very proper brother, and Tim Hyland charmed the opening night audience was the children's TV star (although many - including this scribe - thought he could have/should have toned down the overbearing qualities).

In short, Clowns is a splendid production of an audience favorite. To be truthful, the script and the show are far too long, and some scenes, especially an extended sequence with a speakerphone, are simply deadly. But - and it's a big but - laughs abound, the celebration of the individual against society is well delivered, and everyone goes home happy. Sari Ketter's direction is sharp and sassy. Her production of Diary Of Anne Frank last year was one of the highlights of Intiman's season, and Clowns gives her two hits in a row. (Boston was Otto Frank, Anne's father, last season. It was an insightful performance - a thousand light years away from Murray.)

Two ukuleles, some wonderful vocal duets, and an incredible prop (a small statue of a hula dancer whose breasts light up) add to the fun. Intiman offers "$25 Tuesdays" every week, last minute "rush" tickets at $20, $12 off adult patrons who were 12 year old in 1962 and various student and senior rates. Just ask; Intiman obviously wants everyone who is interested to attend.

Ticket reservations and details are available at (206) 269-1900. Next up at Intiman is the July 2-August 2 run of Shakespeare's Othello.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET HOSTS DIRECTOR'S CHOICE WITH THREE SELECTIONS

Pacific Northwest Ballet ends its 2008-09 season with the just opened the Director's Choice mixed repertory program continuing through June 7. The PNB premiere of Jerome's Robbins' Dances at a Gathering highlights the program. The lengthy work is a staple of modern choreography, and it is a welcome addition to PNB's repertoire.

A revival of Balanchine's beloved Symphony In C is another program highlight. The pas de deux from Wheeldon's After the Rain completes the schedule.

Ticket information is available at (206) 441-2424. Tickets start at just $25.

INTIMAN CELEBRATES WRITER HERB GARDNER WITH JUNE 1 EVENT

Playwright Herb Gardner had a special relationship with Seattle theater audiences. Two of his biggest hits, I'm Not Rappaport and Conversations With My Father, had their world premieres here at the Seattle Repertory Theatre where both starred Judd Hirsch.

Gardner's Broadway debut comedy, A Thousand Clowns, continues at Intiman through June 17. Hirsch is back in town with Below the Belt, just opening at ACT Theatre. It is fitting, then, that Intiman is hosting a one-night-only tribute to the late playwright in a June 1 discussion of his writing and works featuring Hirsch, Seattle favorite John Procaccino (who appeared in Gardner's premieres at The Rep and New York and is featured in the new ACT show) and Matthew Boston, who has the lead in the current Intiman staging of Clowns.

The Monday night event starts at 7 p.m. Ticket details at (206) 269-1900.
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