This Week in Arts: Wednesday Roundup (5/15)
Here are the things NWT loved (or didn’t) this week, and a few (or more) things to look forward to this weekend.
Highlights this week included superstar-packed shows in a cabaret and a concert-style musical; the continuation of a new play festival; plus, the upcoming long-awaited Kim’s Convenience at Taproot, and the latest from Reboot Theatre.
For details on any of the shows (like times & ticket info), view them by date on the Calendar page.
Two shows open this week that NWT has been eagerly awaiting (and they both open on the same night, naturally). On Syttende Mai (aka the day Ballard celebrates its Vikingness by sending elementary school marching bands down the street and throwing candy), Kim’s Convenience opens at Taproot Theatre in Greenwood; and Reboot Theatre unveils its newest show (a modern take on Sweeney Todd — see interview with Artistic Director Jasmine Joshua here), following up last year’s blow-out hit queerified cult Little Shop of Horrors. NWT had a chance to catch an early peek at Kim’s Convenience — and we’ll wait to give the full review, but it was everything we hoped for. Also this week, Horse in Motion opens newest, The Arsonists (we’re still not totally sure what it is) at another non-traditional site, Gallery Erato; Seattle Public Theater opens The Call; and Tacoma’s Changing Scene Theatre opens the locally written comedy shorts, Sublime Ridiculousness.
This week is the last week to see Village Theatre’s wonderful production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (see review here), closing 5/19 in Everett. As for shorter runs, it’s the last chance to see the second and final installment of this cycle’s BAT Playwrights Fest at Burien Actors Theatre (see mini-review below). And it’s both the first and last opportunity to see the first week of Food Thunderdome (co-produced by the 14/48 Projects and Cafe Nordo), which changes artists (and menus) for each segment. Plus, Pork Filled Productions presents a one-night-only reading of Small Journeys Before the Unbreakable Dawn on Monday night, with a great lineup of actors; and Sound Theatre Company presents the latest in its reading series of plays by Native and Indigenous playwrights.
There are plenty of blink-and-they’re-gone short runs in dance to watch out for, too. Notable among them is the provocatively titled FagGod, the newest work from three exceptional artists — dancer/choreographer Dani Tirrell, and poets Naa Akua and Anastacia-Renee — which runs for three days only (May 16-18) (presented by CD Forum at Langston Hughes). Ligia Lewis, a dance artist based in Germany, will present two new works at On the Boards this weekend — minor matter and Sorrow Swag.
Week In Review
This week was one of superstar artists in fun and unusual shows. Topping that list was Sara Porkalob (with numerous special guests) at this month’s Sensible Cabaret in the tiny Knife Room, underneath Cafe Nordo’s Culinarium in Pioneer Square. Porkalob is truly a superstar, across multiple art forms. That night, her singing and storytelling prowesses were on display, as expected; but also her (underappreciated) strength in curation. Among the numerous guests were Nicholas Jupaul Bernard (actor-singer, who recently starred as Hedwig at ArtsWest and performed with Porkalob in Rock of Ages at The 5th Avenue Theatre); Steven Tran, whose work includes a solo show on coming out (in a recent sold-out run at 18th & Union); bassist Olivia Hamilton, who rocks; and Justin Huertas, whose two new works will appear soon at ArtsWest (next month) and the Seattle Repertory Theatre (next year). Porkalob performed pieces from her own Dragon Mama and various musical blockbusters (including a reunion with Rock of Ages love interest Nik Hagen), plus mashups and medleys of ‘90s favorites and more. The real Dragon Mama and Dragon Lady were both in the house, in the center of it all; and part of NWT got a hug from the unassuming-yet-infamous matriarch who started it all.
