Whim W’Him’s Approaching Ecstasy: A Feast for the Senses

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

This was the first show at my favorite Seattle based dance company where I have not been able to go get a preview of some part of it by attending a rehearsal.  This was an exciting and new experience where I had no idea what was waiting for me behind the curtain of the Cornish Theatre, but with the entire show being one piece created by the Maestro, Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers, I was extremely amped to see what he created this time around.

As I took my seat, I opened my program to read the Choreographer’s notes, and was highly intrigued to read that Mr. Wevers was inspired by the poetry of Constantine Cavafy, a Greek closeted gay poet who lived in early 1900s Egypt. To quote Mr. Wevers, ” …hiding shamefully under a business suit.  Repressed, tormented and frustrated, he evaded his reality with poetry.  His exquisitely arranged words still resonate true today, and are as relevant as ever.”

How would Mr. Wevers interpret the poetry?  It was clear there was going to be live music on stage, of which I was suuuuper excited about because it was all strings, and I love me a string quartet! But there was also a list of esoterics with a chorus master listed, so would we get live singing as well??!?!?  So many questions!

And I would get my answers quickly after the lights faded and the curtain rose.  The music that came from the string quartet was hauntingly melodic.  As always, the lighting by Michael Mazzola set an ominous glow where, two by two, under the golden wash, the Esoterics entered the stage to take their places in two rows of chairs, set just past the wings on stage, to leave the floor wide open for the wonderful Whim W’Him dancers to do what they do best.

Most of the dancers shared the same costume as the Esoterics, the business suit which Constantine Cavafy hid within, complete with bowler hats, reminding me of Magritte’s The Son of Man painting.  From my seat in the 3rd row, I found it tough to make out the faces of the dances, as the hats, and Mr. Mazzola’s brilliant lighting created an anonymity amongst the dancers that I fould beautiful and frustrating at the same time.  The one clear vision, shining bright as the star she is, was Ms. Tory Peil who came leaping ontothe stage in a gorgeous costume of a bustled short dress made primarily out of neckties!  0007-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-X2.jpgThe light on her was so crisp and clear, and was a lovely contrast to the blur of businessmen surrounding her on stage.

338-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-X2.jpgThe Esoterics sang parts of Cavafy’s poetry throughout the piece, sometimes from their chairs, sometimes joining the dancers on stage.  I will say, I didn’t enjoy when they came on stage so much, as I found it more distracting than anything.  They were often blocking my ability to see the choreography, and I hated missing even a minute of the beautiful movement Mr. Wevers created.  I also didn’t find the singers to react well in the scenes where the dancers interacted with them, which again, distracted me from watching the nuances of the dancers.  I think it was more about where I was sitting, though, as I had friends with me who sat on the other side of the stage and said they didn’t find the singers distracting at all, and never had their view of the dancers blocked.  Not sure if this frustration was part of Mr. Wevers’ vision, in staging the way he did where only part of the audience could see certain parts to mirror Cavafy’s dual life where he hid parts of himself from the world.  Either way, I just hated missing any part of the dance, so for me, the singers needed to keep their lovely voices in the chairs on the side of the stage so I could watch the dancers dance.

And let’s get to these dancers, shall we?  Each dancer transitioned from phrase to phrase180-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-S effortlessly, telling the tales of this heartbreaking poetry.  Liane Aung, with her amazing lines, and those breathtaking feet dazzled me as she always does.  Mia Monteabaro danced a stunning pas de deux with Ms. Aung that was both sensual and joyful, and together these women ignited the hope portion of the program.  You couldn’t help but smile watching that part of the program.  And that duet was a striking contrast to my favorite part of the show which was a pas de deux with Patrick Kilbane and Karl Watson dancing on either side of a mirror that was so 0002-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-S.jpghauntingly tranced, that I feared blinking in case I missed one moment.  Mr. Kilbane, facing the audience, Mr. Watson, dancing his reflection, these two men are not even remotely built the same, however, somehow, the movement was so mesmerizing that I was able to 100% suspend my disbelief and got lost in Mr. Kilbane anxiously exploring his reflection, trying desperately to figure out who he is, addressing his facade, and it was absolutely gorgeous.

