I got Dirty at ACT and It Was Glorious!

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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Dirty, Co-Presented by A Contemporary Theatre and Washington Ensemble Theatre, in Seattle, WA was a night of theatre I will not soon forget!  It was brave and bold, and the impact of the story sneaks up on you in the most subtle and seductive way, and when it finally hits you, you are rocked to your core!

This play tells the story of Matt Barnes, an investment guy who transitions his life from elevated loan shark to owner of his own porn website all in the name of bringing some ‘good’ morality to the porn industry.  Matt’s goal is to provide an option to porn lovers that neither degrades women, nor exploits violence against women, but instead uses age appropriate actors in passionate scenes.  In addition to providing a good clean sex option in a sea of barely legal girls in pigtails performing in a rape fantasies, Matt wants to take his good works one step further: give 90% of the profits to organizations who help survivors of human trafficking.  In order to accomplish this, he needs his wife’s buy off, his ex-boss’s financial backing and the right ‘face’ of his website.  The story explores whether one can stick to the high standards one sets for themself when money and livelihood is on the line.  And this production explores it with the most deliciously talented cast I have seen in a long time.

Let’s start with Matt Barnes, played by the ridiculously talented Anthony 11403072_10152820021720855_8992621476496183308_nDarnell.  This man is an actor, ladies and gentlemen!  He’s pure genius in this role.  His delivery of monologue after monologue just got better with each speech and as the protagonist of this show, Mr. Darnell anchors the show brilliantly.  The journey that Matt Barnes takes is raw, emotional, and while funny at times, is really a dark look at the struggle we all face between morality and money.  This was my first time seeing Mr. Darnell on stage, and I look forward to many more performances from him because his acting was exquisite!

Matt’s antagonist through the play is split between two important people in his life:  his wife, Katie (LoraBeth Barr), and his boss Terry (Ali Al-Gasseir).  These two act as the angel and devil on his shoulders, each playing their part perfectly.  Katie raises the stakes of her influence over Matt by being pregnant with their first child, a daughter, who she uses when necessary to apply pressure to keep Matt’s morality in check.  Terry, on the other hand, is the financial backer of Matt’s company, and uses that as leverage as often 11412361_10152820025710855_1280774823823702691_nas possible to keep blurring, and at times, moving the boundary lines that Matt set up for himself and the company in order to maximize profits!  And when push comes to shove, and Katie won’t budge on issues, Matt seems to always point out that the more money they make, the more money they have to give away to the foundations supporting survivors of human trafficking, and that seems to lessen Katie’s resolve to a point.  This relationship triangle ebbs and flows through this story, forcing Matt to be swayed in a new direction every time he turns around because Ms. Barr and Mr. Al-Gasseir are so strong in their performances.  This trio of messed up, volatile characters trying to figure out how to get what they want was absolutely mesmerizing to watch!

The cast is rounded out by the ‘face’ of the website, Mikayla, played by Leah Salcido Pfenning, who will be the leading star of this high morale porn site of Matt’s.  She’s young (younger than Katie would prefer her to be), she’s beautiful, she’s sexy, and most importantly, she’s the daughter of a sex trafficking victim.  She’s perfect.  Except, she has an agenda of getting as much money as she can to help pay for law school and support herself and her younger 15 year old sister.  She agrees to be the website’s star, and is quite happy to be a driving force of the company’s success.  They give her the stage name, America, and inch by inch, the high morality of the company begins to drop as the popularity of America builds.  Ms. Salcido Pfenning is epic in this role!  Every moment she is on stage is full of fire, and her acting intentions so friggin clear, and she is grounded so very much in each and every moment, that the shift her character takes at the end of the play absolutely blind sided me!  And I loved it!  Mikayla is supposed to be the hope of something better, so when she turns out to just be another statistic, this reviewer’s heart was broken, because Ms. Salcido Pfenning’s performance was that good.  Bravo!

The other four roles in the show were of two porn stars (Nik Doner and Heidi Korndorffer), the big porn company CEO, Jacob (John Pyburn), and Mikayla’s little sister April, played by the incomparable Jasmine Sim.  Ms. Sim, the innocence of the show, has the most difficult challenge, in my opinion.  She had to go from being the young, vibrant, full of life 15 year old to the dead-eyed, heartbroken, exploited victim of sexual abuse.  11202068_10152820027015855_7687682021275714382_nThis actress, this unbelievably amazing actress, had a moment on stage that I haven’t seen in a long time.  It’s after she’s been exploited as part of a ploy Mikayla created to leverage Matt to sell his company to the big porn company and make a ton of money for herself, and she is alone in a room with Matt.  Matt has given in to the ploy, Katie has screamed at him and stormed off to the hospital to have their baby alone because she’s so disappointed in Matt selling out, and the bad guys have all won.  April asks Matt where he’s going, and he says to the hospital for the birth of his baby.  April asks him if it’s a boy or a girl, and when Matt says a girl, the moment Ms. Sim creates is absolutely heart wrenching.  The look of shock and fear on her face as she imagines a ruthless man like this being a father to a daughter…a man who would not stand up for her and her sister, who sold away his company to a sick man who will continue to exploit and abuse young women was sheer perfection.  As a classically trained actor, I know what it takes to sink into a moment to create that level of reality and truth, and Ms. Sim was absolutely tremendous and pulled the entire audience into her moment.  Thank you, Ms. Sim, for that experience!  You had many audience members talking about that moment as they left the theatre, myself included.  Bravo!

