copious love suggests

copious love suggests

#CLPsuggests: “Caligula”


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caligulaCaligula
Presented by Arouet
Written by Albert Camus
World Premiere Translation by Christopher Williams
Directed by Joshua Jon
May 13th through May 28th
7pm, Ballard Underground
TICKETS HERE

Minutes before 7pm, when Caligula was set to begin, I was sitting in my car in typical Seattle traffic, cursing my city and the people who drive in it. It had been a very trying day, to be honest I had one of those, crying in your car because life sometimes just doesn’t happen moments. All I wanted was to be in the theatre with my friends and watch a radical play about chaos and destruction go down. I just wanted to watch the world burn from my safe place in the bowels of Ballard, from the safety of the theatre seats at the Underground. “That will really cheer me up,” I thought, and boy was I right.

13266116_1053933421353510_8320863160049567448_nTruthfully, the text of Caligula is not generally one that people smile at. It is heavy, destructive, and at times, hard to watch. Joshua Jon and the team at Arouet however, make this show easier to process and take in as a modern audience. They bring these seemingly unbelievable circumstances into our contemporary world and show us how very, very close we are to this reality. And then, as soon as you have grimaced, they offer up laughs and incredibly beautiful moments that I have found myself replaying in my mind in the days following. These are actors reaching into the depths of insanity here and they do so with aplomb. Luke Sayler reigns supreme as the title role of Caligula, bellowing orders, brainstorming new madness at every turn and right when you think you couldn’t hate him more, he flashes you these unbelievable puppy dog eyes and…maybe we should hear him out? Danielle Daggerty as Caesonia is unstoppable, she begins as a calm, wise voice of reason and by the end of the show, she is almost unrecognizable. There were several times where I just wanted to reach out and hug her. Richard Sean Glen as Helicon is menacinly delightful. Helicon himself has nothing to loose so he indulges Caligula at every request, maybe as a way of surviving but we also get the feeling that he also finds joy in this madness as well. Some of my favorite moments of the show were the two of them scheming, Caligula and Helicon, matching wits back and forth and in a more tender beat later in the show, painting each others nails.

13177172_1053939741352878_6875887289536228618_nThere are many moments of this show that almost, if you aren’t paying attention, come from out of left field. Fights break out, an impromptu interpretive dance piece, a poetry slam- but then also madness, cruelty, chaos, from out of nowhere. But therein lies the beauty of it all. There is order within chaos. We, the survived, the living, have to find it and bring it to the surface. Director (and Arouet Artistic Director) Joshua Jon is doing just that. He has choreographed this unthinkable cruelty, this total destruction of a country, to dance around the most tender moments in this show in order to find a brilliant balance. I was awestruck by the whole production.

Later I found myself describing the experience as, “Both thought provoking and subtly sultry. Borderline seductive at times and also thoroughly disturbing.” So basically, my favorite kind of theatre. This production of Caligula has been handled with care, love and just the right amount of insane urgency that only fringe theatre can truly bring to the stage.  Bravo, Arouet.

GO. NOW. This production deserves your presence.

By Chelsea Madsen 

copious love suggests

#CLPsuggests: “A Hand of Talons”


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13133180_1032600930166112_1021642831358479984_nA Hand of Talons 
Presented by Pork Filled Productions
Written by Maggie Lee
Directed by Amy Poisson
Theatre Off Jackson
April 29th-May 21st
TICKETS HERE

I was excited to see A Hand of Talons ever since I sat down in April to interview playwright Maggie Lee (http://theatricalmustang.podbean.com/e/maggie-lee/.) Her enthusiasm for creating new worlds in which women had power was nothing short of infectious. Throughout the interview, her hands gesticulated wildly as she explained the intricacies of her Steampunk alternate universe.