The rest of this show had the dancers transitioning between their suits to white underwear and tank tops, and in stripping the dancers down, the scenes danced in that attire perfectly matched the poetry exposing Cavafy’s struggle in his own skin.  The moments of freedom Mr. Wevers created, of sheer abandon and joy, and then just as quickly the dancers were trussed back up in their suits, hiding from who they truly are and it broke my heart.

0008-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-X2.jpgThe final section of this show that I want to write about was a danced by Mr. Watson, Mr. Kilbane, Jim Kent, and Justin Reiter.  Mr. Kent, completely vulnerable dancing in only his white shorts, no shirt, lounges on top of Mr. Reiter, Mr. Kilbane and Mr. Watson who were all dressed in their suits, complete with hates, in the most glorious moment of this show for me.  Mr. Kent was pushed, pulled, lifted, twirled, and slid all over the stage by these three men in suits, and it felt like the wish from Mr. Wevers for all the closeted gay artists out there to say, “You don’t have to hide! You can be you! And that which you hid behind, let them lift you up, because what you create is about them, too, and is part of them, too, and you don’t have to be them to be ok.”  And I just loved it!  I have no idea if that’s what Mr. Wevers intended for that moment, but it is the emotion it evoked in me, and I am so proud of these men for so beautifully bringing that out in me.  It was the only moment in this piece that touched me to the point of tears, because the so much of the show brought out anger and frustration for me at the closeted life of so many.  But to have this hopeful moment at the end, yeah, tears rolled down my face, and I’m so grateful for them.

Tonight is closing night of Approaching Ecstasy, and I’m thrilled to announce that it is sold out.  This entire Senses season was absolutely wonderful, and I’m extremely excited to see what the next season holds!

Before I sign off, however, I want to say a special farewell to Mr. Kilbane and Mr. Reiter.  Tonight is their last show with Whim W’Him, as they move on to pursue new adventures and the next steps on their careers.

004-bamberg-fine-art-1200x1800

Patrick…I know we didn’t get to spend as much time together as I’d like, but please know that watching you dance has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my dance lovers world.  The way you interpret choreography, the beautiful lines you create, and your ability to combine strength and grace is incomparable.  I wish you all the success and happiness in the world in your next chapter. Ballet BC is lucky to have you. Toi Toi Toi!!

006-Bamberg-Fine-Art-1200x1800.jpgMy beloved Justin…what can I say?!?  I am going to miss you so very much.  It is through you, and the wonderful people you call friends, who helped me find Whim W’Him in the first place.  And I will never forget the first time I saw you dance.  You blew my mind with your fluidity, and your honesty, and your raw emotion on stage.  You, my darling, are the stuffs that dance lover’s dreams are made of, and I’m so grateful that I had the privilege to watch you dance for the past three years.  You, and those amazing lines of yours, have a special place in my heart.  Please let me know where your next chapters lead you so that I can continue to come watch and support you throughout your career.  All the best, my darling!

Ciao for now,

cropped-unnamed-16.jpg

All Photos by Bamberg Fine Art 

Hope & Love: NW Dance Project’s Spring Show Redefined Both

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

Ok, so let me start this post off with an apology that it has taken me so unbelievably long to write this review of NW Dance Project’s Spring Show.  Day jobs and life have been so distracting until now that today is the first day I’ve had to sit down and devote the time needed to do this beautiful program justice.  The choreographers and dancers have all moved on to other productions and other shows, (their current show, Summer Splendors, opens tonight for Christ’s sake!), and I just want them to know that even though its been over two months since I saw Visible Darkness and Carmen, the nuance and details and haunting beauty of both performances have been floating constantly through my mind.  So, please accept my profound apology for my tardiness and sharing with the world how you all pulled off yet another set of masterpieces that absolutely blew my mind!

As you’ll recall, I had the profound gift of being able to watch the birth of Carmen as she evolved and showed herself to the world through the imagination of the always brilliant Ihsan Rustem.  Mr. Rustem, along with Artistic Director Sarah Slipper, so graciously allowed me behind the curtain into the first days of Carmen rehearsals, and I’m telling you, people, I am forever changed by that experience.  To see brand new steps being created is something I will never forget, and it felt like forever until I got to drive back down to Portland to see the finished product!