11406402_10152796207525855_1539692859451891064_nThe production of this show successfully matched the acting perfectly.  Michael Place’s direction was tight and inspired, Ali Rose Panzarella’s costumes were stunning and clarified each character’s journey from clean to dirty (or vice versa), but the most successful element for me was Tommer Peterson’s set design.  This pristinely white set, with varying levels, white furniture jutted out into the audience, allowing a wonderful stage for the actors to play on.  Watching the morality getting more and more muddy and dirty as the play went on, made the set that much more bright, that much more clean.  The juxtaposition was beautiful, and the entire production staff should be very proud of their creation!

This show is so many things, but at its core, it tells the truth! It tells the hard, ugly, frustrating truth of how we, as humans, have choices to make, and we aren’t always perfect in making those choices.  Consequences are real.  The good guys don’t always win.  And there will be days where we go against our moral compasses in order to make a buck.  It happens.  To the best of people, every day, it happens, and I’m so honored to have witnessed the exquisite bravery of Dirty.  This show had grit, this show had honesty, and this show had some of the best acting I’ve seen in a long time!

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Dirty closes tomorrow, but if you have the chance, please go see it’s closing performance!  You won’t be disappointed.  Showtime and ticket information can be found on ACT’s website.

Loved it!  Adored it!  Was absolutely moved by it!

I give it a Standing Ovation!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos from Washington Ensemble’s Facebook Page

The Boy Friend at Renton Civic Theatre in Renton, WA

Uncategorized

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I closed out my weekend of theatre at Renton Civic Theatre to see their production of The Boy Friend, a story of a young girl, Polly, in 1920s France who is at a finishing school hoping to find herself a boyfriend so that she can end up married.  She fabricates a boyfriend until she falls for a delivery boy, Tony, whom she lies to about her identity because she’s a very wealthy heiress, and is afraid to tell him the truth for fear of him wanting her for her money.  Unbeknownst to her, he is also in disguise, as the son of an English Lord, which of course, is a wonderful thing to find out as that’s how Brits made marriages back in the day.  He has a title, she has money…a perfect match!

These young star-crossed lovers are surrounded by a cast of characters, one more unforgettable than the next, because this production was absolutely awful.  Let’s start with the fact that it’s a musical.  Therefore the music should be done well.  It was not.  Not from the pit, not from the stage, not from anywhere!  It sounded atrocious.  Music Director Aimee Hong took on the roles of music direction, conducting and playing keyboards, and I feel this was too much.  For a show of this magnitude, I was surprised to see Ms. Hong listed as playing the keyboard as well as conducting.  Perhaps if she streamlined her focus to conducting, and hired a piano player she could focus more on perfecting the music so that it’s pleasing to the ear.

Add to that, the fact that this is an old-school musical where it’s mostly singing and dancing, and by dancing I mean tapping, and this cast of 19 had maybe 4 people who could tap, and the rest couldn’t tap if their lives depended on it, and yet, all of them tapped so much.  Sooooooooo very much, it killed me!  Note to theatre-makers out there…if you’re going to do a tap show and you don’t get tappers out, only let the ones tap who know what they are doing and please, for the love of all that his holy, don’t showcase your worst dancers by placing them in the front and/or in white tights and black shoes to show off how terribly off the beat they are!  I’ve choreographed many a show in my day, mostly for community theatre shows, so there is a way to choreograph novice dancers in a dance heavy show, but the choreographer of this show clearly had no idea how to do that.

This is the type of show that needs a Director/Choreographer, and yet Renton Civic split those roles, to the detriment of both people tasked with these jobs.  I have no idea what the director, John Kelleher, actually had to direct, because by my count there was about 3.5 minutes of the 2.5 hour show that wasn’t dancing and singing.  This left nothing but stage time for Taylor Davis to create, and in my opinion, she failed miserably.  The choreography was too difficult for most of the dancers in her cast, repetitive choreography that was boring in so many parts, and too many people were dancing on that stage.  But the biggest shocker was she did have one phenomenal tapper in her cast, Miss Erin Glaman, who was buried in the chorus for most of the show save for one small duet where she was barely allowed to tap at all!  Made no sense to me.

Honestly, Ms. Glaman out-sang, out-danced and out-acted everyone, including the lead, and I’m not quite sure why she wasn’t cast as Polly, especially given that she’s actually the age Polly is supposed to be, but only the production staff knows what goes on around a casting table.  She was one of only two shining lights in the cast for me.  I look forward to seeing Ms. Glaman in more shows, as she’s only 17 years old, so well done, Ms. Glaman!  Good for you!

The other was Marc “Mok” Moser as Percival Browne, Polly’s father.  He was delightful, and the only actor on that stage who fully understood the presentational style needed for this style of musical.  None of the young actors had a clue how to do the presentational style they were directed to do, and I’m not sure if that’s a fail on the part of Mr. Kelleher or on the cast not knowing how to interpret his direction.  Either way, it drove me nuts!  But Mr. Moser’s scenes were quite wonderful so I am glad I stayed for the whole show to see his full performance.  And believe me, it was tough to do, as bad as this show was.

