Whim W’Him Gave Me Life with Sensation

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

16194886_10158070312345035_8100611831711689121_nJanuary 20, 2017 is one of the darkest days in American history for anyone with a conscience and a soul.  And both the Whim W’Him family, and those of us that support them are full of both, so it warmed my heart to be in a theatre with these people reminding ourselves what is truly important after a day full of nonsensical political propaganda.  As Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers, said in his curtain speech, “At Whim W’Him, we don’t build walls,” and he broke down as he started this speech, but you know what happened next?  The audience jumped to thunderous applause to remind him that we are all behind him and all right there with him!  We, the Whimmers, are a loving, supportive family, and we are going to always come together to enjoy the beauty and light that Whim W’Him always provides to its audience.  I’m so proud to be a Whimmer, and Friday night, that pride expanded to the rest of the folks sitting around me.  What was a very hard, emotional day, one where I just wanted to go home and pull the covers over my head, I’m so glad I made it to the Cornish Theatre because the show that waited for me was everything I needed to remind me what is good in this world.  So, let’s get to talking about Sensation, shall we?

People, people, people, this show, I can honestly say, is breathtakingly moving.  Aptly named, it created Sensations within me that were wonderful, dynamic, and powerful.  You’ll recall that I wrote a promotional piece about Penny Saunders’ piece: play-by-play when I was gifted the wonderful experience of watching her rehearsal a few weeks ago, and you guys, it evolved into one of the most beautiful dances I’ve ever seen.  Gorgeously costumed, brilliantly staged, the journey of this piece transcended beauty for me into something I don’t even have a word to describe.  It was ethereal, dark and light at the same time, and so technically and physically challenging!  Ms. Saunders did not take it easy on the dancers, and pushed them to their physical exhaustion.  From my seat in the fifth row, I could see sweat flinging off of the dancers as they turned and launched themselves around the stage. And that pas de deux with Patrick Kilbane and Liane Aung was as mind blowing as I knew it was going to be!  The lines, the extension, the core strength, the intensity, and the beauty by which these two dancers connect in their section took every breath from me!  I believe the word “Wow” came out of my mouth as a shocked whisper at some of the movement these two dancers are able to bring to life.  It was amazing!

91afe50c-e04a-11e6-a303-e49f56b5b765-1020x680The canons, the delicious, delectable canons were, as I knew they would be, unbelievably exquisite from a distance.  Absolutely mesmerized me.  And also as expected, the growth in the journey that my beloved Justin Reiter moved through in this piece brought me to tears, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he was on stage.  So plugged in to his fellow dancers, so expertly pushed his body through each phrase after challenging phrase, zapping his strength and pushing his emotions, I think this is the best I’ve ever seen Mr. Reiter dance.  Two people just up behind me put it perfectly, when Mr. Reiter began to move before the music joined him and one said “Oh my god!” with complete wonderment in her voice and her friend said, “Exactly.  That’s Justin.  Just wait,”and oh was she right.  Bravo, Justin, for taking on this powerful journey and sharing it with all of us.  The light you bring to the stage, even in dark moments, is the stuff that gives me life! Thank you!!

The second piece the dancers took on was called Line Dance by Larry Keigwin, and people, this was everything I needed on this dark day!  This beautiful, pure piece was the physical embodiment of joy!  The dancers, all dressed in white, shifting and moving from straight line to cluster, from full company phrases, to single dancers moving, it all felt like a stunning kaleidoscope that brought joyful tears to my eyes!  Let me try to explain what happened while I watched this dance – I felt complete elation.  I felt hope and happiness.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  The dancers watched each other’s solos and duets they weren’t in, and it created this bridge between performer and audience.  And they were enjoying watching their fellow dancers dance.  And the joy of that alone was infectious and just filled the room with light and joy.  Did I say joy?  Cuz there was just joy dripping from the stage, and I was so moved by it!