And great galloping thunderturtles, the production of A Hand of Talons, running through May 21 at Theatre of Jackson does NOT disappoint! The show opened with a period appropriate curtain speech given by the delightfully deadpan Jenn Ruzumna, who plays Bernie Martillo. The lights went down on Brandon Estrella’s meticulous set, which uses every inch of the TOJ space. And then the lights came up on one of the best-produced shows I’ve seen in Seattle.

talons3There’s a post that my friends have been sharing on Facebook, called “Reverse Spy Flick.” The premise is simple: take the template of a traditional James Bond spy movie and make a woman the lead character. With A Hand of Talons, Maggie Lee has reversed, transformed and heightened the traditional action genre. The story focuses on Wilhemina Yao, portrayed deftly by Stephanie Kim-Bryan. Wilhemina starts off with a comedic intensity that is beguiling to watch. Kim-Bryan’s face is incredibly elastic, punctuating Lee’s acrobatic lines with an acerbic wit and playfulness. Even more incredible is her transformation in Act II, where she takes on all the bad-assery of any Bond villain.

The infinitely likable Sean Schroeder, brings both light-heartedness and pathos to the role of talons2Wilhemina’s brother, Anders Yao. Ben Burris shines and adds comedic relief as Lawrence Howell, a friend of Anders who is also besotted with Wilhemina. The elegant Mariko Kita breathes life into the complex character of Delphine Yao and Kenna Kettrick serves as Delphine’s attendant Lin Curtis. Kita battles expertly with Delphine’s struggle to remain poised and powerful while at the same time seeking what is best for her family. Kettrick embodies an unparalleled integrity to her character’s sense of service.

talons1Tim Gagne is Kenzo Yao, the man you love to hate because he’s just so terribly handsome and charming. (Think Tom Hiddleston meets Johnny Depp.) Abhijeet Rane rounds out the cast as the amusing and self-deprecating Preston Hodge, a man with an insatiable taste for gambling, who finds himself in a plot of intrigue.

Shout outs to Jocelyne Fowler’s gorgeous costumes and May Nguyen’s breathtaking fight choreography, which had me wanting to jump out of my seat at points to make sure actors weren’t actually injured.

I cannot speak highly enough of the ingenious direction of Amy Poisson. Every moment onstage was crafted to be in service of the story. The stakes were high for all characters. The audience was rapt throughout the performance. A good director entertains: a great director elevates the art form of storytelling.

This show is not to be missed, folks! Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets to this fast-paced action thriller that will leave you yearning for more of the Yao clan.

By Katie Woodzick 

copious love suggests

#CLPsuggests: “Puny Humans”


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13087801_10154171037209324_4780311613940425734_nPuny Humans
Presented by Annex Theatre
Written by Bret Fetzer & Keiko Green
Directed by Gavin Reub
April 22 – May 14
Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30PM
TICKETS HERE

Silhouettes of Charmander, Xena, Captain America, and more greet you at the door to set the mood for COMIC CON in Puny Humans.

Puny Humans, by Brett Fetzer and Keiko Green is the story of the persons attending comic con, two panelists, and the one stagehand (Lauryn Hochberg) who had no choice but to try and keep it all together. (Cue Arrested Development music.) 1462300657-puny_humans_real_lead

Comic Con! A place where these characters go to feel normal and welcomed but strangely, still feel isolated and lost in the crowds.

Hazel (Te Yelland), a pregnant Whovian and aspiring writer, contemplates whether or not to keep her baby. Sam (Zenaida Smith) is fighting for gender equality in the gaming world, and Sailor Moon & Darth Vader (Grace Carmack and Kevin Bordi) become involved…friendship? Something  more…? Make your way over to Annex to find out!

See Batman (Ben McFadden) and the Joker (David Rollison) fight for friendship! Watch as a mother (Heather Persinger) and her daughter  (Rachel Guyer-Mafune) struggle to communicate. Dive into a world where two movie stars (Nic Morden and Patty Bonnell) are at the con for very different reasons.