Did not like this show.  Was not entertained hardly at all.  And the sad state of the music alone will have me hesitating to go back to a Renton Civic show.  The cast looked like they were having a good time out there, but this critic was left seriously disappointed.

Ciao for now,

M sm

Noises Off at SecondStory Repertory in Redmond, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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Noises Off by Michael Frayn is one of my all time favorite plays!  So, to say I am more judgmental of productions of shows I love is a major understatement.  And we all know I’m not shy about letting you know when I hate something.  Well, I’m also ready to shout from the rooftops when I love something, and I absolutely friggin loved SecondStory Rep’s production of Noises Off!!!!  It was sooooooooooooooo good!

Noises Off is a play within a play type of show.  The audience gets the joy of watching a goofy, quirky group of British actors rehearsing a play called Nothing On!  You get a look at all the magic that goes in to getting a play ready for an audience complete with a frustrated director, confused actors, exhausted stage hands, and egos everywhere!  Relationships that form within a tight knit cast is a very real thing, and Mr. Frayn exploits this in the best way possible!

These relationships take you on quite the journey that is a marathon of a show, not a sprint.  When you combine the heavy line load for the actors, the physical decathlon that the director has to create with staging all three parts, and the complication of the turning of the ENTIRE set, you have on hell of a show to pull off.  Well, Executive Artistic Director, Mark Chenovik put together an amazing production staff who then cast one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a long time to more than pull this show off!

Let’s start with the set.  Unbelievable!  Amazing!  Phenomenal!  If you’ve never been to SecondStory, let me tell you this is not a big theatre.  The stage area is not that big, and I had no idea how they were going to manage to create a set large enough to hold this ensemble with all the ‘bathrooms and doors’ necessary for the story, not to mention then turn the sucker around for the second part, and then put it back for part three!  And yet….oh, and yet….it was done beautifully!  It was a masterpiece, and I am so glad I got to witness how it was done!  If you go see this show…or actually, WHEN, when you go see this show, when intermission rolls around, don’t go out to the lobby, instead stay in your seat and watch the magic that Mr. Chenovick and Jen Klos, Managing Director, pull off with just the help of one crew person.  BRAVO!!!

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Now, on to the rest of the production team.  Kevin Miller directed this beautifully.  Noises Off is great if one just lets it be what it is supposed to be, which is British farce/comedy, and Mr. Miller did just that.  He also cast a fantastic group of actors to tackle this beast and each actor was cast perfectly!  The costumes were delightful, the dialect was spot on with all of them, and every production element was on point!  Well done!

11390177_1008334859199918_5270324249647657058_nThe ensemble was pure magic.  Every single one of them had specific character development, wonderful line readings, and delicious chemistry.  They listened to each other, leaned in to each other, and played off each other so well, it was wonderful to watch.  Calling out standout performances is like trying to decide who is a better broadway diva, Patti LuPone or Alan Cumming!  But, I did have my favorites.  Sara Trowbridge as Belinda was simply spectacular!  I loved her high brow accent, her nosy nature, and her hilarious ability to manage Selsdon.  Additionally, her husband Freddie, played by Jaryl Draper, was wonderfully understated, deliciously dense, and 11537691_1008335015866569_3664335612755172545_nfantastically lovable.  And Dan Davidson as Tim was simply everything.  He was so brilliantly cast in this part, simply reacting to
all the madness going on around him in the most hilarious way!  He brought to life a character that can often get lost in this sea of dynamic roles, and yet Tim is the one I gushed about with friends after the show because Mr. Davidson committed to that character so completely, I was simply blown away!  Bravo to the entire cast for stellar performances all around!  You should all be very proud to be a part of this show, and I thank you for bringing it to life so beautifully.

Noises Off will continue to make audiences laugh through July 5th.  You should go get tickets now, because once the word is out, this show is going to sell out!  Ticket and show time information can be found on SecondStory’s website.

Loved this! So very much!  Please go see this show and support this wonderful cast and crew!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos from SecondStory Repertory’s Facebook page, credit to Michael Brunk

Are You There, God? It’s Me. Karen Carpenter! at STAGEright Theatre in Seattle, WA.

play review, Theatre Review, Uncategorized

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When one reads a title like Are You There God? It’s Me. Karen Carpenter, one can’t help but go, ummm…WTF?  I had no idea what to expect when I took my seat at the Hugo House on Capital Hill in Seattle, WA for STAGEright’s opening night performance of their 20th show.  The set was painted very 1970’s stripes, the lighting was psychedelic and the music was, obviously, The Carpenters.  The scene was set for a good time, and I was anxious to see what this was all about.  The house lights went out, and the show began, and for the next 90 minutes or so, I laughed my fool ass off, because this show is friggin hysterical!

This play, written by the brilliant Dane Whitlock, takes the beloved children’s story of Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret, and inserts the songs made famous by Karen Carpenter to drive the story along and it is pure genius.  It’s quirky, it’s witty, and it’s 100% fun!