16142219_10158071168780035_6800517553139421950_nSo many favorite moments from this piece, but there are two I’ll share that just brought sheer ecstasy to my wounded heart.  First, Miss Tory Peil, we all know I love me some Miss Tory, and it’s because in addition to being an exquisite dancer, she is a phenomenal actress as well, and there’s this bit where she’s drawing lines and squiggles in the air with her finger, playing with Jim Kent and with Patrick Kilbane, and for all of her long, lithe frame, she was so playful, so adorable, it was just fantastic to watch.  Took you back to playing with friends as a child, and transported me back to moments of that childlike innocence.  And the second is during a super-quick moment where it was just Mr. Reiter and Mr. Kilbane dancing side by side, and they shared a look of complete friendship and happiness to be dancing together, and happy tears fell from my eyes at that moment.  I don’t know if it was part of the choreography, or just a real organic moment that happened between these two, but it was so beautiful to behold.  Mr. Kilbane dances with such serious expression, the technical genius that he is, so to see him let go and just dance with abandon next to Mr. Reiter is a moment I will never forget.  I jumped to my feet the minute the dancers lined up for their curtain call on this, because this!  This amazingly beautiful piece full of joy and light is what everyone needs right now.  It was my favorite piece of the night.  Thank you all for this!  I just love you for this experience, and thank you Mr. Keigwin for reminding us what joy looks like, because we all need to cling to it as we struggle with these terrifying times.

Lastly, the Maestro brought us another of his masterpieces, this one titled Catch & Release, although I must say, I’d love to rename this piece to be called Fractured, because that was what I got from this very deep, very poignant piece by Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers. Between the fractured light dispersing light and shade at harsh angles, as only the brilliant Michael Mazzola can do, and the way those light patterns were splayed across the costumes of the dancers, all I felt throughout this piece was Fracture.  Darkness fractured to just let a bit of light through.  And depending on your perspective, it’s either the light cracking through the dark, or the dark almost shutting out the light.  Either way, this piece was absolutely brilliant.

This piece centered around Ms. Peil, tortured again in a way reminiscent from last Spring’s show, where the object of her affection treats her so cruelly.  Mr. Wevers expertly uses his dancers to push and pull on Ms. Peil, both physically and emotionally depending on their presence or absence from the stage.  Ms. Peil’s ability to be emotionally open on stage is one of my favorite things about a Whim W’Him show.  She is not afraid of any emotion, she does not close off the audience, but instead just opens her heart and lets us all the way in, and my heart broke with hers in this piece.  Her breath, her beautiful breath, always present, always driving her through her journeys, caught so many times in this piece, and it was haunting and heartbreaking at the same time.

1-7-768x576There’s a major music change at the end, after Ms. Peil has been jerked around by her antagonists, fantastically danced by Mr. Kilbane and Karl Watson, and the company are all on the floor and randomly they get up and slow dance with Ms. Peil.  It was heart wrenching.  Gave me the sensation of when we’ve all been searching for something to fill the void left by someone who was in our life, but hasn’t fully gone away.  You know that sensation i’m talking about where, you start to move on, but then they show back up again and get in the way.  Every time Mr. Kilbane came back in to the scene to interject himself into a moment she was having with another dancer, I wanted to scream “OMG, just let her be, ugh!”

This piece was danced beautifully, and everyone played their part brilliantly.  And like Ms. Peil, Mr. Wevers is not afraid to open himself up to his audience and share his emotions and experiences, and i’m always so moved by his art.  And this one really rang true on a personal note for me, and I just loved it!14993564_10157676467865035_242998834512113789_n
Overall, this is one hell of a show!  And I urge everyone to make time to go see it while it runs through Jan 28.  Show and ticket information can be found here.

I give this a thunderous standing ovation!  Bravo!!

Ciao for now,

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Images from Bamberg Fine Art and Whim W’Him’s Facebook Page

 

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Review: Sweeney Todd at Renton Civic Theatre

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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In going to see Sweeney Todd at Renton Civic Theatre, I was already at a disadvantage because the only exposure I’d ever had to this show was the Johnny Depp movie that I neither enjoyed, nor finished.  I knew the story well enough, had heard the hits from the show, but it is just not the type of musical I enjoy, and I think it’s because in order to really enjoy Sweeney, one must enjoy an operatic sound, and I do not.  So, to review it is tough, because I now know it’s just not a show I enjoy, so I think I’ll focus on the elements of the show and look at it with a technical eye.

Let’s start with the successes first.  There is some serious talent in this cast, primarily the three main adult characters in the show.  Let’s start with the title character, shall we?  Sweeney Todd, played by the fantastic Brian Lange was absolutely stellar.  Mr. Lange’s voice is perfect for this role, and his physicality and ability to create dark and vengeful moments made him the perfect Sweeney.  Costumed to look very much like the Johnny Depp movie version, Mr. Lange’s tall, slim frame really added to the Demon Barber of Fleet Street’s edge.  He was menacing and wounded at the same time, and was the absolute anchor of this show.  His presence and ability to sink his teeth into this tortured soul made everyone in scenes with him better, and I was extremely impressed by his performance.