As usual, I only get to see closing night, which is such a shame given how wonderful these shows always are, but when I arrived at the theatre, there was something different about the energy in the room.  It had a different electricity that I hadn’t experienced before from a pre-show at NW Dance Project.  And when I walked up to get my ticket, I saw what the buzz was all about.  Three words explained the excitement rippling through the lobby and Art Bar like electricity: Show Sold Out.

OMG! You guys, I almost cried when I saw that, because I’d never seen a full house at NW Dance Project show before, which always baffled me because they are so damn good.  Why were the houses not full?  Not enough promotion?  Portland folks just don’t know what amazing art is right in their backyard? So I immediately sought out Mr. Rustem to wish him Merde and tell him how excited I was about the sold out crowd and he told me this was their first sold out crowd in the history of the company!  Whaaaaat!?!?

All I could think was that finally, finally, finally these amazing dancers and choreographers will perform to the packed house they deserve!  And if I played even the smallest part in getting a few more people to the theatre to see it that night by being able to go to a rehearsal and write a promo piece about them, I am thrilled!  And you bet your ass I’ll be doing that again as often as I can to do my part to keep up momentum to get all art appreciating butts in those seats to make full houses the norm for NW Dance Project.

Ok, back to the show.  So off I went to my seat, and readied myself for the show.  And first up on the program was Visible Darkness by Patrick Delcroix.  This piece told Monsieur Delcroix’s journey back to dance after a horrific accident where he suffered major injuries and brain trauma.  This dance was the first piece he has created since his 17861810_1301594579925371_1060764376150142067_n-1.jpgrecovery, and people, it was spectacular!  My beloved Elijah Labay, ever the stunning dancer, showed me a new level of acting I hadn’t seen from him before as he danced the role of Monsieur Delcroix.  Watching Mr. Labay struggle physically as the injured Monsieur Delcroix was heartbreaking.  His ability to portray a broken body, broken spirit, to then push back against the universe as if to say, “The hell you will keep me down!  I will dance again!” was so real, so raw, so emotional that I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face.  And at first they were tears of sadness that Monsieur Delcroix had suffered such trauma.  Tears of anger that he had to struggle physically to get back, while internally and mentally he was always moving, always dancing, always fighting.  And then tears of joy at the end of the piece when Mr. Labay walked confidently tall and strong around his company of dancers as they moved to his chroegraphy.  He was back!  He was healed!  He was creating!  He was home!

nwdp_3-15-2017_969ver1fil3crpsml.jpg

This was a performance of Mr. Labay’s I will never forget.  The entire company did an amazing job in their parts for this piece, but the journey Mr. Labay went on for this one, the honesty and bravery by which he told Monsieur Delcroix’s story through his powerful execution of Monsieur Delcroix’s movement touched me at the very center of my heart. I’m so grateful Monsieur Delcroix was brave enough to share his story with the world.  I’m so proud of Mr. Labay for telling it so beautifully.  And I am so honored to have seen the world premier amidst a full house of dance loving people so that we could all jump to our feet and applaud this magnificent piece together and embrace the hope and the love it represents.

After this wonderfully emotional piece, as I went to the lobby for a tissue to dry my eyes, and get a quick glass of wine to prepare myself for the reveal of Carmen!  I was like a kid at Christmas counting down the sleeps until I got to the day where I would get my presents in the form of the NW Dance Project dancers moving to Ihsan Rustem’s choreography to one of my all time favorite scores! Shivering with anticipation like a crazed fangirl in my seat as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose on what I am going to call the single most powerfully haunting portrayal of love through dance that I have ever seen.

There is so much to say about this show, so lets get the fun logistics out of the way.  The costumes were epic!  The protagonists in white, the antagonists in black, and the men affected by both sides dressed in both colors with 1950s Vogue/Vanity Fair silhouettes with these chic edgy touches of sheer fabric, leather pants/jackets/harness (yes, daddy, you heard me say harness!) and metal chains strategically draped over the equisite specimens of humans that these dancers are, and from the moment the light hit them, I guarantee you, not a dry seat in the house!  This show slams into you like lust at first sight, and it damn near took my breath right out of my chest!

And all this deliciousness is set amidst the backdrop of a men’s barber shop and a women’s hair salon, again more black and white décor, but with vibrant pops of color in the forms of yellow hair dryers and electric blue light washes.  The aesthetics were off the charts on this one, just adding to the sexiness of it all!

