Boling's week of 29 May 2006
I saw four shows this week. The following three are still running and deserving of your support.
Saturday 3 June 2006: The Foreigner at Taproot Theatre
This is Larry Shue's comedy about a shy Englishman, Charlie Baker (Scott Nolte), visiting a southwest Georgia fishing lodge, where he does not want to be embarrassed by his accent and demeanor. To minimize his interactions with the locals, his traveling buddy, Sergeant "Froggy" LaSueur (Don Brady) tells the landlady, Betty (Kim Morris), that Charlie speaks no English, and would prefer to be left alone. Froggy trots off to Ft. Benning to teach some classes, leaving Charlie alone for a few days.
Meanwhile, local Rev. Lee (Darrrell Olson) and his henchman Owen (Jason Adkins) are conspiring to buy the lodge at a fire sale price by having it condemned as uninhabitable, due to long-deferred maintenance. They have no more money than Betty (who can't afford to repair the building), but Rev. Lee is planning to tap the inheritance of his fiancée, Catherine (Nikki Visel), including that part that should go to her brother, Ellard (Matthew Edwards), who is deemed too mentally slow to manage his own affairs. Rev. Lee and Owen don't plan to entertain fishermen - they want the property to establish a new national HQ for the Invisible Empire (the Klan).
Needless to say, their plans are thwarted amid hilarity and just deserts. Checkmarks to Sarah Burch Gordon for costume design, and to Visel and Edwards. Double checks to Nolte. Honorable mentions to Brady and Morris. Karen Lund directed.
Saturday 3 June 2006: The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at Seattle Public Theatre
What a ride. This is Rolin Jones' contemporary drama about a genius Chinese adoptee, Jennifer (Kimber Lee), who is afraid to leave her California home (think Howard Hughes in his last years), but who wants to find her birth mother in China. Her solution is to build a robot (the title's Jenny Chow, played by Kelly Mak) that can make the trip, locate Mom (who was Chow Su Yang on the adoption papers, but is now married as Zhang Su Yang), and report back to Jennifer via satellite. It's all the tiniest bit surreal, yet delivered so as to make it entirely believable - from Jennifer's ability to network with all manner of resources in academia and the Defense Department, to her problems with her adoptive Type A mother (Karen Nelson) and self-absorbed father (David Gassner), to Mak's brilliant portrayal of a humanoid, to the encounter with Su Yang (also played by Nelson).
Lee carries the show, but the scene stealer, who received several rounds of applause following his scenes, is Patrick Scott, who plays four roles as Jennifer's resources, from a professor to a Raytheon contract manager to a colonel to a Mormon missionary in Shanghai. Trick Danneker plays Todd, a local classmate who delivers pizza and runs errands for Jennifer (since she can't so much as move the garbage can to the curb).
The ride I referred to in the first line is the emotional roller coaster that Jones has us on, as delivered by Carol Roscoe's direction and the acting of this ensemble. Checkmarks to Jones for the script; to Roscoe for direction; and to Lee, Mak, Nelson, and Scott (who really deserves multiple checks for the many roles that he plays). Nelson broke my heart as Su Yang, and Mak's acting as she doubled Lee's movements with the barest hint of not-alive tightness is superb.
The script is loaded down with fuck this and fucking that - the couple next to me did not return after act I. But - on the ear I found it pitch perfect. Go see this show - which just won an Obie a couple of weeks ago. Kudos to SPT for getting its NW premiere. Best of the week.
Saturday 3 June 2006: Oedipus, Akropolis Performance Lab at the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs hall, 2336 - 15th Ave S on Beacon Hill (just north of the intersection of 15th and Beacon Ave).
Here is another of Akropolis' patented aural and visual feasts. In terms of pure story-telling, this is the most straightforward piece I have seen them do, using Seneca's version of the Oedipus tale, as translated by Ted Hughes. It backs into the events, so that initially one wonders how Oedipus cannot know that he has killed his father, but by the end the chronology is established and the tragedy, as predicted by the oracle, is both clear and credible.
Akropolis co-AD Joseph Lavy plays Oedipus; Holly Fowers is Jocasta, his mother/wife. Two musicians (Elizabeth Erber, violin, and Margaretta Lantz, cello) double as players (Manto/Phorbas and Tiresias/messenger). Andrew Loviska is Creon and a slave, and the other Lavy, Jennifer (AKA Zhenya, the other co-AD), is leader of the chorus (which is composed of any participant not otherwise engaged).
The music is from a variety of traditions, using text from Carmina Burana (thus not Orff's tunes). While the songs are not intelligible unless you are a Latin scholar, notes in the program serve to guide one's thoughts as each song weaves into the story. The actual sung notes are dense polyphony, the harmonies written by Jennifer Lavy, and reason enough to take in this piece regardless of any other aspect of the production. The lighting is provided by the fixtures in the hall (which is a non-theatrical space), candles, and a couple of portable lamps. It sounds (and is) crude, but is used very effectively. As always for Akropolis, exaggerated physicality is integrated throughout.
There is equal opportunity nudity, and some of it is mildly erotic (this segment is in near-total darkness). Consider what your kids might want to ask questions about.
Checkmark to the ensemble, but special recognition to Joseph Lavy as primus inter pares (and as director of the piece). As I said above, it's an aural and visual feast.