And the yin to Sweeney Todd’s yang, is of course Mrs. Lovett, played by Rachel Wilkie.  Cunning, manipulative, and quirky, Ms. Wilkie brought to life a delightful Mrs. Lovett.  She had wonderful chemistry with Mr. Lange, and gave a vibrant zest for life which beautifully juxtaposed Mr. Lange’s constant melancholy.  A little sprite of a thing, Ms. Wilkie flitted and floated around the stage with a Puck-esque mischief state at all times, and I really enjoyed her.  Spot on cockney accent, on-point comedic timing, and a wonderful energy on stage, she was definitely the life of the show.

Lastly, the third point to the main adult character triangle is Judge Turpin, played by the delicious Brian Pucheu.  Judge Turpin is a despicable human being, one who made this reviewer’s face grimace with disgust on numerous occasions, because Mr. Pucheu pulls absolutely no punches.  He doesn’t hold back, he commits fully to the many dimensions of this character, making every moment from fawning over Johanna to self deprecating flogging real and tactile, so much that you feel it all, even from the back row where I sat. (And honestly, even if you don’t like opera, you should check out this show just for the flogging scene because, good God is it breath taking!)  Mr. Pucheu unapologetically travels through the Judge’s journey, and is so phenomenal at making him human, that I had moments of really liking the Judge and almost, not quite, but almost understanding and sympathizing with his side of things.  Judge Turpin is the law in all the land, both inside and outside his home, so when that control starts to crumble around him, Mr. Pucheu’s ability to take us on that journey was sensational to watch.  To constantly flirt with the line between judge and deviant so seamlessly, with so much humanity simply made my actor’s heart soar.  This is one brave actor, and I am very much looking forward to seeing him on stage in the future.  Bravo!

Mirroring the trio of adults is a trio of young adult characters, and sadly these three weren’t as strong.  The best performance of the three, in my opinion, was Tobias Ragg, played by Nick Hyett-Schnell.  Mr. Hyett-Schnell’s Toby was adorably sweet and naive, with strong physicality and a lovely voice.  Mr. Hyett-Shnell’s ‘Not While I’m Around’ was so perfect, it brought tears to my eyes it was so honest and touching.  Mr. Hyett-Schnell’s performance only fell short for me in two areas, the first of which is that his cockney accent went in and out, and was jarringly noticeable.  Secondly, there are few panic moments for Toby, and only one of them felt honest and true and big enough for the circumstances of the scenes.  You’ll remember that Mr. Hyett-Schnell is a former acting student of mine, as I reviewed his directorial debut of The Addams Family back in July.  So, I have higher expectations of this kid than everyone else up on that stage, and not only did he not disappoint, he made me so very proud.

The other two children are the young lovers of Johanna and Anthony, played by Shelly Traverse and Matt Lang, and I didn’t care for the performances from either of these actors.  While they were both vocally strong, and sang well, their acting was no where near the level of the rest of the cast around them.  Ms. Traverse had a very strange smile on her face the entire first act that didn’t make any sense based on the lines she was delivering.  The smile had no connection to the acting moments, as if her voice and her face were in two different moments, and it was really disappointing because it made it difficult to watch her.  There’s a moment where the Judge tells her he’s going to marry her, and against Mr. Pucheu’s ridiculous ability to be authentic and terrifyingly creepy, Ms. Traverse’s Stepford wife smile as she realized what he was doing made no sense.

Additionally, Mr. Lang, while a lovely tenor, moves awkwardly on stage, creating a kind of characature rather than a real person making it almost impossible to connect with Anthony.  There’s a tension, and uncertainty to his movement around the stage, and he appears to be trying so hard to ‘play’ Anthony, that I never believed anything Anthony had to say in this show.  Like Mr. Hyett-Schnell, Mr. Lang’s British accent goes in and out and doesn’t sound natural.  There’s a duet with Anthony and Johanna, where his accent was absolutely non-existent, and the lack of chemistry between these two actors made the scene simply painful to watch.  The adult leads in this show effortlessly created very real multi-dimensional characters having real moments throughout the show, and sadly for these two young actors, that contrast really shined a light on how one-dimensional and weak their acting performances were, making it tough to care about their journey to each other.