NWDP_3-16-2017_1051ver1fil3crpsml-e1489792828739-1.jpgNow let’s get into the best part of this show, shall we?  The characters.  The ladies, the amazing, outstanding ladies, whose characters were all so clear and mesmerizing, even more so than when I watched them all in rehearsals.  The fierceness of the “Wolf Pack Ladies,” as Mr. Rustem dubbed them, were ferocious and feral and yet synchronized like a pack who stalked and moved this piece forward.  To quote Ching Ching Wong in a promo video for Carmen, she described these amazing characters perfectly when she said, “…We are vicious and feisty and we love gossip and we’re in this kind of utopia town where our world revolves around us and our men, and then Carmen comes into it, and the worlf pack ladies are fearful and jealous and this mob against her.”  And oh, individually they are fantastic, but when they all dance together in their pack, they are down right mesmerizing!  Each character so clear in her intentions, so honest with her emotions, and so beautiful in her movement.  Loved it!

And then the men, oh these gorgeous, brilliant men, being pushed and pulled around the stage, all in some form or another manipulated and used by Carmen.  Their characters added so much to each scene, their wants and desires so clear and obvious (including a little ass grab made by the devilishly playful Kody Jauron that was hiiiilarious and hot!) that the audience was absolutely entranced by them!NW DANCE .jpg

But when one thinks of Carmen, they think of a love triangle filled with passion, betrayal, and murder and the trio that made up that triangle were phenomenal!  Let’s start with the jilted lover, DJ, danced by the ever sensational Franco Nieto!  Oh, this man, this gorgeous, talented man, with those feet, and those lines, and the unabashed way he embraces emotion so real and so raw that you can’t help but feel everything he is feeling unnamed-35.jpgas you watch him dance whether you want to or not!  Every scene he was in from the adorable puppy love section with the lovely Lindsey McGill, to the lustful encounters with Carmen (danced by the spectacular Andrea Parson, who we will get to in a second), so the solo he danced just after discovering Carmen’s betrayal was full of truth like a light beam split through a prism to be a fragmented rainbow of emotion from joy to despair and everything in between.  The acting from this dancer was out of this world, and that post-betrayal solo, my god, all I wanted was to run up on that stage and hug him and tell him it would all be ok, and then smack the crap out of Carmen for daring to hurt him!  Mr. Nieto, as he often does, stole every scene he was in for me, because his intentions were so clear, his reactions so genuine, and his artistry was so breath taking.

And the man in Mr. Nieto’s way, Eli, danced by my beloved Elijah Labay, oh people…this character that Mr. Labay brought to life was walking sex!  Every time he slithered and stomped around the stage, demanding Carmen’s attention, igniting passion in the Wolf Pack Ladies, even as the damn police siren (You’d have to have been there to understand or appreciate this), made every person in the room sigh with wanting!  His pas de deux with Ms. Parson as they gave in to their carnal desires so openly and powerfully that they don’t notice when Mr. Nieto catches them in the act, staged epically across the stage simultaneously as Mr. Nieto danced his solo of betrayal, was so erotic, so full of fire and want and need that when they were done, so help me God, every person around me picked up their program to fan themselves off!  Mr. Rustem, you dirty devil, you pulled no punches with this lust filled, sensual encounter, and we the audience thank you for letting us play voyeur to one of the most gorgeous combinations that has ever raised my temperature and made my mouth water at the same time!  Bravo!

And while you all sit there and picture the raw sensuality that I was priviledged to witness, let me finally come to the star of this piece: Andrea Parson.  You’ll remember my gushing about her in my promo piece, but people, I was NOT ready for everything she brought to this performance, including the drastic makeover of a platinum blonde pixie haircut that reflected so fiercely off of all of her black costumes, making her eyes pop as electrically as the blue light often washing over her, that they pierced everyone in the audience.  She completely embodied passion in this piece.  A true antagonist, always selfishly going for what she wants at all costs, Ms. Parson was the perfect Carmen.  She danced this role so perfectly that I don’t think I’ll ever hear this music again without picturing her face.  She anchored Mr. Nieto and Mr. Labay so wonderfully, and complimented every scene she was in with them, that I found myself rooting for this brazen siren to get everything she wanted whenever she wanted.  Any woman would want to be the Carmen Ms. Parson created for at least a day, to just grab life by the balls and say “You’re mine, now,” have life respond with “Thank you, Mistress, as you wish!”  Ms. Parson’s Carmen was sexuality unleashed, and she matched Mr. Labay’s carnality and also provoked Mr. Nieto’s romantic passion.