13095857_10154171037159324_1017025269114794502_nAh comic con! Where, as Gordon (Cole Hornaday) points out, comics are put in the corner, ignored, spit upon, to make way for for pop culture merchandise and the hottest new TV show/film/video game. Where the fuck are all the comics?

Ah comic con! I have a lot of feels for Puny Humans because many of the emotional conversations and arguments you see on stage are things, I, as a Giant Nerd have been fighting against my whole life. It’s so gratifying to see Sam blow up at a Kylo Ren-type-Fuckboy who thinks he is entitled to All Things Nerd. At times I wanted to stand up, fist pumping in the air and scream “YAAAAAAAAZ QUEEEN!” at the witty dialogue and highly complex story lines that interconnect with a seamless elegance that almost puts Love Actually to shame.1462322474-puny_humans_2

I also agree with Hazel that Steve Buscemi is hauntingly beautiful and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.

Please do yourself a favor and go see Puny Humans.

You will not be disappointed.

By R.H. Tyrrel

 

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#CLPsuggests: “My Name is Asher Lev”


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4c1a81_3f131080de464225b6059e9360c920e2My Name is Asher Lev
Presented by New Century Theatre Company
by Aaron Posner
Adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok
Directed by Sheila Daniels
12th Ave Arts
April 22 – May 21, 2016
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 4:00pm
TICKETS HERE

If you’ve ever had to sacrifice something you cared about for your art, this play will speak to you. It will speak to you if you’ve ever been a part of a family divided. My Name is Asher Lev, adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok, takes place in 1950s Brooklyn, NY and tells the story of the upbringing of young artist, Asher Lev (Conner Nedderson). His father, Aryeh (Bradford Farwell) deeply opposes his artistic ventures especially where they cross moral boundaries and directly conflict with Asher’s strict Hasidic upbringing. Asher’s mother, Rivkeh (Amy Thone), often the subject of Asher’s early work, stands directly in the middle of the battle between the tradition of her religion and the tradition of an emerging artist’s growth.

Asher LevConner Nedderson carried a heavy load playing the title role of this play, yet brought a tender boyishness to the role of Asher Lev showing flashes of brilliant strength in the face of adversity. He pulled the story along swiftly and successfully made this show drive ever forward at a perfect pace. Bradford Farwell may have had the biggest challenge playing young Asher’s father Aryah Lev as well as Asher’s fun uncle, the Rebbe as well as established Jewish artist, Jacob Kahn. Each character was clearly defined and Farwell’s intentions and motivations were powerfully clear. My personal favorite performance was that of Amy Thone who desperately clung to her family trying to keep peace all while suffering a devastating personal loss. Amy’s acting experience is entrancing and worth the cost of admission (although I will acknowledge that all of these actors show you a tremendous amount of skill).

Sheila Daniels (Director) and Peter Dylan O’Conner (Scenic Designer) frame this show beautifully and Asher Levartistically, using literal picture frames creating a thrust setting that is gorgeous from all angles. The set is simplistic and only serves to enhance the beauty of the story of a budding artist growing before our eyes.

I was recommended to see this show being told, “this is the best theatre currently playing,” and now I’m passing along that message to you. Please, do yourself a favor and enjoy New Century Theatre Company’s latest gem, My Name is Asher Lev.

By Geoff Finney

 

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Copious Love REJECTS: “Batman v Superman”


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bvsposterBatman v Superman 
Presented by Warner Brothers
Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by David S. Goyer &
Chris Terrio
Major cinematic theatres everywhere
Runtime is 2 hr. 31 min.

Copious Love Officially REJECTS Batman v Superman…

PSYCH!!! You had to see that shit coming, this is Copious LOVE mutha’ fluffas!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s PROBABLY plenty to hate about BVS (I for one simply prefer a Batman who is diametrically opposed to killing and using guns #batfleck #notmybatman) but as Kevin Smith would say, why curse the darkness when you can light a fucking candle?

