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This Week in Arts: Wednesday Roundup (5/29)

Here are the things NWT loved (or didn’t) this week, and a few (or more) things to look forward to this weekend.

This week has some big openings and closings, so don’t snooze on them. Highlights included a culinary delight and a strange and fiery think piece in Pioneer Square; a rock show at the Village Theatre; plus, tons of upcoming openings to look forward to, along with a few big closings. 

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

 

Opening this Week 

Three shows open this week in the Pike/Pine cluster of theatres. First is the much-produced interview-based play, The Laramie Project, by Moisés Kaufman and his Tectonic Theater Project. Seattle Central College’s drama department is producing the show, with an all-student cast directed by drama faculty member Shelley Douma. It runs May 30-June 8 at the Erickson Theatre. Read NWT’s preview here.

Next is the latest version of Amontaine Aurore’s locally-based play, Don’t Call It a Riot!, which opens May 31 at 12th Avenue Arts (with a preview show on May 30). The play looks at two eras of Seattle activism — the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, and the WTO protests in 1999 — through the eyes of two generations of Black women, including two who started as close friends but whose paths diverged. Incorporating new art from Franklin High School students, the show is worth a visit even for those who saw an earlier version one year ago at 18th & Union (or an earlier-earlier version, an initial read at Kent’s Theatre Battery). It runs through June 23. Read R. Barron’s review (in Seattle Gay Scene) of the earlier run here; and read more about the creation of the new designs here.

Also opening on May 31, down the street at Annex Theatre, is They/Them the Festival, which is a combination mainstage show (They/Them the Musical, about gender and parenthood) and variety show. Opening acts will rotate throughout the run, by transgender and non-binary performers from all over the artistic rainbow, including folk music, poetry, and burlesque. View the opening performer schedule here. Runs through June 29.

Opening May 31 further up the Hill is Blackbird, an intense show about a sexually abusive relationship, showing at 18th & Union. It runs through June 15. Also at 18th & Union this week are two short shows: a fundraiser for abortion access on June 2 (featuring storytelling from she is FIERCE); and an interactive texting-based show on June 4 called, fittingly, txtshow.

Beginning previews this week is West Side Story at The 5th Avenue Theatre, in collaboration with Spectrum Dance Theater. It’s a dance-filled, modern-day musical adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, in which the star-crossed lovers hail from rival gangs. The show officially opens June 7 and runs through June 23 (followed by Rising Star youth performances July 12-13).

Also beginning previews May 31 is Pass Over at ACT Theatre. It’s described as “a provocative mashup of Waiting for Godot and the Exodus saga,” in which young Black men “dream about a promised land they’ve yet to find.” It opens June 6 and runs through June 23.

 

Last Call 

Returning this weekend for a two-day run (through 6/3) is the latest installment of 12 Minutes Max, a favorite On the Boards series for decades, now reincarnated at Base, a dance space in Georgetown. (Read more about Base and 12 Minutes Max here.) This installment was curated by Sruti Desai and Sean Lally, and includes artists Sarah Alaways, Liam Hardison & Brooke Morrison, Ben Goosman, Amy-Ellen Trefsger, Bruce Greeley, Monica Kerr, and Bri Wilson.

Opening and closing this week (Wednesday-Thursday) is the last installment of In SEAtu, this one about weed. See NWT’s review of the first installment here. And opening and closing this weekend (Friday-Sunday) is In Living Color, a storytelling show featuring a lineup of queer storytellers, with different performers each show.

Closing this week is Nina Simone: Four Women at Seattle Repertory Theatre. It’s a big, musically-oriented show, centered on Black women and artist-activism; and the cast is terrific. See NWT’s review here, and interview with director Valerie Curtis-Newton here.

Closing out a two-weekend run is The Defiance, a play written by South Seattle middle school students as part of The Starfish Project, a collaboration between Intiman Theatre and an artistic community of students, actors, activists, and educators. The show is held at Rainier Beach High School, and tickets are free.

Also closing this week is the week-long extension of Urinetown at ACT Theatre, a co-production with The 5th Avenue Theatre (see NWT’s review here); Reboot Theatre Company’s Sweeney Todd at Slate Theatre (with the scheduled run shortened by a day, to 5/31, due to a music festival in the building); and The Learned Ladies in the round, at UW School of Drama’s Hughes Penthouse Theatre.

Lastly, The Arsonists from The Horse in Motion will close on an industry night, Monday 6/3. It’s a trippy, socially and politically relevant play, set in an art gallery/loft with a setup that’s prime for the production.

 

Week In Review

This week’s show selections had little in common, aside from them all being unusual performances.

