I Want to be a Yee!! ACT Theatre’s King of the Yees is a Downright, Fantastic Night of Theatre

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

Ok, People, we gotta talk right now about the current show going up at ACT Theatre:  King of the Yees.  This show, oh, this gloriously hilarious show is filled with outstanding writing, phenomenal acting, and wonderful design.  It was downright fun from the ‘turn off your cell phone’ message to the last blackout.  I cannot recommend you go see this show strongly enough!  GO SEE IT!

And let me get into a little more detail as to why you should go see it without giving too much away.  Let’s start with the design.  Set in the wonderful Allen Theatre, this show is done in the round.  And I love shows in the round, it’s such a fun challenge for Actors and Creative Team Members alike, and the Creative Team killed it for this production.  Carey Wong’s (I love that he’s a Wong, and you will have to go see the show to know why!) smart and simple set design used not only the stage beautifully, but the entire theatre with finesse.  Brilliantly done props and expertly using the space’s fly system, Mr. Wong created a some-what black box space for the actors to simply act without a lot of things in their way, and it definitely added to the complexity of this play.  Mr. Wong understands space in the most beautiful way, and I really loved what he did with this show.

Ancestor1Christine Tschirgi’s costumes were in a word, epic!  From her modern dress to her outlandish creative pieces, she dressed each character perfectly!  Each new character who joined the show had a look and style all their own, each so clearly defined, that you really did lose the actor playing, and just saw the character.  And is there any better compliment to give?  I could gush about the brilliance of Ms. Tschirgi’s work, but if I did, I’d give too much away, and I really want you to go see this show.  Ok, one teaser – Miami Vice meets Bubble Tea!  GO!

Sound and lighting also played a big part in this show, and both were expertly designed, and my kudos go out to Brendan Patrick Hogan and Jessica Trundy for the wonderful job!  All in all the tech was just outstanding in this show, and any actor will tell you, without good tech as your foundation, an actor can’t relax and be in the moment, and the tech in this show was stellar from start to finish!  Bravo!

Now, let’s talk about this cast, shall we?  A small cast of only five actors, these artists take character development to new heights.  Each one so nuanced and clear, I was mesmerized by the transitions from one to the next from every actor in this cast.

Lauren Yee, played by Khanh Doan, was so wonderful and dynamic in the way she seamlessly anchors this play.  The only actor to only play one character, her performance in this show was both uplifting and inspiring.  She takes a journey that any child who struggles with finding balance between the life you want for yourself and the life your parents’ want for you has had, and she did so with outstanding grace and respect.

Larry YeeStan Egl as Larry Yee, the title character, gave us so much fun loving dad stuff, that he had me and my friends in the palm of his hand.  He was goofy and delightful, and gave both my funny bone and my heart strings a workout during his performance.

Rounding out the cast are Actors 1, 2, and 3, with 2 and 3 played by Annelih GH Hamilton and Joseph Ngo respectfully and both had some epic characters to play!  Ms. Hamilton, fearless in her attack of the numerous characters she plays in this show, I found her charisma addictively hysterical.  She really took all the good stuff her fellow actors were doing and played off of them beautifully.  Mr. Ngo had extremely dynamic shifts from one character to the next, and had one of my most favorite moments of the night with some footwear that, honey, I don’t know how he did it, but he did the damn thing in those! No two characters for these two actors were anywhere near each other, and I applaud them both for their impeccable character development and commitment to seamlessly transitioning from one to the next.  Bravo!

But let me just talk to you, right quick, about the genius that is Ray Tagavilla, Actor 1, in this show.  Now, some might call me biased, as I went to UW with Ray, and have been witness to his genius for sometime (you’ll remember me gushing about him in my review of Four Dogs and a Bone at Theatre Schmeater a few years ago), and to those people I say, ‘If you think I’m biased, you’ve clearly never seen Mr. Tagavilla on stage, because if you had, you’d know, I’m not biased, I just speak the truth.’  Cuz, oooooooooooooooo, did he kill it in this show!  Mr. Tagavilla’s comedic timing is something that has always blown my mind, and in this show, oh my god, it’s on a whole new level.  The way that he is able to sink so deeply into the character he is playing, that every small gesture specific to that character, and that character alone, is absolutely mesmerizing.  I brought five friends with me to this, and at both intermission and after the show, they just kept asking me, “How does he do that?  How does he just shift so quickly from one character to another like that?”  Answer: Training and Talent!  And Mr. Tagavilla has both running through his veins.  He gained five new fans with this performance, and nothing warmed my heart more than when my friends said “Let us know the next time Ray is in a show, because we are there!”

I’m always proud of Ray when I have the joy of watching him on stage, am always mesmerized by what a truly phenomenal actor he is, and love him in comedic roles more than anything because his timing is absolute perfection, but this show in particular, these characters that he brought to life, really impressed the hell out of me.  Bravo, my amazing friend!!  Thank you for bringing the thunder with this performance, for your epic character development, and for pulling audiences into the story in the way that only you can.  You know, through talent, and training, and bedazzling prop work, and most of all through the delicious, yet arduous task of sipping on some bubble tea.  Oh, those chewy bubbles!

Lauren Yee1Seriously, though, these actors are no joke, and are expertly directed by Desdemona Chiang.  She truly created a space for actors to play, and the way she brought the real Lauren Yee’s words to life was delightful and thought provoking.  Her staging in the challenging round theatre was fantastically simple, and allowed for the actors to just listen to each other and lean in to each other, and create real, powerful moments on stage.  Some will leave you dying laughing.  Some will leave you thinking about your relationships with your own heritage.  And for this theatre lover, it left me so damn proud that I live in a city filled with such talented people, and theatres that invest in such good work, where my talented friends can share their gifts with the world.  But I guarantee, whoever you are, this show will leave you wanting to be a Yee!

This is not a show to miss, I’m telling you.  Go see it!  Take friends.  Take family.  Take everybody!  But there isn’t much time left, as the show closes on Oct 1, so go get tickets now.  RIGHT NOW!

Tickets and show information can be found on ACT Theatre’s Website.

Thank  you all for an amazing night of theatre that I’ll not soon forget!  Bravo to everyone involved in this show, you really have created something special!

Ciao for now,

cropped-unnamed-16.jpg

 

 

Advertisements

I got Dirty at ACT and It Was Glorious!

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

Dirty_Playpage_Header_1

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!

11401345_10153352823980833_2536077552272007123_n

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