I saw three shows this week, two of which are still up and are worthy of your attention.
Saturday 6 May 2006: The House of Mirth at Book-It
Briton Marcus Goodwin, who has previously adapted Jane Austen and E M Forster for Book-It, now tries his hand at American novelist Edith Wharton. Again it's a sprawling story that has to be crammed into a 150-minute window, and again he succeeds wonderfully. Directed by Jane Jones with a cast of fifteen (and three musicians), playing over thirty roles, the piece kept my interest throughout.
Jennifer Lee Taylor plays Lily Bart, orphan of an upper crust family whose mission in life is to marry well. As the ward of an aunt, she doesn't have the income she needs to sustain years of waiting for a proposal from a man with an ideal combination of wealth and attractiveness. Maintaining her life-style leads to compromises that make a suitable match even less likely. We watch and sympathize as she spirals into despair while attempting to adhere to her principles (which are not as cynical as her circumstances suggest).
In a uniformly excellent cast, checkmark-worthy work is common; I have selected only the standouts to mention here. So, checkmarks to David Quicksall as Lawrence Selden, whose shabby gentility keeps his admiration for Lily from being appreciated; to Shana Bestock as Selden's cousin; to Dan Dennis for original music; and to Jane Jones for direction. Double checks to Taylor as Lily. Honorable mentions to Todd Licea as Mr. Rosedale, rich enough but of the wrong religious persuasion; and to Eric Ray Anderson as Gus Trenor, also rich enough, but an already-married cad. You will also enjoy watching Teri Lazzara, Hana Lass, Kelly Kitchens, and Frank Lawlor among the ensemble.
This is among the best 3-5 pieces that Book-It has put up in the past five years.
Saturday 6 May 2006: Honus & Me at Seattle Children's Theatre
You might as well know up front that, for me, Steven Dietz can do no wrong. I mourn his departure from Seattle (but since I'm leaving too, I'll feel the loss a bit less). So when I saw that he was putting up a new work at SCT, it became a must-see (I see almost everything that SCT produces, because their 5:30 shows fit perfectly between a matinee and an 8:00pm slot, but Dietz's play got in the calendar ahead of Junie Jones). Couple a Dietz script with a cast of Seattle's finest (under Dietz's own direction), and it's an afternoon fit for repeating.
Gabriel Baron plays Joey Stoshack, the fellow who ends too many Little League games by striking out while the coaches have already packed the equipment and taken the pizza orders from his teammates. Only his dad (Peter Crook) is enthusiastic about seeing Joey play. It doesn't help that after each game Joey has to pick a parent to ride home with (they are barely on speaking terms).
One day Mom (Morgan Rowe) tells Joey that he can earn $10 by cleaning out the attic in Miss Young's house. Joey is convinced that Miss Young (Marianne Owen) is a witch, but he sure could use $10. So off he goes - with instructions that he can keep anything he finds that seems attractive, but put everything else into the trash.
He finds - a rare Honus Wagner baseball card. So rare that one sold in the real world during rehearsal of this play for $1.2 million. Joey has a special relationship with baseball cards - good ones make him tingle. Really good ones let him time-travel - right back to Honus Wagner's time. But all the while he is enjoying the benefits of this card, he knows that doing "the right thing" is going to deprive him of it. And while we await this delicious denouement, we get to watch Wagner, Ty Cobb, and the 1909 Pittsburg (without an "h") Pirates finish a World Series. And the story has other twists that tug the heartstrings - have your handkerchief ready.
Checkmarks to Baron and Owen; to Dietz for writing and directing; and to the uncredited props wrangler for this piece. Honorable mentions to David Drummond as Wagner and Charles Leggett as Joey's Little League coach. Troy Fischnaller is perfectly cast as Ty Cobb, and Timothy Hyland is a crooked memorabilia dealer who tries to steal the magical card from Joey.
Runs into June - watch for me when you go.