We here at CLP are all about lighting a shit tons of candles, especially when it comes to local theatre!

But hey… you know what? We already got you, person interested in superheroes and fighting, right here, reading these silly word-like shapes. We might as well deliver something….
Double psych! This is actually a back door SUGGESTS for…

Daredevil Season Two! (Or DD v. Punisher v. Ninjas v. Systemic Corruption/Economic Disparity)12794707_1719825021587067_5890561489880274871_o (1)

Who here is a fan of Frank Miller? You know, crazy uncle Frank who brought us the Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, and of course many an issue of Daredevil. So here’s the thing about Frank Miller; he’s a neo fascist nut bag who clearly has HUUUUUGE issues with women. Despite that, he has crafted some truly great stories featuring the characters in Daredevil and Batman V. Superman. If you cherry pick his work just right, you can come out with those outstanding elements while leaving behind the brutal misogyny and tone deaf

Taxi Driver-esque dialogue. (Frank Miller is the kind of guy who watches that movie and thinks Travis is an honest to god hero *shivers*)

Or, OR…you can take the elements most relatable to angry neck bearded man-children and turn them up to 11. DD Seasons One and Two accomplish the former…and I think you know by now that BvS goes right for the latter.

I’m sorry, I know this is supposed to be about DD Season Two and I’m STILL talking about a movie that you already know as denounced by critics. But there are so many parallels here that I just can’t help myself. I’ll try my best to rein it in. Here we go.

From the folks that brought you Jessica Jones and Daredevil Season One, comes Marvel/Netflix’s Daredevil Season Two!

We enter with a grim yet fun chase scene through Hell’s Kitchen. At one point DD beats down a dude running through an actual kitchen, with some help from ladle wielding cooks.
Daredevil gets all of the gun toting jewel thieves packaged for the cops and proceeds to stand triumphant on a roof top, fully displaying his hella rad costume and a shit eating grin. Kick ass superhero pose for the win!

But what this show has in store for you goes way beyond the somewhat clichéd if not completely satisfying superhero-ey stuff. There are layers upon fuggin’ layers here people. This shit goes deep. The central conflict spreads thin throughout the thirteen episodes, never fully revealing itself until it’s just about over. Punisher has a big role to play and not just on screen but in the subtext. The characters never tell you what is right and what is wrong, they leave that up to you. All they show you is that whatever choice is made, there will always be consequences. Punisher, aka Frank Castle, is the guy who knows this shit. He breaths it in deep and owns it. He knows he’s not a hero, and he couldn’t care less. He operates with absolute certainty that he’s doing what SHOULD be done.  Daredevil on the other hand, is far less secure. He agonizes over every mistake, questioning every decision. He’s wracked with guilt and gets his plate piled so high he can’t possibly manage it all without someone getting hurt. He just knows he can’t quit trying.

daredevil-season-2-faq-picThen we have Elektra, someone who just plain doesn’t give a fuck…Or so it would seem. When we meet Miss Natchios, she’s presented as a bored rich girl with time to spare, a big hard murder boner, as well as the skills to properly wield it. She and Matt meet in college and through a series of flash backs, we see why they haven’t spoken in quite some time. Ladies take note, killing folks is definitely a deal breaker for Matt Murdock. Now, she’s not like the Punisher, she exists as more of a middle ground between the other two bad asses. But getting to know her, we learn that she is someone who has been misled by larger forces and if there’s one thing this woman gives a fuck about, it’s her own autonomy.

Okay, I have to talk about BvS again, sorry. But so many of these themes are present in that movie but are handled with such a lack of grace that they flop to the floor like a sack of dead fish. Part of that could be the nature of cinematic story telling vs serial story telling. It is indeed much easier to translate these characters and present those themes over the course of a season rather than a two and a half hour film. But there’s also a degree of maturity involved, which is something BvS director Zack Snyder has never been known to demonstrate.