11391524_953995997955582_1204358077450347862_nSo, what has STAGEright done with with hilariously written tale?  Well, they cast seriously talented actors to transport the audience back to the 1970s to follow the story of young Margaret, played expertly by Emily Rose (EmRo) Frasca!  Oh, my, this chick!  This unbelievably talented chick, elevated one of my favorite childhood characters so beautifully, I was in awe.  Ms. Frasca anchored this show perfectly with her impeccable comedic timing, her wonderfully genuine line delivery, and her hilarious physicality that I was completely able to suspend my disbelief in that this grown woman was a pre-teen sensation, and I adored her!

Mr. Whitlock’s script takes us through all the main components of Judy Blume’s book after Margaret moves to New Jersey and meets Nancy, the sassy young lady who 10511117_956742217680960_7899865495744453442_n
lives down the street.  Nancy is the bossy, queen bee of her own universe, and leads a secret club with Margaret and two other girls, Gretchen and Janie.  These four discuss and experience everything from boys to bras to learning the technical jargon surrounding female reproductive system, and are all just longing to grow up as fast as they can, complete with boobs and menst-a-rating, and the four actors who took on this challenge were phenomenal.

Ms. Frasca was in great company with Shermona Mitchell, as the fiery Janie who is 11401163_956742214347627_1368414406373539369_nneither intimidated by the bossy Nancy, nor is afraid to speak her mind, Abbey Roads as the delightful andhysterical Gretchen who stole every scene she was in (OMG!  Her facial expressions were priceless!  I’m a huge fan!), and Olivia Lee as Nancy who so badly wants to just grow up and is inspired by the women in her dad’s Playboy magazine!  All three of these ladies were fantastic in their roles, completely committed to their characters, each vastly different from the others.

Let me take a moment, though, and talk about Ms. Lee and her amazing portrayal asunnamed-2 Nancy.  The nuances that Ms. Lee creates in her characters is absolutely fascinating. She pulls my focus, in the best possible way, whenever she’s on stage, because she so clearly works her intentions.  I recently saw Ms. Lee as the Witch in STAGEright’s Into the Woods (reviewed here), and I was so impressed with her in that production, that I had high expectations of her in this play, and she did not disappoint!  Her bravery in character development, her fearless silliness, and her phenomenal physicality made  an otherwise irritating character (who Nancy would have been in the hands of a less skilled actress) absolutely lovable.  I look forward to seeing Ms. Lee in many more productions!

Another standout performance was of Emily Feliciano who played multiple roles ranging from Nancy’s little brother Evan, to the heartthrob of the class, Phillip Leroy.  Her character transitions were impeccable, her deadpan face added levels to each scene, and her commitment to her gender flipped characters was brilliant!  Although, my favorite of her characters was just her and a can of, I believe, was Aquanet Hairspray.  Trust me people, watching her with that can alone is worth the price of admission!

One other performance I want to point out was Cedric Wright who played 11393045_953996117955570_4457104242582662002_nboth Moose (Margaret’s love interest) and Norman Fishbein, an awkward Jewish boy.  Mr. Wright’s transition from one character to the next was flawless completely with physical changes and speech impediments.  He was adorable and funny, and had the perfect combination of charisma and goofiness that is needed when a grown man plays the part of a teenage boy.  And there was a moment involving spit, that while it was a complete accident, I hope they find a way to effortlessly recreate it every night, because it just elevated the scene to a level of humor that ya just can’t force!  And kudos to the whole cast for regrouping after that!  I LOVE LIVE THEATRE!!!

There were some weaknesses in this production, and sadly for me it came in the forms of the ‘grownups’ in the show.  All the children were played beautifully, but the adults were mostly played by either Jay Irwin or Michelle Flowers, and they gender flipped each character having Mr. Irwin play everyone’s mother and Ms. Flowers playing Margaret’s dad and male school teacher.  It just didn’t work.  Mr. Irwin was extremely over the top, and his timing was off, so the jokes rarely worked.  I saw him trying to work levels between normal speech patters and then dropping into his deeper voice, but the transitions were far from smooth and thus, missed the mark. There was a lot of yelling, and I didn’t understand the motivation for that.  And Ms. Flowers was not believable as a man in either role.  She misses the physicality needed to pull off masculine energy.  And there’s a scene between Margaret’s dad and Moose that was so uncomfortable, and not just because of the dialogue, but because the chemistry and read of the role by Ms. Flowers was ineffective.  I saw what director, and Artistic Director of STAGEright, Brendan Mack was going for with these characters, but sadly, they were the weakest performances in the show.

This show was music directed by the brilliant Josh Zimmerman (who I originally expressed my love for in my review of his music direction in Next to Normal at Second Story Rep), and the music truly was fantastic!  There were some sound issues in the beginning where the band overpowered the actors, but the adjustments that were made throughout the show fixed that, and it all came together in the stunning fashion I have come to expect from Mr. Zimmerman.  Ms. Frasca can sing her face off, and every time she sang a solo, my heart soared!  Karen Carpenter would have been proud.  I also enjoyed the voices of most of the “children.”  The weakness of the adults continued on into their vocal performances, including, what I thought was the biggest vocal disappointment of the show:  Karen Carpenter, played by Stephanie Graham.