But the reaction she evoked that moved me the most was that of Ms. McGill, who, when discovering she was losing the love of DJ due to his lust for Carmen, danced one of the most riveting duets I’ve ever seen, and with a hair dryer on wheels, no less!  Ms. McGill, her entire life in the palm of Carmen’s hands, refusing to give up her love without a fight, ultimately ending Carmen’s life to stop her, with a final moment so hauntingly, gorgeously vicious, blew my freaking mind!

While her act was vicious, it was driven by love, which is the theme of Carmen, isn’t it? Wanting, loving something, and not always thinking of the consequences.  But that final moment, Carmen’s death, still haunts my dreams sometimes, it was so impactful and beautiful.  Well here, take a look:

unnamed-38.jpg

I loved this show so much.  I hate that I only got to see it once.  But I am so grateful for the experience.  Once again, NW Dance Project has taken me on an emotional journey I won’t soon forget.  Once again, the entire company moves me to tears with their brilliance and their bravery.  Once again, I am filled with hope and love and excitement for this Company, and look forward to many more experiences with them.  Once again, I left my heart in Portland, so that I can come visit it again to see what magnificent program they will put together next!

18951187_1357315634353265_8211540830725458457_n.jpgSadly, I am missing their Summer Splendors show opening tonight, but if you are in the Portland area, please go see it!  I’ve no doubt it will be outstanding, as its a new work by Artistic Director, Sarah Slipper!!!!

Thank you, Ms. Slipper & Mr. Lewis, Mr. Rustem, Mr. Nieto, Ms. Parson, Mr. Labay, Ms. McGill, Mr. Jauron, Ms. Wong, Mr. Couture, Ms. Barber, Mr. Rohayem, Ms. Radick, and Ms. Campbell.

 

Ciao for now,

cropped-unnamed-16.jpg

Photos from NW Dance Project taken by Blaine Truitt Covert

 

Canon in P: Brilliant Creativity by Penny Saunders on Whim W’Him

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

14993564_10157676467865035_242998834512113789_nIn addition to having a few days off of work, the other thing I love about winter vacation is that I have time to get to go do one of my favorite things: watch a Whim W’Him rehearsal! And this year, I got to watch the company work with the choreographer Penny Saunders, and I must say, it was a mesmerizing experience.

In the new rehearsal space, which is much smaller than the studios in the old space, I found Ms. Saunders’ choreography to take up all the space in the room, in the best way possible.  This piece centers around my beloved Justin Reiter, and I can’t tell you how good it was to see him at the heart of this piece. I missed his presence terribly in the Choreographic Shindig, as he was on the periphery for so much of it, and I missed his beautiful lines and powerful breath.

And speaking of breath, you’ve read numerous times how much I love how breath plays a strong part in the success of a WWDC performance.  The company finds a way to breathe together in a rhythmic way that does, in fact, mesmerize me, and Ms. Saunders uses their collective breath to her advantage with this piece.

Mr. Reiter sets the pace and timing of much of the movement with his breath, and the rest of the company follows beautifully.  Whether the only one moving, or whether immersed amidst his fellow dancers, his breath can be seen and heard as he takes the journey Ms. Saunders has created for him.  His complete control of his powerful, yet lithe body to isolate and flow through Ms. Saunders’ choreography is going to take your breath away, I promise you.  It’s everything I love about the way Justin moves, and can’t wait for the actual performance to see the growth he will have between now and then.

I’ve called this piece Canon in P, because Ms. Saunders utilized numerous canons throughout the piece, each more unique and interesting than the one before.  And the company, lined up differently each time, elevates something as simple as a canon to a level of art in that, they are doing the same movement, however, they manage to subtly insert their individuality to each movement creating a soft, yet dynamic symmetry.  Sitting in the small rehearsal room, I was completely entranced by all the canons, and I can’t wait to see how beautiful they will look when I’m up in the house watching this piece from a distance. When I said as much to Ms. Saunders, she smiled and said, “Me, too!”

