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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 12
Emerald City a flawed jewel about Seattle
Arts & Entertainment
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Emerald City a flawed jewel about Seattle

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Emerald City
West of Lenin
Through April 7


There is an apparent lesson buried in this piquant, Seattle-centric new play, Emerald City by S.P. Miskowski, by Live Girls! Theater. The lesson is on the order of 'Be careful what you wish for' or 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.' While the focus of the play is an unpleasant, narcissistic woman who hates Seattle for killing her dreams, we might all be able to identify with being crabby and sarcastic, at the wrong times and to the wrong people.

Scarlett (Jennifer Pratt) is disillusioned by Seattle and now living with a new lover, Lillian (Megan Ahiers), in Irvine, CA. She had a job at the Seattle P-I and a house she owned with an old lover, but everything collapsed when the P-I closed its doors. Love has now turned to hate, but as a struggling freelance journalist, she's assigned by her agent (Shawnmarie Stanton) to write about a woman (Gretchen Douma) who doesn't want to sell her Seattle property, a story that appears to be a heart-tugging conflict between family values and commerce. She's got to go back to Seattle for the interviews.

Fearing the sympathy and questions that old Seattle friends might pose to her, she bunks with Tina (Morgan Rowe), a college roommate who has moved to Seattle disconnected from anyone else Scarlett would know. Tina has decided, due to lack of other work, to create her own historic Seattle tourist walks.

The history of Seattle and Seattle landmarks play a huge role in this production, with fun, cartoon-like cutouts by Brian Stricklan and Michael Lindgren. These large cardboard flats are easily carried on the stage for short scenes of iconic experience. Most of those experiences are either speeches by Tina or wide-eyed first-time visits by Lillian, who sneaks up to Seattle after Scarlett tells her to stay home.

The five actors are each terrific in their roles, though Pratt has the shortest end of the stick. Scarlett is really whiny and the least grown-up and self-aware. Mary (Stanton) is the easiest role, since the agent just has to listen somewhat patiently to her client, though it's anyone's guess how Mary got close enough to Scarlett to be that patient. Mary just has to deliver the goods. And when she passive-aggressively offers a contract to Lillian, giving Lillian the support she needs to start a new life away from Scarlett, you wonder just how attached Mary is to Scarlett.

Tina is a miskein (Yiddish for an unfortunate). She's just a mess. She has little money, came to Seattle on the flimsiest of pretenses, has little self-esteem, and sees few prospects of change. Still, by the end, she might be able to build her life based on more realistic goals than when she started. Rowe embodies each of Tina's various character traits with sensitivity and understanding.

Dot, the heiress to her family home, is the most enigmatic and inscrutable. We aren't really sure who she is or what she wants, just as Scarlett never gets to the bottom of her story. Douma plays a down-to-earth, pragmatic woman, though the script doesn't flesh her out very much, even as she trickles out stories about herself to Scarlett.

Lillian is the most fun character because she is somewhat shy and unassuming at first, as Ahiers plays her pleasing side up, and later finds delight in Seattle and amazement that her food blog might be good enough to be worth a book format. Ahiers is always fun to watch on stage, and this play gives her much to play with and play on. Scarlett is so sure of her own superiority that we're rooting for Lillian as she figures that out and realizes she doesn't need Scarlett anymore.

The play still feels unfinished, though it continues to reflect a lot of promise. It's definitely still too long and dwells too heavily on certain scenes. But it does feel like a love affair, with reservations, to Miskowski's long residence here. There is a great blend of laughter and pathos and a ton of Seattle history, some of which even natives might not know.

For more information, go to www.lgtheater.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/219485 or call 800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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