Ms. Graham’s voice does not have the soft, sweet tone that Karen Carpenter had, and once Ms. Frasca joined in on the one song Karen Carpenter sings in the show, Ms. Graham was completely lost vocally. However, while she may not have had a strong vocal performance, and also completely overdid her performances in the other ensemble roles she played (especially that of Coach Barb Strutts…it was too much on level 10 the entire time of being over the top and overacted, so the impact wasn’t well received by much of the audience, and completely irritated me), Ms. Graham did look EXACTLY like Karen Carpenter!

unnamedWow!  I mean, the costumers, Cherelle and Jonelle Ashby, outdid themselves with the costume for Karen Carpenter.  The white pants, the vest, the wig!  Loved it all!  And Ms. Graham is so tall and thin that when she stepped on stage, she took my breath away with how similar she looked to Karen!  Bravo to the design team on pulling off a doppleganger of that magnitude with such an iconic figure as Karen Carpenter to recreate!

Overall the direction was strong and concise by Mr. Mack, and the design and use of Barbie dolls was inspired! You’ll have to just go see it to know what I’m talking about.

This creative, fun filled, and highly entertaining play runs through June 27th.  I strongly, seriously, and Nancy-level-bossily suggest you go see this show!  Further details and ticket information can be found on STAGEright’s website.

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Loved it! Adored it! Laughed the entire time!  GO SEE IT!  I mean it!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos courtesy of STAGEright and their Facebook page.

Whim W’Him Presents X-POSED in Seattle, WA

Entertainment Review

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My first love is dance.  I began studying around the age of five, and fell in love with movement.  And even though my dance training gave way to gymnastics, and eventually acting, my love of dance has never faltered.  I love all styles, and am mesmerized by original and powerful choreography, most of which I see on television shows like So You Think You Can Dance and documentaries about dance companies.  It had been so very long since I had seen good, inventive choreography in person.  That is, until I discovered Whim W’him.

My first encounter with Whim W’him was back in January 2015. I was invited by a friend to join her for their THREEFOLD performance to support a friend of hers who is in the company.  Having never heard of Whim W’him before, I did my research before accepting the invitation.  And immediately upon clicking on the ‘About the Company’ link on the website, two words gave me all I needed to know that I would definitely attend the show.  Those two words were:  Olivier Wevers.  I watched Mr. Wevers for years with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and was always moved by his performances.  Even small solos in his first year with the company left an impression on me.  I never forgot his name.  So to find out that he is the Artistic Director of Whim W’him, well, I had to find out what his new company was all about.

I attended THREEFOLD and was so impressed by the three pieces the company performed, that I purchased tickets for X-POSED the minute they went on sale.  The only disappointment was it was five full months before I could see Whim W’him perform again.  But I waited, and counted the days, and on May 30th, along with two friends, I took my seat in the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center with excitement of knowing I was going to see a good show.  But what I got, was so very much more.

The show opened with a piece called RIPple efFECT, choreographed by10698665_10155628294300035_6475480424128512352_n Manuel Vignoulle.  This piece was a fractured yet fluid contradiction of movement.  The seven company members both pushed against and moved with each other in interesting shapes and levels.  One dancer, Tory Peil, the tallest woman in the company stood atop the shoulders of two other company members, creating a dizzying height to watch from the audience, and continued the spastic, searching movement that both tingled and confused the senses in the most delicious way.  I found myself experiencing anxiety and stress watching the dancers, like watching a suspense film and desperately wanting the hero and 078-Bamberg-Fine-Art-RIPple-efFECT-XLheroine to escape whatever is chasing them r holding them captive.  And just when one or more of the company members would find themselves breaking away from the group, the group117-Bamberg-Fine-Art-RIPple-efFECT-X2 would grab hold and pull the dancer back in the most jarring way creating horizontal pictures of tension, and
the next thing you knew another fascinating vertical shape would be created as they all moved as one.  This choreography was eclectic, volatile, and extremely creative.

The second piece was called Black Heart (in the program was listed with an actual black heart and no words), choreographed by Kate Wallich and featured all seven of the company members.  This piece, oh this piece, moved me in ways I was not ready for and brought out emotions I was not prepared to show and it was glorious!  Ms. Wallich’s movement in this piece was dark, tumultuous and at times, heart wrenching!  Described in the program as “a cacophony of choreography in four parts” is a brilliant description.  And of the four parts, there were two where, once again, Ms. Peil stood out amongst her colleagues, which, trust me, is hard to do in a  company with this much talent.  But Ms. Peil took me on an emotional journey I won’t soon forget.

The costumes in this piece, done by Black Magenta, were stunning all 394-Bamberg-Fine-Art-Black-Heart-X2around, but Ms. Peil’s costumes brought out a whole other level to the story for me. She started in a pair of black tights with a white billowy sheer blouse that showed a black bra beneath.  I point out this costume, because it was such a contrast to all the dark the rest of the company was wearing.  It was the only light piece in an otherwise dark world. And the movement Ms. Wallich gave Ms. Peil added to the contrast.  I found my eyes drawn to her, no matter how I tried to enjoy all the other amazing movements going on by the other company members.  And when the company transitioned to the next part, suddenly Ms. Peil removed the blouse, to now only be wearing black like the rest of the company, and they all moved into a story that will forever hold a place in this dancer lover’s heart.