The concept of the show by director, Vincent Orduña was a strong one.  He definitely created a fun playground for his actors to run around on (and I do mean run around, these actors are up and down staircases constantly!). He had quite a challenging show to do in a small community theatre, as well as the challenge of how difficult this show is musically.  There was a lot of just standing and singing, which I appreciate!  Mr. Orduña understands the beauty of a still picture to just let actors be and sing, the most successful for of which was during Pretty Women, where Mr. Lange and Mr. Pucheu were in a tableau with Sweeney standing behind the Judge, who was seated in the Barber’s chair; a stunning moment, both visually and vocally.  My only criticism was the varied use of British accents, cockney or otherwise, when they clearly weren’t working.  Mr. Lange never used an accent as Sweeney, Mrs. Lovett’s accent was perfection, and so I wish all accents had been pulled from everyone except for those who could do it consistently and naturally.

And speaking of vocally, I was extremely impressed by the vocals on the entire cast.  Music Director, Aimee Hong did a fantastic job of utilizing the voices in her ensemble to make the sound of this highly complicated score full and strong. I especially enjoyed the opening Ballad of Sweeney Todd, as it set the tone for the rest of the show.  The pacing was quite good, especially given a show this long and complicated. As I said, that operatic sound doesn’t resonate with me as something I enjoy, but I can very much respect the caliber of the vocal performances of this show, led by Ms. Hong. Well done.

Design elements were also strong!  While the set design was a bit clunky, it was built beautifully, the star of which was the barber’s chair!  OH!  This piece of brilliance was clearly constructed for this show and this set, and I give a huge congratulations to Scott Shaver for creating this masterpiece!  Bravo!  Loved it!  Mr. Lange had to have just been thrilled to use it!

The costumes were fantastic as well.  The show had the feel of Tim Burton’s film with both costumes and make-up, but I’m not mad about it, because it worked!  My one confusion was at the end, the wig Toby suddenly has on didn’t make sense to me.  I understood it in the beginning of the show, but it made no sense at the end.

My favorite costumes, however, were Mrs. Lovett’s, especially her opening number skirt that looked like a crocheted blanked my grandmother had when I was little.  Bustled beautifully, full of rusty colors of oranges and golds, it just popped against the dreary grey of Mr. Todd.  The entire cast was costumed and made up exactly as folks in 19th Century London would look.  Some of the best costuming I’ve seen in a while, so I give congratulations to Courtney Kessler for her vision.

Overall, Sweeney Todd is a good show, and it’s heads and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen at Renton Civic Theatre, well, ever.  They should be very grateful that Mr. Orduña upped the level of production for their space, because it truly was a 180 from The Boy Friend, and I chalk that up to a better vision and direction, as well as an understanding of utilizing performers strengths so that every actor up on that stage was set up for success.  I was worried about coming back to RCT after the Boy Friend experience, but given how well this production was done, I will definitely be back, especially when Mr. Orduña is at the helm.

If you’re a fan of Sweeney Todd, like operatic-style musical theatre, or just appreciate strong vocals, you should definitely see this show.  It’s very well done from start to finish.  You know it has to be a quality of show for me to recommend seeing it even though I don’t like the style.

11053513_10153587882668708_570959848608434253_oSweeney Todd runs at Renton Civic Theatre through October 3rd, and ticket and show time information can be found on RCT’s website.

I give this an appreciative applause for a job well done.

Ciao for now

M lg

A YETI Takes on a Bat Boy…Hmmmmmm

play review, Theatre Review

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I love youth theatre, let’s start there.  I, myself, worked on a summer teen musical program for a decade, coaching and mentoring young actors to explore life on the stage, so I was highly intrigued to check out a new youth theatre in Seattle with an interesting acronym: YETI.  The Youth Experimental Theatre Institute was taking on a production of Bat Boy, The Musical, and that combo seemed like an interesting undertaking by young people, as the themes of this show are quite mature.

If you don’t know the show, the premise is based off a story from 1992 about a half bat/half human child who grew up in a cave.  The musical, written by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, with music by Laurence O’Keefe takes the story to the small town of Hope Falls, West Virginia where the bat boy is found, taken in by the family of the town veterinarian and has the conflicting experience of being welcomed with open arms by the vet’s family and yet scorned and hated by the rest of the town to the point of being blamed for all that is wrong with their lives.  This contradiction in existence is compounded by the fact that bat boy bit a local girl when she and her siblings cornered him in his cave and that the wife of the vet seems to love bat boy more than she loves her husband breeding hate and hostility from the only man who truly understands the needs of this boy.