And without giving away too much, I do quickly want to tantalize you with the promise of something ridiculously special waiting for you in this piece if you are wise enough to buy a ticket and come see this show.  And that special gift is in the form of a duet danced by the 004-bamberg-fine-art-1200x1800incomparable Patrick Kilbane, and new company member Liane Aung.  Mr. Kilbane, one of most stunning dancers I’ve ever had the privilege to watch dance live, has lines and feet that bring tears to my eyes, they are so beautiful.  And in Ms. Aung, he has met his 007-bamberg-fine-art-1200x1800match on that front.  Ms. Aung’s lines, sweet baby Jesus, and her extension are the stuffs that dance lovers’ dreams are made of, and her feet are so gorgeous, that I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.  I could write paragraphs and paragraphs about them, they are that spectacular as she finishes movements with her long, graceful fingers, or the exquisite point of her toe.  These two technical masters, these two emotionally open artists, these two breath-taking dancers have a section in this piece that absolutely transported and affected me.  I won’t tell you which feelings I felt, or where their beautiful moment took me, as I don’t want to color your experience, but trust me, people, you want to see this!  You need to see this!

Whim W’Him’s next show, Sensation opens on Jan 20, and runs through Jan 28.  Please 14962572_10157676466410035_9115623630654052940_nstart your 2017 off right by indulging your senses in this show.  I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!  I’ll be there opening night showing my support for my favorite Seattle Based dance company, and I do wish you’d join me. 

Ciao for now,

cropped-unnamed-16.jpg

Photos from Whim W’Him’s website and Facebook Page

Whim W’him 2015 Choreographic Shindig: A Three Course Feast for All the Senses

Dance Review, Dance Show Promotional

It’s a complete understatement to say that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of Whim W’Him’s 2015 Choreographic Shindig after experiencing the magic of watching the company rehearse for this production. I’ve been shivering with anticipation to have a new experience, the likes of which only Whim W’him can provide.  It was like being invited to a dinner party at an good friend’s house who is a phenomenal chef in their own right.  You’ve dined with them numerous times before, and are always excited to be extended an invitation, because you know the meal will be exquisite.  Yet, this time, your friend and host lets you know they’ve hired three new chefs who have prepared a feast you’ll not soon forget, igniting excitement and curiosity at a totally new experience in a familiar setting.  Only, the host is Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers, and the three new chefs are a trio of choreographers chosen by the company to come create a feast of originality and ingenuity just for you, and it will entice and arouse your senses in the most delicious way!

unnamed-21

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art Choreography: Joshua L. Peugh Dancers: Jim Kent, Mia Monteabaro, Tory Peil, Thomas Phelan, and Lara Seefedlt

The appetizer, if you will, is presented by Joshua L. Peugh.  You’ll remember I got a taste of Mr. Peugh’s brilliance when I was invited to watch one of his rehearsals. It was at that rehearsal where Mr. Peugh landed on the name of his piece: Short Acts on the Heartstrings, and my heartstrings couldn’t agree more!  Seeing this piece in its final form, complete with costumes and lighting took my breath away.  White tuxedos and Cotton Candy Green flowing dresses twirled and whirled around the stage, creating light and happiness straight into the audience!  It’s akin to sampling various amuse-bouche where sweetness and freshness brings delight and joy, followed by a hint of heat which sneaks up on you, and the slow, delectable burn of spices tickles your senses, opening up your palate for the flavors yet to come.  That’s how Heartstrings affected me.  Light and funny one moment, deep and connected the next, with pops of unexpected heat that had me craving more!  Of all the fantastic phrases throughout this piece, there are two duets that simply stole my breath.  One was with Kyle Johnson and Tori Peil, and the other was with Kyle Johnson and Justin Reiter.  The beauty of these couples performing the movement created by Mr. Peugh was stunning to behold.  I laughed. I sighed (the kind of sighs you give when you watch a happy ending to a fabulous RomCom). I enjoyed every minute of being transported back to the, as I described before, a Mad Men meets Pulp Fiction dinner party hosted by Rosemary Clooney.  Pulled on the heartstrings for sure, and set the unbelievably beautiful tone for the evening.