Three of the men paired off with the three women to create some intricate contemporary partner work, to eventually land all three of the women, and one of the men, expertly danced by Jim Kent, on the floor, lying on their sides, resting back on one elbow, with the other hand rhythmically drumming on their thigh in an invitation, yet the energy from all four was one of empty emotion and dread, and not sensuality, even though the body placement was overtly sensual.  The next moment, the other three men would come and drag the women back, upstage in awkward and somewhat vicious choreography, only to bring them back and lay them back on the floor where the women would resume the sensual position, their hands returning to drumming their thighs suggestively.  This went on and on, andeach time the women were laid on the floor, their energy seemed more and more vacant and emotionless.  And then suddenly, two of the men, Kyle Johnson and Thomas Phelan (pictured) grabbed Ms. Peil at the same time and slung her back, dancing a pas des trios that was filled with innuendo and dark emotion.  These three exceptionally skilled dancers created a moment for me that broke my heart, and yet I could not look away. Her limp body being moved wherever the men positioned her brought tears to my eyes and I found myself silently crying out for it all to stop, and yet was so moved by the dark beauty of what I was watching.

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After this moment was over, and Mr. Johnson and Mr. Phelan laid Ms. Peil on the floor for the last time, the three women took their time standing and walking away from the scene, allowing me to see that Mr. Kent had yet to move from his position of drumming his thigh with his hand, and just when I feared that next would be his turn, Justin Reiter, picked up Mr. Kent, and as if to save him from the fate the women suffered, took him off in a loving embrace that allowed me to take a full breath since this part started.  The tender choreography that followed this had me instantly hearing Lovely Ladies from Les Miserables in my head.  Now, perhaps this isn’t what Ms. Wallich intended at all from her choreography, and I’m projecting my own thoughts on this performance that are a galaxy away from what was intended.  But Ms. Wallich, and the seven company members moved me through an emotional journey that was both dark and lovely at the same time, and is a performance I will never forget.

And when the lights came on and they set up for the final piece, I wasn’t sure that my heart could take much more after the tailspin Ms. Wallich took me on, but little was I to know that in a few short minutes I was going to witness a complete choreography masterpiece from Mr. Wevers, himself.  The final piece was called Alone is the Devil and Mr. Wevers featured Mr. Kent as the solitary human being pushed and manipulated around the floor by the other six company members who were phantoms tempting him with the seven deadly sins.  And people, there are not words for how powerful this piece was, but I will do my best.

In a world where so many things are at our fingertips, everything available at lightning speed through the internet, a phone app, or even a drive thru restaurant, and never truly needing another person to satiate the cravings we all have for Vanity, Lust, Sloth, Greed, Anger, Gluttony and Envy.  Mr. Kent was stunning, again dancing in an all white costume against the phenomenally designed black phantom costumes for the rest of the company, complete with stockings over the face of each of them, stunningly created by Mark Zappone.  619-Bamberg-Fine-Art-Alone-is-the-devil-X2Each dancer in this company is so distinctive, but the minute their faces were covered, it really was difficult to discern who was who, and I found that absolutely mesmerizing.  Mr. Reiter, for example, always stands out to me, and I couldn’t pick him out of the mob.  The beauty of it was it forced me to focus solely on Mr. Kent and the journey he took facing each sin.

Sloth, Greed and Anger blurred for me a bit, but Vanity, oh sweet, beautiful, 11407020_10155644996390035_155476706522849228_nvanity came through the use of a mirror on wheels that the phantoms expertly moved through the space, and Mr. Wevers choreography gave Mr. Kent a perfect vehicle for getting sucked into his own image and then feeling the shattering impact when the phantoms destroyed the mirror.  The special effect of the mirror was one I won’t soon forget.  And just when you think the mirror is no longer part of the show, the phantoms put it back together and Vanity transitioned erotically into Lust!  Lust was luscious, devious, and pushed boundaries of what I’ve seen in other dance shows in the most sensual, seductive and tantalizing way.  I was completely turned on by the images Mr. Wever and his company brought to life and just when I didn’t think I could take another moment of the erotic frolicking happening on that stage, they transitioned into Gluttony, and Gluttony broke my heart.

I know so many people battling obesity, myself included, and the way Gluttony was portrayed was by the use of fast food bags.  Starting out small, phantoms stuck them on Mr. Kent’s hands.  Then larger backs on top of those, large enough to engulf his hands and go up to his forearms.  Then larger bags came, and eventually a huge bag came that they put over his 569-Bamberg-Fine-Art-Alone-is-the-devil-XLhead, and the phantoms began to beat him around the stage with the bags, the sound of paper hitting Mr. Kent’s body was harrowing and heart wrenching, and he couldn’t see them, he couldn’t fight them, he was helpless to do anything against the danger Gluttony was doing to his physical being, and when they finally jumped off of him, all the paper bags, including the one from his head, were shoved into his tank top creating a very obese person, unhealthy from the Gluttony he’s been engaging in, and it was the saddest most terrifying moment and it literally took my breath away.