It’s a complex story, that also includes the themes of discrimination, prejudice and accepting the ‘beast that lives inside of us all.’  It also brings into play majorly mature elements such as loss of virginity and rape (not in the same scene, thankfully), however, it is told with weak music, and an even weaker book.  The writers attempt to mask these mature themes with humor, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing.  So with a less than stellar script and score, it would take a seriously strong production to make this show tolerable, let alone successful.  And I would say YETI fell somewhere in between the two.

I understood what director Kyle Marshall was going for with his bare bones 11731673_958128057581922_796787948496479087_oproduction. There was minimal set, basic costumes, and limited blocking and movement.  He was clearly trying to put the audience’s focus on the actual story.  This was not a successful choice when it came to the ensemble portion of the cast, as these kids were all varying levels of talent, especially vocal talent, so without strong design elements around them, it shone a spotlight onto the struggles of certain cast members and that was tough to watch.

However, Mr. Marshall’s concept did work well during scenes with bat boy, played by Will Hamilton, and the women in Dr. Parker’s (the vet) family.  His wife, Meredith, played by Sarah Fairchild, and daughter, Shelley, played by Hannah Conradt, were able to really thrive in this type of minimalist production. The voices on all three of these performers were strong and stunning.  Ms. Fairchild has one of the best young voices I’ve heard in a long time.  And her line delivery and ability to take us on Mrs. Parker’s journey was refreshing and fantastic, given that she has some of the most ridiculous lines to say.  From her bio, it appears she is a UW student, and as an alumni of the UW’s School of Drama, I have to say, she is doing my alma mater proud!  Bravo!

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Additionally, Ms. Conradt was adorable and vocally brilliant in this show.  She is the innocence in the show, and her chemistry with Mr. Hamilton was lovely to see.  She’s a very talented musician with strong acting chops.  She is also credited as the costume designer, and I must say her simple costumes were spot on with Mr. Marshall’s direction concept and they worked brilliantly!

The star of this show was also my favorite performance of the night.  Mr. Hamilton was absolutely delightful and heartbreaking as bat boy.  His physicality and ability to stay in 11036213_954717627922965_6472735534035482448_oeach moment as if it were the first time he experienced it showed a maturity in his craft that I wasn’t expecting from a recent high school graduate.  I see he is attending Cornish in the fall, and they are lucky to have him!  I can’t wait to see future performances from Mr. Hamilton, as based on this wonderful performance in a silly show that kept this judgmental reviewer both engaged and impressed, well, that’s rare, and you all know it!  I expect to see great things from this young man!  Well done, Sir!

For all of the success of Mr. Marshall’s direction, sadly there was as much failure with the music.  Music direction by Alex Sanchez needed some serious tightening up.  The program cited Mr. Sanchez as the keyboard player, and I’m wondering if there was someone new playing last night, because the keyboard was late and behind the singer on numerous occasions, making me wonder if it was his first night with the music.  At two specific moments the actor just started singing a cappella, and from my seat, I could see the rest of the band staring at the keyboardist, silently urging him to start accompanying.  And if this was Mr. Sanchez, well that is really quite disappointing as he’s the music director.  It was distracting and frustrating for the audience.  Can’t imagine how it was for the cast.

Additionally, the vocals of the cast were inconsistent and flat most of the time.  Certain cast members were singing so loud, it messed up the arrangements of the group numbers, and others sang so softly during their solos that I couldn’t hear them from my back row seat.  And that’s sad when there are only 4 rows of seats.  Mr. Hamilton’s voice was quite raw and weak, telling me he’d pushed too hard during tech week, and other than a few ensemble members, most of the cast seemed unsure about the music. This was especially painful during certain rap-esque songs, as the cast member was off the music, and I honestly couldn’t tell you who was off (the singer or the band) because it was so messy.

I applaud young people wanting to make their own art.  I encourage it and will support it, and I’m excited to have found YETI.  Overall, I enjoyed this production, and enjoyed my experience with YETI.  I would encourage the leadership of YETI, however, to seek out mentors for ambitious projects like this.  Had there been a conductor for the band, it would have helped the issues a lot.  Had there been a seasoned music director, he/she may have been able to teach the music to the cast more successfully, which would raise the production value of the show.  If you’re going to do a musical, the music HAS to be good.  Period.