Also high on the star-packed list was Showtunes Theatre Company’s The Spitfire Grill, presented as a concert-style performance (i.e., the musical equivalent of a play reading). With its stripped-down style and short runs, Showtunes focuses on bringing in amazing talent; and they almost always perform shows that are rarely performed and often unfamiliar to audiences. (The notable exception to this was their previous show, Legally Blonde, which was awesome — with Alexandria Henderson killing it in the leading role, terrific staging and performances all around, and jam-packed houses. But, as a well-known and super-produced show, it was also an unexpected selection for this company.) Anyway, The Spitfire Grill was very much back to their wheelhouse — a totally unfamiliar title for many, but a great story with endearing roles. This one centered on a small town (“This is Gilead — what there is is what you see”), and the title diner at the center of it. Henderson was back (in the third Showtunes show in which NWT has seen her — the first was Working), this time in a supporting role as the town gossip; Tori Gresham was the leading role of Percy, a sympathetic convicted killer looking for a place and the opportunity to start over; and Suzy Hunt was the show-stopper as the grizzled, grouchy, soft-hearted-in-there-somewhere long-term diner owner Hannah. The cast and the musicians were amazing. Unfortunately, the night NWT saw it, there was an actual show-stopper: the power went out. Happily, Cornish Playhouse has a decent backup system, so no one was sitting in the dark — but the entire second act had to kick over to un-amplified singing and poorly-amplified music (that overpowered the singers, but didn’t sound as good). So props to everyone for gamely making it work, with that malfunction totally out of their hands — but the second act clearly couldn’t keep up with the first. All that said, the show selection, performers, and performances were tops — and NWT can’t wait to see what Showtunes comes out with next.
Coming back for another winning weekend was the BAT Playwrights Festival (which runs through this weekend at Burien Actors Theatre). This, like the first installment (the past two weeks), was one in which the full-length play easily outshined the one-act. The shorter play here was The Great Fish & Jonah (by Matthew Weaver, directed by Rachel Rene), which centered on an imagined friendship between the biblical Jonah and his host, a “great fish” (can we not just go with whale? — why is this a plot point?). In the original, as here, the story requires that fear play an overt role — fear of the unknowns, fear of failure, fear of being in a giant creature’s digestive system, fear of the alternative. Here, to get any legs (or fins), the play also requires some sort of feelings of connectivity, as its whole story centers around the relationship between this creature and Jonah. Whether from the script or its direction, this production stripped all the fear elements out of it by turning it instead into an awkward comedy, and removed the feelings of connectivity, in part by having the creature’s performer off-stage with a boomed-in voice. The cool set design made this a visually appealing performance; but it wasn’t an emotionally appealing one. In contrast, the full-length play, Goldendale (by Kevin K. Berry, directed by Rochelle Flynn) had both a great script and treatment of it. The plot centers on a gay-parented family wishing to buy a house and establish roots in a rural community (where one parent grew up), a religious and heterosexual family hell-bent on keeping that from happening, and a real estate agent who has placed herself in the middle of it all. For all the characters in the story, the setup, philosophical disagreements, and confrontations are very personal ones. The play is an intriguing and timely one, with endearing characters, culture-war explosions, and enough nuance to be thought-provoking about the whole thing; and the staging, actors and direction were, overall, excellent for it.
Rounding out the week was a beautiful show by Neve Mazique-Bianco, called Lover of Low Creatures, a performance of dance, storytelling, puppetry and music, set in a fictional realm with familiar earthly problems. Particularly poignant was the exploration of self-assessment (whether personal traits, abilities, social membership or standing) versus outside assessments (you’re not like us, or you’d be better off if only … ), and its excoriation of the latter, showing how physical and mental colonizers set out to devalue. In their performances, Mazique-Bianco also challenges the very perception of what dance is, creating stunning movement sequences (i.e., dances) incorporating or outside of a motorized wheelchair. The show, performed at Velocity Dance Center, also featured music from Evan Flory-Barnes, and direction from Sara Porkalob (whose influence was evident in the delivery of some storytelling sequences).
Wednesday Roundup is a weekly feature, with NWT’s picks for the upcoming week and recaps around town.
Want to plan your show schedule further out? See what’s happening on NWT’s Calendar page. And for news on all the openings this month, see Miryam Gordon’s May coverage here.