The piece ended with Mr. Kent turning in to a phantom and another company member, taking his place, showing that the cycle never ends.  Mr. Wevers created one of the most honest slices of life through art that I have ever seen, and it moved everyone in the audience.  How do I know?  Because when the piece ended, and the lights went out, there was that moment.  You know the one, right?  That delicious pause while everyone lets out the breath they’ve been holding and wraps their mind around the fact that the show is over and what they just saw was real and amazing.  And as the amazement kicks in, so do the applause.

It was not even a question but to jump to my feet in honor of the art I saw at Whim W’him’s latest show.  I wish it was still running so you all could go see it, because it was stellar, it was emotional, it was raw, it was honest, and it was brilliant all the way around.  This company has made a life long fan out of this reviewer, so much so, that I will be a season ticket member starting next season.

If you love dance, if you love creative expression, and if you love seeing true artists at the top of their craft, I highly encourage you to join me in becoming a season ticket subscriber for Whim W’him.  Information on ways to subscribe and donate can be found here.

They entertained my face off!  Loved it!  Adored it!  Can’t wait to see what they do next!! Bravo!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Press photos – Bamberg Fine Art

Four Dogs and a Bone at Theatre Schmeater in Seattle, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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Saw a new play tonight by one of my favorite playwrights, John Patrick Shanley, at Theater Schmeater in Seattle.  It is called Four Dogs and a Bone and it follows the story of a screenplay being filmed in Hollywood.  I note the screenplay as the focus, because it really was a character in this funny, witty play.  It is the thing that each character wants to control in this play in one way or another.

4 Dogs and a Bone-1There are two actresses (Brenda and Collette played by Brenda Joyner and Elinor Gunn, respectively) who both fashion themselves the star of the show and desperately want the screenplay to feature them as the lead.  There’s a producer (Bradley played by Paul Custodio) who wants the screenplay cut down to something that can be filmed on, or better yet, under budget.  And finally the screen writer (Victor, played by Ray Tagavilla) who just wants this screenplay, his first screenplay, to be a hit and get mass distribution.  The stakes are high for them all, and each actor attacks their intention differently.

Mr. Custodio was appropriately sleazy and skeezy as the penny pinching producer.  Shanley’s dialogue for this character is deliciously raunchy and disgusting, and Mr. Custodio embraces this with gusto!  I believed every pain in the ass moment he created (and you’re just going to have to go see it to understand that reference!).

Both Ms. Joyner and Ms. Gunn went after their intentions with the passion of a desperate actress just trying to be liked by, ya know, the entire world.  Ms. Joyner’s Brenda, a newcomer to the business, was a lovely mixture of naiveté and ruthless moves, all rolled into a lovable neurotic newbie and you can’t help but understand her desperation of trying to break into the business beast of Hollywood as best she can.  Ms. Gunn’s Collette, on the other hand, is the stereotypical stage actress trying to make her career transition to film, and is placing all her chips on this one bet that this movie will make her a leading actress.  Colette is the Ivy to Brenda’s Karen (yes, I just used a Smash reference, deal with it), and both are so ridiculous, I found myself hoping Victor would just write them both out of the film.  Both women committed to their characters beautifully, and the contrast between the two kept me laughing throughout the show!

But the shining star of this production is Mr. Tagavilla.  His Victor had both depth and charisma as the fledgling playwright hoping for a hit with this movie.  Victor is the only character who has a significant arc and takes a journey in this play, and was a pleasure to take that journey with Mr. Tagavilla.  His comedic timing, his line delivery (to quote my friend who went as my +1 tonight, “Saying ‘suck my dick’ that many times and could have gotten really crass and ridiculous, but he just made every time he said it more hilarious 11377388_10153947727538012_4966385185623481930_nthan the time before.” People, this alone should have you rushing to buy tickets right now!), and his ability to stealthily maneuver from moment to moment in every scene he was in showed that Mr. Tagavilla is on a whole other level than the rest of the cast.  While they were good, he was great!  Mr. Shanley’s final lines for Victor could have ended up quite cheesy in the hands of a less skilled actor, but Mr. Tagavilla had me staring up into that bright light of the possibility of success thinking, “Yes, Victor!  You will get everything you want and more!  Johnny lives!!”

Overall, the direction, design, and timing were all tight and effective.  The pacing is perfect, the costumes fantastic, and the soundtrack outstanding!  Watching Ms. Gunn try to seduce Mr. Tagavilla while Big Poppa played in the background was my favorite scene in the show and made my heart soar!  Brilliant choices all around!

This isn’t a groundbreaking play.  It will not leave you with some deep meaningful morale to take away and ponder over late night happy hour drinks.  It will, however, make you laugh and entertain the hell out of you, so I highly recommend you go see this gem.

