This Week in Arts: Wednesday Roundup (6/5)

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 an early look at a new musical, and some impressive student works; plus, a new musical in-development shows at Village Theatre, some anticipated openings, and Team Dresch returns with a (sold-out) Seattle show. 

For details on any of the shows (like times & ticket info), view them by date on the Calendar page.


Opening this Week 

Plenty of noteworthy shows are opening this week all around town, including two fresh new musicals.

First up is a two-weekend run of Hart Island, a developmental production that’s part of Village Originals’ Beta Series. The show intertwines two narratives: that of an immigrant woman fighting for her child, and that of a disillusioned inmate who may be able to help. The show Hart Island, written by Danny Larsen & Michelle Elliott, concerns those pushed to the margins, much like those in the place itself. (Hart Island the place is a potter’s field for New York City.) Village’s developmental production is directed by Artistic Director Jerry Dixon, with a strong cast that includes Gregory Award-winner (and this year’s co-host!) Alexandria Henderson.

Opening at Café Nordo on Friday is The Champagne Widow, a new work by local theatre-maker Opal Peachy. Through theatre and music, the show introduces the women behind four famed female-helmed Champagne empires that have retained their prominence over the centuries. It’s accompanied by a creatively presented four-course French-themed meal throughout the show and, of course, Champagne add-ons. It runs through June 30.

And not new but nonetheless notable, West Side Story opens Thursday at The 5th Avenue Theatre. This production of the modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet is in collaboration with Spectrum Dance Theater, with an astounding 45 performers. It runs through June 23.

Notable play openings this week abound as well. Just coming off the close of Nina Simone: Four Women at Seattle Rep (see NWT’s review here), Valerie Curtis-Newton directs The Agitators, about Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony. It runs through June 30 at West of Lenin. See NWT’s interview with Curtis-Newton (about both Nina Simone and her artistic work in general) here.

ACT Theatre opens two intriguing productions this week. On the mainstage, Antoinette Nwadu’s Pass Over will play in the round, through June 23. Described as a combination of Waiting for Godot and the biblical Exodus saga, Pass Over explores Black masculinity in modern America. Meanwhile, in an ACTLab partnership in The Lalie blackbox space, New City Theater returns with a production of two shorts: The War in Heaven (Sam Shepard) & The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot) (running through June 30). Mary Ewald will give solo performances in both, directed by John Kazanjian. Ewald is expressive enough to tackle just about anything — so despite the short run time (some 75 minutes combined), this should be a solid night of theatre.

Also opening this week: Fantastic.Z presents Boy (a slightly less depressing and less factual version of the real-life story told in the book As Nature Made Him), directed by Emily Harvey and running through June 22 at Theatre Off Jackson; and Book-It presents Behold the Dreamers, a stage adaptation of the book by Imbolo Mbue, playing at Center House Theatre through June 30.


Last Call 

In a deviation from the theatre norm, three quick-run shows NWT is most excited about this week are rock shows from the reunited ’90s queercore band Team Dresch (at favorite venue the Clock-Out Lounge) and Gretta Harley’s new band Love & Fury (also at the Clock-Out Lounge); and a performance-filled fundraiser celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas on Saturday.

On Sunday and Monday, Seattle Rep presents an unusual opportunity: a reading of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, all in Spanish (Joe Turner Vino Y Se Fue), with English text projected behind. It’s translated and directed by the late Wilson’s widow, theatre artist Constanza Romero, along with Fernando Luna and the Latino Theatre Projects. It’s a powerful play anyway, centered on strangers coming through a Pittsburgh boarding house during the early 20th Century, but the opportunity to hear this translation will make for a special set of evenings.

A few more blink-and-you’ll-miss-them theatre short runs this week are Body Awareness, an Annie Baker play split between two third-year students in the MFA directing program (at Jones Playhouse 6/5-9); Danses des Cygnes at Velocity (6/6-9); and a performance of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever by Freehold’s acting students (6/7-8), plus readings of eight short plays by students in Freehold’s playwriting class (taught by Elizabeth Heffron) on Sunday.

