by Miryam Gordon -
SGN A&E Writer
You had such a good time reading about upcoming shows in January that you clamored for more information for February! Well, we're happy to oblige and let you know about the scintillating choices opening on area stages around the Sound this month. In fact, there is so much locally written material this month, we could dub February 'Locally Written Theater Month.'
First to open is a locally written play, Natural, at Annex Theatre, 2/3-18, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only.
Writer Marcus Gorman crafts a play about six Seattleites who unravel messy, urban lives of retail hell, online erotica and crises of sexual identity. Art and Theo met in French class and seem to be very happy together. But while Theo sorts through his relationship with a persistent co-worker, and his best friend Chloe tries to reconcile her on- and off-line reputations, Art finds himself unexpectedly drawn to worldly bartender Samantha. Alliances shift, friendships are tested, and mistakes are made.
Carousel is the next musical at The 5th Avenue Theatre, from 2/5-3/1 (a co-production of the 5th and Spectrum Dance Theater). It's a classic musical love story about a carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, who loves mill worker Julie Jordan. After his untimely death, Billy makes a deal with an angel and is allowed to return to earth for just one day for a chance to redeem his life and make peace with the wife and daughter he left behind. A terrific cast, headed by Laura Griffith, Brandon O'Neill and Billie Wildrick, promises a strong showing, along with some unique choreography from Spectrum Dance Theater. The musical is not without controversy, though, since Billy Bigelow is a rough-cast fellow who has such difficulty managing his feelings that he hits people, including women.
Phoenix Theatre in Edmonds mounts Self Help by Norm Foster, 2/6-3/1. Foster is a comedy stalwart known as the 'Canadian Neil Simon.' Hal and Cindy Savage are two struggling actors, turned self-help gurus. But when their marriage takes a nosedive, they find themselves scrambling to hide a body, protect their reputations, and hold onto their falsely won fame.
The Dog of the South is Book-It Repertory Theatre's newest adaptation, performing 2/11-3/8 in the Armory at Seattle Center. The novel by Charles Portis introduces Ray Midge, a persnickety, hapless, twenty-something Arkansan on a mission to find his wife Norma who has run off with her ex-husband, Dupree. The two fugitives have stolen Midge's credit cards and his beloved Ford Torino. Midge follows the meandering trail of credit card receipts from Arkansas to Mexico to Belize. Along the way he picks up the cranky con artist, Dr. Symes, who happens to be headed in the same direction.
Seattle Musical Theatre presents Sweet Charity from 2/13-3/1. This classic musical focuses on Charity as she sings and dances through the harsh reality of Times Square, searching for The One. With her trio of streetwise girlfriends, a phony evangelist, a list of unreliable suitors, the unflappable Charity knows in her heart that there's gotta be something better than this. The book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields includes musical theatre favorites 'Big Spender,' 'If My Friends Could See Me Now,' and 'There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This.'
Matt & Ben, by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, is brought to you by STAGEright Theatre, 2/13-28 at Richard Hugo House. It's a comedy supposedly about Ben Afflect and Matt Damon but played deliberately by women. When the screenplay for Good Will Hunting drops mysteriously from the heavens, the boys realize they're being tested by a Higher Power. The authors performed this on Broadway in 2003.
Voyage For Madmen by Rachel Atkins, local playwright, will play at West of Lenin 2/20-3/7, courtesy of 14/48 Projects. It's based on the true story of Ardeo, Seattle's theatre in a French chateau. In fact, Atkins was an original member, so her play is based on inside information. The Seattle theatre company bought a château, moved to France to do theatre, and then crashed and burned spectacularly in 2001. Incorporating live music, vaudeville, The Tempest, Frankenstein, and the true story of Donald Crowhurst, a British amateur sailor who falsified his records in an attempt to win a round-the-world race in the 1960s, Voyage for Madmen goes beyond documentary facts to delve into the wild world of start-ups and creative risk at all costs, while highlighting many of the strange-but-true details of backstage life at Ardeo.
Another accomplished local playwright, Joy McCullough-Carranza, debuts her play Blood/Water/Paint.
Produced by Live Girls! Theater 2/20-3/14 and housed at Theatre Off Jackson. This is a true story of Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter from the early 1600s, now considered one of the most accomplished of her generation. Through interactions with the women featured in her own most famous paintings and the process of teaching her daughter to paint, the story unfolds of her fierce battle to rise above the most devastating event in her life and fight for justice despite horrific consequences.
The one-act play theatre, Stone Soup, presents Sam Shepard's God of Hell 2/20-3/15. Wisconsin dairy farmers, Frank and Emma, agree to put up an old friend, Haynes, who is on the lam from a secret government project involving plutonium. What ensues is a thrilling theatrical ride as hilarious as it is sobering.
The Pulitzer award-winning musical about a mentally ill housewife trying to manage her family life, next to normal, will be presented by SecondStory Rep, 2/20-3/15. Locally developed here at Village Theatre before going on to win multiple awards nationally, it is a more easily managed musical for a small venue like SecondStory, because it has a cast of six! But it is a tricky and challenging piece. Ann Cornelius is new to Seattle stages and is making her debut here with this complex character.
The last locally written piece of the month is Seven Ways to Get There, produced by DeeJayCee Creative Ventures and performed at ACT Theatre 2/24-3/15. Bryan Willis and Dwayne Clark based their play on a true story, following seven men in group therapy trying to work through their issues. Set in the strange and manic world of men's group therapy, this new play explores the many ways it takes to make it through difficult times. The play has a particularly strong cast and will be directed by John Langs, so you might tag this one 'ACT Light.'
A Gogolplex is the name Ghostlight Theatricals has given to adaptations of two Nikolai Gogol stories: The Overcoat and The Nose, 2/27-3/14. His vision of St. Petersburg: a city in which a man on the brink of gaining everything he ever thought he wanted wakes up with a most personal possession missing; a city in which saving for a new coat transforms the life (and afterlife) of a humble clerk; a city of pigeons and ghosts, strange summers and brutal winters, and the oddest extremities of human experience.
Arouet also provides a night of two one-acts: The Long Road by Shelagh Stephenson and Nine by Jane Shepherd at Eclectic Theatre, 2/27-3/14. In The Long Road, after Danny's pointless murder, his family struggles to find meaning and forgiveness. Stephenson spent many hours talking with victims and perpetrators of violent crime, visiting prisons and collaborating with the Forgiveness Project. The result is an affecting play intent on opening the hearts and minds without ever becoming preachy. (source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/) In Nine, when two women find themselves in a life-threatening situation, the mind games they play may be the only way to stay alive. Held in a room and chained apart, their only currency is words, and the fragile nature of their desperate situation means that a single word can become the hanging point between life and death.
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