The second course, if you’ll continue to indulge the metaphor, was a rich and meaty creation by Maurya Kerr titled into the wide welcome.  Although, I found myself adding “or not” onto the end of the title, because this piece took the Whim W’him company through a formidable physical expression of emotion that was less than welcoming.  None of the six dancers in this piece were spared a heightened emotional journey that, to me, showed the constant human need for contact, often with someone who is unhealthy for you.  The design elements added to the impassioned voice of Ms. Kerr as she weaved and threaded the dancers around each other.  All dancers dressed in shades of grey, the lights a harsh grey-white, and I’m not sure if it was part of the choreography, but when the air conditioner kicked on right as the pace of the piece accelerated and the music piped in, I swear, I was transported right into the middle of someone’s icy cold heart.  And I loved it!

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art Choreography: Maurya Kerr Dancers: Kyle Johnson and Tory Peil

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art
Choreography: Maurya Kerr
Dancers: Kyle Johnson and Tory Peil

Again, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Peil had my favorite sections of this piece, my heart aching for them as they struggled with their want for each other, yet never finding comfort in the contact for long!  With every frantic separation, my heart broke for them, and tears rolled down my cheeks.  The final section, all six dancers moving as one, creating a new pulse in the room.  Like a human chest compression, slowly and methodically easing life back into the room.  Creating heat and breath, where there was none before.  It’s one hell of a journey, and I hope all of you will give yourself the gift of experiencing it.

With the palate tantalizing appetizer and complex filling main course complete, that left room for the final course; a luscious, sinful dessert created by the incomparable Ihsan Rustem.  The piece titled The Road to Here was mouth-watering from the first move.  Seductive lines, provocative pictures, and sensual music pulled me, and everyone around me into Mr. Rustem’s hypnotic rhythms.  All seven company members shifted and

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art Choreography: Ihsan Rustem Dancers: Justin Reiter, Thomas Phelan, Tory Peil, Kyle Johnson, Mia Monteabaro, Lara Seefedlt, and Jim Kent

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art
Choreography: Ihsan Rustem
Dancers: Justin Reiter, Thomas Phelan, Tory Peil, Kyle Johnson, Mia Monteabaro, Lara Seefedlt, and Jim Kent

moved from one divine phrase to the next as if they were made of water. The company was audibly breathing as one unit, and I found my own breath catching with every new titillating movement.  Mr. Rustem’s use of the entire space was fiercely brilliant, with a deliciously devilish surprise half way through that I won’t say any more about, because you MUST experience it for yourself! Let’s just say it’s the cherry on top of a decadent experience you don’t want to miss.  From start to finish I was on the edge of my seat watching this piece, savoring every morsel Mr. Rustem provided.  When it was over, I was both satiated and satisfied, and I highly suggest you go get a taste for yourself!

I also want to take a moment to applaud the lighting designer for the Shindig, Mr. Michael Mazzola.  Mr. Mazzola’s designs for these three unique and powerful pieces were absolute perfection!  The warm, angelic glow for Mr. Peugh, the cold frigid wash for Ms. Kerr, and the seductive vibrancy for Mr. Rustem were all at a level of mastery that matched the vision of each piece brilliantly.  Bravo!

My hat is off to the ingenuity of Mr. Wevers and the unbelievably open way he runs his company.  Encouraging and championing his company members to grow as true artists, and allowing them the opportunity to choose the choreographers for this Shindig is truly inspired. Mr. Wevers said in the Q&A after the show that his goal for Whim W’him was to create a company where artists can flourish and grow, and I’d say the 2015 Choreographic Shindig proves that his goal has been beautifully and exquisitely achieved.  With selfless vision like that, Whim W’him has a very bright future ahead.

With every new experience, my respect for this dance company grows.  I’m definitely a Whimmer now, and a very proud season subscriber.  My hat is off to the entire company, the choreographers, and the designers of the 2015 Choreographic Shindig.  It was a resounding success, and I am definitely the better for having experienced it.

This gets a resounding Bravo, and a standing ovation!  Congratulations!

The Choreographic Shindig has five more performances at the Erickson unnamedTheatre Off Broadway in Capital Hill:

  • September 13 (today!) at 5pm
  • September 16, 17, 18 and 19 at 8pm

Tickets can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets.