Closing this week are The Laramie Project from Seattle Central’s drama students (concluding with a matinee on Saturday); and The Call at Seattle Public Theater (concluding with a usual Sunday matinee time slot).


Week In Review

This week was characterized by exciting new works and some solid student productions.

A highlight of the week wasn’t even a show — it was the First Look at The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion, the next-up of Justin Huertas’ new musicals, opening later this month at ArtsWest. The tale sprung from a local legend of a great octopus wrestler, and morphs into a love story surrounding a Filipino family and queer love. With a great cast, compelling characters and an intriguing local story, this one looks to be a don’t-miss. It opens June 20. (First Look is ArtsWest’s free mini-preview/discussion program, held before every mainstage show goes up, that gives an early inside view into their creative process and production.)

Featuring student actors, dancers, and other creatives, The Defiance (through Intiman Theatre’s Starfish Project) was a creative force all its own. This student-written work envisioned a hyper-controlling society which had rid the world of art by suppressing and eliminating its artists — or so it thought. The world was constructed with poignant writing, brought to life with efficient, powerful sets and backdrops; and mega-talented dancers and actors. 

Closing last week was UW Drama’s The Learned Ladies, a comedy on class, elitism, and self-determination. The set and costume designs formed a literary wonderland of sorts, and the student actors did well with the witty and physical humor that formed the centerpiece of the play. Opening (and still running, through a matinee this Saturday) was Seattle Central’s production of The Laramie Project, a play well-suited for college productions. The cast put on a solid production, with Anjoli Burger-Morris particularly enjoyable as the fast-talking Marge going on about her “all togethers.”

Two shows this week gave trans audiences especially the chance to see trans artists represented on stage. Mandate, a band fronted by out trans multi-media artist Clyde Petersen, headlined a rock show at the Clock-Out Lounge. (Petersen also just closed out a rockin’, rock-themed visual art show, Merch & Destroy, at the Bellevue Arts Museum.) And They/Them the Festival, running all month at Annex Theatre, brings together a musical (They/Them) by festival curator Sam I’Am, with opening acts by trans and non-binary artists across the artistic spectrum. 

Base held the latest installment of its recurring 12 Minutes Max series (formerly at On the Boards), which features seven pieces of no more than 12 minutes each. This weekend’s version was curated by Sruti Desai & Sean Lally. The most novel piece was a storytelling segment by Flatchestedmama in which, through video and other visual media, she described traveling around with a sculptural reproduction of a mass removed from her reproductive system. (She also carried the reproduction around with her in a clear plastic fanny pack.) The evening’s other pieces were fine individually, but as a collection grew tedious. From the healthy sampling of 12MM that NWT has seen (of perhaps every 12MM session held at Base, plus sporadic installments over 15 years during the OTB decades), it’s safe to make the following observation: In the installments in which the curators attain some level of considered racial diversity, the collection of works put up are considerably more interesting than when the performers/creators are this homogenous (read: largely White). In elevating the representation, it elevates the art. 

Most disappointing this week was a show which, somehow, has audiences fawning all over it: a fairly good production by Strawberry Theatre Workshop of Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out, a bland, eye-rolling script full of just about every played-out stereotype it could cram in. It’s got gay people as sexual predators, Black people as religious homophobes, star players as entitled narcissists, and rural folks as backwoods homophobic racists; peripheral characters were penned simply as Latino and Asian ball players who wouldn’t learn English, and a coach who stood for nothing. None of them were likable. Perhaps worst of all was the portrayal (in the same character as the racist, homophobic backwoods guy) of foster kids with traumatic childhoods as future dangerous adults, to be feared and penned up. The only characters portrayed as mostly positive were both White savior-types: an affable people-pleaser ball player, and an endearingly awkward financial advisor (who was the most likable of all of them). The production was decent enough, and the cast was very strong. But whose story was this supposed to tell? Who was it supposed to inspire? Other than having a gay person in the premise, it’s a far cry from a “Pride-month” production, as it’s billed. It’s a dated, played-out mass of stereotypes, only tangentially about queerness, and surely not one that inspires pride. 

(This month will have an ample selection of queer arts, so keep an eye out for those.)

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 big shows on this month, see Miryam Gordon’s reporting on June openings here