Also, a more experienced director could have helped Mr. Marshall tighten up the inconsistencies in performances so that the entire cast gave strong performances, and not just his leads.  And they may have also strongly suggested that the gender-flipping of certain characters wouldn’t work.  The only place this worked was the character of Mrs. Taylor, played by Michael Lacker.  That was a great choice by Mr. Marshall.  But the others, no, they didn’t work well at all.  I realize it’s the new hip thing to do/try in productions, but I wish Mr. Marshall had pulled back this idea, and streamlined it to only Mrs. Taylor. And lastly, the mature concepts of sex and rape were done innocently and tastefully, by Mr. Marshall.  However, the impact of those scenes came off quite lame and weak, which was painful because the script around those moments calls for something with more of a punch, and I think working with an older director with more life and directing experience would have helped Mr. Marshall stretch his director’s eye a bit, as well as would have challenged his actors to create a stronger, more impactful moment of truth for the story. The same is true for the fight choreography in the show.  Just needs stronger knowledge behind those moments to help bring them to life more successfully.

11692660_952666518128076_8381874806195803565_nOverall, these kids should be proud of themselves for a fun production, and hopefully learn from the things that didn’t quite work to make their next endeavor that much more successful.  YETI’s Bat Boy, the Musical only plays this weekend, closing on Sunday.  Show and ticket information can be found on their website.

This one gets a quick applause, and then head to the bar for a drink.

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos from YETI’s website and Facebook Page

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

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

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

Othello at Seattle Shakespeare Company in Seattle, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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People!  People, people, people!!  Finally, a night of theatre I’m thrilled and excited to write about!  My only sadness was that I saw closing night’s performance, so if you missed this one, you missed out on a good one!

Shakespeare’s plays are among my favorites on the planet.  I love them so very very much, and Othello has two of my favorite characters at the heart of the story: Iago and Desdemona. And this production, people, this production had two of the strongest actors I have seen in a lonnnnnnng ass time on that stage bringing these two characters to life in a way that was fresh, powerful, and moving!

11150544_10152766624677539_7224202587430685503_nLet us start with the beautiful and amazing Hillary Clemens who played Desdemona.  Ms. Clemens was beautiful and a striking dichotomy of strength and femininity from the moment she stepped on stage to secretly marry Othello.  Her girlish excitement mixed with her womanly sensuality was refreshing and mesmerizing at the same time!  And as the play went on, as she fell more and more in love with her husband, stood up to her father, and lobbied for what was right for Cassio, I just fell more and more into the spell Ms. Clemens weaved around the stage.  Every moment was filled with clear intention, stunning choices, and brave movement!  Every moment was real and stunning, all coming together to create something that I love to experience in plays I’ve seen before, which is that moment where you hope the end will be different. SheSSC_Othello_2105-676 was so perfect, this Desdemona, that as she undressed, and stepped into her bath, the knowing of what was to come upon her face, the fear of her fate taunting her as she sank into the water of her bath, and I sat there, wishing and praying for a different ending to this tragedy of the Bard’s, knowing full well my prayers would not be answered.

And when the ending occurred, and the lovely Desdemona’s life was taken 31f503f8-f452-11e4-8407-cdb4c0ba9c49-300x449by the one man she was absolutely and completely devoted to was done with such a horrific beauty, that it took my breath away.  A familiar scene blocked so epically, stunningly violently that I was filled with shock, awe, and absolute despair at the moment Desdemona took her last breath.  I know Othello, played by Sean Phillips, was on the stage with Ms. Clemens, but honestly, I couldn’t take my eyes from her throughout the entire scene.  And as my eyes filled with tears as Othello smothered her last haggard breath with a pillow from their wedding linens, I couldn’t look away, because I didn’t want to miss a minute.  The tears fell for the loss of this beautiful creature who was the shining star of this wonderful production.

And as bright as Ms. Clemens’s Desdemona was, the dark, spiteful Iago was deliciously brought to life by one Mr. Darragh Kennan.  11148643_10152788267257539_316701078473174228_nOh, Mr. Kennan, where have you been all my life?!?!  Iago, my favorite villain, because his villainy is caused out of circumstance.  He’s seeing revenge in it’s purest form, and as the play goes on you can’t help but wonder what would have happened had he not been passed over.  There’s a human aspect to Iago that I’ve always adored, and Mr. Kennan played that human aspect perfectly!  His opening soliloquy was so brilliant, and set the tone for this amazing production.  Mr. Kennan captured the audience from his first word, and held it until his last moment.  Much like Ms. Clemens, Mr. Kennan’s choices were brave and brilliant.  His intentions so clear, his ability to listen was phenomenal, and his reactions so true and honest and in the moment, he made me proud to be an actor!