Ciao for now,

M lg

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

Noises Off at SecondStory Repertory in Redmond, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

11009095_997513073615430_6670299029446650949_n

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!!!

10429474_1008334135866657_3688960035756281614_n

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

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

Entertainment Review

10959703_10155156731830035_2219687695084014614_n

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.

084-Bamberg-Fine-Art-Magee-Black-Heart-X2

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

17398_10153314635784172_641109164295072754_n

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

11036033_410654719116662_6882188355999689447_n

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:

asparkle

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

Pitch Perfect 2

Entertainment Review, movie review

pitch-perfect-2

I’m going to make this short and sweet, because I don’t want to ruin this movie for those who haven’t seen it, but if you loved the original, as I did, then you should definitely go see the sequel.

Like all sequels, it doesn’t have the punch that the original had, but there are a lot of gems in this second effort that make shelling out the ridiculous theatre prices to see this one on the big screen totally worth it.

Let’s start with the music.  The arrangements were just as fantastic as they were in the first one.  You expect tight harmonies and great mashups from the Bellas and the Trebles.  But what I wasn’t ready for was the hilariously great vocals by the Bellas’ nemesis Das Sound Machine!  These German weirdos in their utilikilts and mesh tops were fantastic.  I mean, come on, how can you not love this:

maxresdefault-1

Also, was seriously shocked by the vocal stylings of the Green Bay Friggin Packers!  Yeah, you read that right.  In case you don’t believe me, here, check it out:

David Cross, Jordan Rogers, TJ Lang, Clay Matthews, David Bakhitari (head slightly turned away) and Josh Sitton in a scene from the motion picture "Pitch Perfect 2." Credit: Richard Cartwright, Universal Pictures

David Cross, Jordan Rogers, TJ Lang, Clay Matthews, David Bakhitari (head slightly turned away) and Josh Sitton in a scene from the motion picture “Pitch Perfect 2.” Credit: Richard Cartwright, Universal Pictures

It was a grown up version of a riff off, and it was fantastic!  This scene alone was worth the price of admission!  Not to mention Clay Matthews’s guns!  Yum!

The standard players were doing what they do.  Lily is still scary, Chloe is still trying to hard, Becca is still trying to be a music making rockstar, and Fat Amy, well….Fat rebel_wilson_pitch_perfect_2Amy is still being aca-awesome!  Her shenanigans in this installment of the Pitch Perfect franchise (I say that, because there is definitely room for more Pitchy goodness), were hilariously fantastic!

There are a few newcomers to this sequel.  There’s the newest Bella, Emily, tumblr_nfibgwcPGD1rng96vo1_1280played by Hailee Seinfeld, and she was delightful.  She brought a fresh faced innocence to these crazy Bellas, and helped smooth out the journey that the girls all go on together.  I loved her!

pitch-perfect-2-super-bowl-trailer-screenshot-david-cross-riff-off-ref-3David Cross also makes a cameo, and to say it is ridiculous is the understatement of the year!  It’s classic David, in all his scene stealing glory.  He’s funny.  He’s inappropriate.  He’s deliciously ridiculous, and I thought he was a great addition to the movie.

Also, Katey Sagal made a cameo as Emily’s mom, and a former Bella.  Katey, who will just always be Peg Bundy to me, was adorable and maternal in the best way, and can rock a pair of skinny jeans as well as Anna Kendrick, and I’m not just being kind!

23557EBB00000578-0-image-5_1416504636161Rounding out are my favorite commentators, Gail and John, who are still mean as ever!  They are the through line that keep me always wanting more, because these comedians bring the type of humor that just makes this reviewer’s hear soar!

The boys are back, too, but nothing about Benji, Jesse, or Bumper is really that memorable, so I’ll just leave that there.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie.  Elizabeth Banks did a nice job with it as the director.  I look forward to more films from her.  It was silly, it was fun, and it had great music.  And Anna Kendrick has been one of my favorites since she was the scary little girl in Camp, and so I pretty much will watch anything she’s in no matter what it is.  She’s amazing.

Loved it!  Go get pitch slapped!  I think you’ll enjoy it.

PitchPerfect_large

Ciao for now,

M sm