Four Dogs and a Bone plays through June 27th and show and ticket information can be found on Theater Schmeater’s Website

Highly entertained! Loved it!  Go see it!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos from Theater Schmeater’s Facebook page

Space Madness: Burlesque, Drag & Variety Show at The Austin in Everett, WA

Entertainment Review, Variety Show Review

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As a virgin to a full burlesque show, I had no idea what to expect as two friends and I sauntered in to a bar called The Austin in Everett, WA to watch a show titled: Space Madness.  I was cordially invited by the divine hostess, Shana Deon, to attend these festivities, and am so grateful for that invite, because Space Madness was a hilariously fabulous night of entertainment with a space odyssey/alien invasion/all things with the word Star in it (Star Wars, Star Trek, Stars, etc) and it was delicious!

Let’s start with the opener of the night, one Miss Sparkle Leigh.  You may remember that name, as she was the divine hostess of the last Variety Show that I saw at the SecondStory Hideaway in Redmond, WA (you can read that review here if you missed it!), and Sparkle was one of the main reasons I made the trek up to Everett to see this show.  And Sparkle Leigh did NOT disappoint!  This bitch opened up the show doing Don’t Cry for Me Argentina from Evita as, wait for it…Marge Fucking Simpson!!!  Don’t believe me?  Check it out, here is Sparkle Leigh with Shana Deon at the show:

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I love everything about this photo!  Anyway, I digress.  Miss Leigh’s Evita was stellar!  And when those giant blue eyes looked in my direction, even though she told me not to, I may have cried for her Argentina, because it was that damn fantastic!

And then, as if I didn’t already love her enough, Sparkle Leigh came back in the second act dressed as E.T., and y’all, this costume was even better than the first!  I was not ready.  Let me say it again, I was NOT ready for this!

11393239_401997843327233_1640113859445636500_n Girl was performing Katy Perry’s        Extraterrestrial dressed like a giant E.T doll  and blew my mind in a very, as Shana pointed out, WTF moment!  So good!  Soooooo good!  She werked the hell out of that costume from the fringe to the head to the glasses to the boots.  Loved it all, loved it!  Brava Miss Diva!

11289442_420748038107330_5145487395804463579_oMy second favorite act of the night belonged to a fellow named Al Lykya who dazzled first as Captain Kirk from Star Trek, and then as Han Solo-esque character to one of my all time favorite songs, Space Cowboy by NSYNC.  Al had charisma, great choreography, and phenomenal stage presence.  He’s got a way of captivating an audience that had this reviewer sad and bummed to only see his name on the set list twice.  But all was not lost, as my third favorite act, who closed the first act, belonged to a lady by the name of Maxie Milieu who came on right after Mr. Lykya’s Captain Kirk as Captain Jean-Luc Picard!  She committed to this character in a way I was not ready for at a Variety show.  I was ready for campy.  I was ready for silly.  I was even 11412028_420748044773996_397897958884696273_oready for sexy.  I was not, however, ready for committed acting performances and character development at the level Ms. Milieu gave us as Picard!  She came out drinking hot tea, and had tea bags strategically placed on her body that came out as the act went on.  It was fabulous!  But when Mr. Lykya came back out and got on the floor and Ms. Milieu dipped two wet tea bags dangling from her lady parts into Kirk’s eagerly waiting open mouth, the entire place died!  We fucking died!  And just when we thought, through the cheers and tears of joy the entire audience was experiencing, Kirk and Picard made out!!!!  Yeah, you read that right, they made out!  It was hot!  It was wrong, and yet oh so right!  And all the nerds in the place lost their minds with nerdgasms!  Huge applause to these two fine performers for the brilliance of this performance!

Everyone in the show was fabulous, but other notable performances that stood out for me as being amazing were newcomer Steemed Peter.  This 11393333_420748051440662_6484764154273483601_ohot little number, while new to burlesque, is not new to the stage, and when he came out as a space man to plant his flag in an all white astronaut outfit and stripped down to a pair of teeny tiny martian green boy shorts, pretty sure there was not a dry seat in the house!  My one criticism would be whatever he had going on under those boycotts, because someone needs to introduce this newbie to a dance belt, and fast!  He’s too cute to not accentuate the goods!

11406742_420748034773997_206477529243053748_o  I also thoroughly enjoyed Saleurn Ramos and her fantastic hoops.  The hoops were something I hadn’t seen before, and loved the various patterns of light, and girl can work those hoops, let me tell you. She’s also a yoga instructor, so between the bending and contorting and flinging those hoops around was mesmerizing! I hope to see more of Ms. Ramos in future burlesque and variety shows because she is outstanding!

11267664_420748058107328_6628791841150124534_oAnd finally, the stunningly beautiful vixen that closed out the show, Miss Seraphina Fiero, gave two phenomenally sexy performances in this show.  She is a combination of strong and sultry at the same time, making you feel as if, while you watch her, that somehow she’s weaving a spell over you, but you dare not look away for a fear of missing one tantalizing moment!  That you’d follow this dreamy siren anywhere she beckoned!  Her last name is Italian for Pride, and this lovely lady should be very proud of the show she put on last Sunday night.  Bravo!

I will be keeping an eye on future productions put on my Ms. Deon and produced by Siren and the Treasured Chests.  I thank all involved in this show for a wonderful, fabulous, hilariously sexy nerdfest!

Loved it!

Ciao for now,

M sm