His devious plan came to life, his puppet mastery knew no bounds.  His interactions with the audience were perfectly placed, wonderfully executed, and I found myself spellbound by this unbelievably talented actor so much so that I was actually disappointed when the story was over.  Mr. Kennan commanded that stage, and made every scene he was in stronger, especially when it came to Mr. Phillips’s Othello.  I didn’t so much care for Mr. Phillips performance, but I’ll get to that, however, when he was on stage with Mr. Kennan, those scenes were his strongest, because Mr. Kennan brings out the best in his scene partners!  He anchored this show so well, that I found myself rooting for Iago because, dammit, he was likeable!  Thank you, Mr. Kennan for that performance.  I am better for having seen you creating art!  Thank you!

The cast as a whole was strong, although I did find Othello to be the weakest performance, which is hard to type, but it’s how I felt.  Mr. Phillips came out on a level 10 intensity and volume with speaking his lines.  He gave himself nowhere to go, nowhere to grow throughout the show.  His choices were not clear, and rather than play his intention, I found him playing his obstacle the entire time, and it drove me nuts.  It was hard to stay engaged in the story when every time Mr. Phillips opened his mouth, especially in the first half, he was shouting at everyone rather than connecting with them.  He was very one note throughout the performance.  Until the end.  That level of intensity was beautifully done during Desdemona’s death scene, and when he came upon her sleeping in her bath, it was one of the most beautifully staged scenes I’ve ever seen.  And when Othello kisses Desdemona those three times, again, Mr. Phillips had me hoping that maybe, just maybe, this time Othello wouldn’t kill his wife.  And his intensity of throwing Ms. Clemens around the stage, of holding her under the water of the bath, screaming out his lines of betrayal, it was beautifully balanced and wonderfully done.  So while I was underwhelmed by Mr. Phillips for most of the show, I did truly love his murder scene.

I must also give accolades to a few of the other characters whose performances were wonderful.  Bianca, played by the fiery Keiko Green 11150697_10152766624707539_4007719442217679389_nwas one of my favorites!  She had one of the best exit scenes I’ve seen in a long time.  Loved her passion and her fire and her commitment to this character.  I also really enjoyed Rodrigo, played by Trick Danneker.  If Bianca was walking fire, Rodrigo was walking air!  10982881_10152766624692539_7212443055923358395_nHe was adorable, and vulnerable, and malleable and the perfect puppet for Iago to master.  His death scene was so heartbreaking, and everything up until then was delightful.  I applaud both of these actors on a job well done!

I also have to applaud the designers of this show.  The costumes were great on everyone from the soldiers to the women to the Duke.  Powerful pieces, bold pops of color, and the white dress that Desdemona wears in the final scenes was inspired.  Bravo, Doris Black, bravo! 11204428_10152766624712539_1879978597553697404_n

And the costumes were lit by the brilliant Geoff Korf!  Oh, the lights in this show!  They were stunning!  There’s no other word for them.  They created intimate moments, powerful moments, sinister moments with seamless brilliance.  And as I said, the moment that Othello comes upon Desdemona sleeping in her bath is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on stage.  I’d give anything for a photo of that moment.  Thank you, Mr. Korf.

The set was also amazing in it’s simplicity.  I loved the neutrality of the colors of the set, the genius of the moving platforms, and the ability of the set to turn into a large projection screen for Othello’s dark thoughts to come to life was erotic magic!  Loved it!

My hat goes off to the director of this show, John Langs.  The concept was clear, inspired, and brilliantly executed.  Mr. Langs had a strong team around him to bring his vision to life, and was so lucky to have this cast to bring his moments to life as well.  I will be looking for future productions from Mr. Langs, because I was truly moved by this production!

Being as opinionated as I am about theatre, it takes a lot to get me out of my seat at the end of a production to show the actors how much I enjoyed their show, and I didn’t even hesitate to stand at the end of this one.  Thank you all for a much needed night of good theatre!  You made me a very happy Lady!  My only regret is I didn’t go sooner so that I could have seen it more than once.

Adored, loved, and will not soon forget it!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos from Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Facebook page.