Last weekend was the second installment of Food Theater Thunderdome, the annual collaboration between the 14/48 Projects (specializing in super-fast theatre) and Café Nordo (specializing in creative culinary and theatre pairings). The weekend’s theatre highlight featured Rachel Delmar’s riotous performance as an out-there Idahoan air traveler with a Midwestern accent who harbored secret vampire-slaying powers (in Pilar O’Connell’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, directed by Mark Jared Zufelt). Another highlight: watching MAP’s Peggy Gannon watch the play she directed. All the plays and culinary creations were top-notch. This, along with last week’s installment (see NWT’s review here), demonstrate that the Food Theater Thunderdome collaboration has become a must-experience for Seattle’s foodies and theatre-lovers willing to get a little adventurous.

Just across the street, and with a run continuing through Monday 6/3, is a different kind of theatre adventure. The Arsonists, the latest from an inventive theatre group called The Horse in Motion, puts a striking old/modern feel on Max Frisch’s “morality play without a moral.” But the play does have a moral, and it’s a timely one for the current state of affairs: Wake the hell up. Everything around you is on fire. It’s an interesting and lively production, with a great cast, that makes good use of its non-traditional setting: Gallery Erato, an art gallery in Pioneer Square, site of Seattle’s own massive fire in 1889.

Issaquah’s Village Theatre isn’t commonly associated with rock concert hall, but that’s what it’s morphed into this season. Million Dollar Quartet, born out of the Village Originals series back in 2006, is an ode to the music of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, along with the star-spotting acumen of Sam Phillips. After its world premiere at Village in 2007, the show went on Broadway, off-Broadway, West End, Las Vegas, and national touring productions, and won a Tony — in short, it’s done pretty well for itself. Where it excels in amazing music and performances, it lacks … a lot … in story. Although based loosely on a famous encounter in 1956 when the four artists had an impromptu jam session at Phillips’ Sun Record Company in Memphis, the show features the stars’ biggest hits, not the songs they actually played there (mostly lesser-known tunes and gospel songs). The show also has so little plot, it’s a stretch to call it a musical, even of the jukebox variety. But for what it is — a rock concert with a great stage — it’s a rockin’ good time; and Village has found performers for these roles who are simply amazing. Pro tip: aim for house left, far up in front, for the best view of John Countryman’s astonishing keys as Jerry Lee Lewis. Another pro tip: figure out your seats soon, as tickets are going fast for this show, of which Village faithfuls have been long-awaiting a return production.

Also on the menu this week was The Call, a play by Tanya Barfield, directed by Annie Lareau, that runs through next weekend at Seattle Public Theatre. Walking into SPT is always a treat, because of the magic they create with the small, narrow space and creative set design. Whatever happens with the play, the sets here are always standout — and Jenny Littlefield’s design here, evocative of a compact, modern professional home of yuppies in Anywhere, USA, didn’t disappoint. Nor did the casting, another strong point. Ayo Tushinde, making her SPT debut, and Shermona Mitchell had great rapport as a modern professional gay Black couple, wedded to each other and to traveling the world. Bob Williams had a solid performance in a strange role, that of a mysterious neighbor, hailing from Africa (“the continent, not the country” — haha). And then there was the similarly young and professional, straight White couple (played by Brenda Joyner and Cobey Mandarino), around whom much of the action revolved. The couple was well-cast here, or so it seemed. But it grew more and more apparent that their rapport was non-existent, stemming from direction that was perplexing in the flatness and precision of their exchanges: the A / B / A / B, emotionless, perfectly spaced, robotic exchanges. They’re not human. And — because it’s their desire to adopt (from Africa) which is supposed to drive most of the action and emotion in the play — as result, the play doesn’t feel human, either. 

Rounding out the week was a timely piece designed to be of and in the community: The Detention Lottery, a new immersive play by Seattle-based immigration attorney and playwright Margaret O’Donnell (who’s also artistic director of Seattle Playwrights Salon). The play takes different groups of audiences to observe dramatized meetings with different clients, all facing deportation layered with additional, differing fears — a parent missing a child, a child without adults present, a person with no connection to their country of origin and whose adult life has been spent in the U.S., a person whose mistake with the legal system has them in the crosshairs of immigration — before reconvening in an assembly line-style immigration courtroom. The content is timely and appalling. The presentation, held in a West Seattle church, would be even more potent if held in a fittingly harsh environment, whether the INScape Arts building or an institutional-style basement. It’s not a pleasant play — but it’s designed to spark discussion, and it does that well.

 


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 each month, visit Miryam Gordon’s site here (with June openings posted soon).