Okay, so enough of the philosophy shit, (maybe) let’s get to what matters; the action!

If you watched Season One of DD then you know that the bar for fight scenes is way fucking high. Yet DDS2 cleared it with cheerful ease.

There’s a scene in the second episode, directly lifted from Garth Ennis Punisher story, Welcome Back Frank, where Punisher confronts DD regarding his particular crime fighting methods.

“You’re a kid on a playground, beating up bullies. You hit em, they get back up. I hit em, they stay down!” This actually serves as foreshadowing for a later scene that may be the best fight scene of the season, if not it’s definitely the most violent.
Remember the sweet hallway fight from season one? Daredevil walks into a poorly lit hallway, opens the door and starts a three minute brawl with a bunch of kidnapping baddies. Every combatant in that hall takes more than one hit to stay down. The whole one-take scene has this incredible ebb and flow, where the guys fall down in groups and get back up in slightly smaller groups, over and over again until there’s less and less of them up for a fight…then more and more of them lying in heaps of pain. God I fucking love that scene!

Well, Season Two treats us to a perfect contrast to that scene. I won’t spoil it beyond saying that Frank’s earlier statement about his opponent’s ability to get up after he hits them is the first of many counter parallels.

Oh…and there’s ninjas. Loooooots of sword wielding, shuriken throwing, chain whipping bad ass mother fuckers in black masks! They race across rooftops shooting arrows, they swarm up buildings like killer ants and of course, they go down like a sack of bricks when smacked in the face with a billy club. This is classic Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point, having dozens or hundreds of disposable baddies is pretty much their signature move. But I never felt like these were the robo-minions in Avengers 2, or the bad elf things in Thor 2, or the…yeah that’s probably enough examples. Instead, all of the threats our heroes face have a legitimate weight to them (DD being the only legit hero in my book because, DUH! Heroes don’t fucking KILL!). Theirs is actual peril here and it serves the action in the best edge of your seat way.

Sigh. Yup, I’m going to bring it up again.batvsupes

The point I’m making about the action is that it all made sense. You knew why people were fighting and it was never difficult to invest in the outcome. By the time Supes and Bats got around to the big showdown, I completely stopped caring. It didn’t make sense, neither of them were particularly good at not killing, so why did either one think they had the moral high ground? The core conflict between the two of them seemed to be that BatFleck is growing ever-the-more enraged by the fact that other people are better at killing bad guys and causing property damage than he is. Well Bruce, you sure fucking showed him. Jesus. Okay, I’m done.

So look, Daredevil Season Two exists in a dark world. But it’s not there because it’s trying to be, it’s there because it has to be given the source material. It’s a story about a lot of different people trying to do the right thing either for everyone, themselves, or the few who are most important to them. In short, it accomplishes everything that BvS tries for while still being very, very fun.

And ya know what? If you got a Netflix account then you’ve already paid for it! So, if you are looking for a dark story in a dark world with dark character but still expect a story that’s concise and entertaining, skip the theater and chill at home. DDS2 has got you covered.

batmobileKnow what though? BatFleck was actually kinda dope. I wouldn’t blame him, is all I’m saying. He was better Batman than he was Daredevil, that’s for sure.

Are you still reading this?

Dude, there’s no end credits scene, you can go.

Okay actually, stay tuned after the last episode of DDS2 for a sneak peek at the next Netflix/Marvel series. All I have to say is sweet Christmas.

By Dick Phillips

 

 

 

 

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#CLPsuggests: “Lilies or the Revival of a Romantic Drama “


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liliesposterLilies or the Revival of a Romantic Drama
Presented by Local Jewell Productions
At The Ballard Underground
Written by Michel Marc Bouchard
Directed by Christopher Jewell
March 24-April 9.
TICKETS HERE

Friday night, Lacy and I went to see Local Jewell’s latest show Lilies, or the Revival of the Romantic Drama by Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard. I was unfamiliar with this particular piece, but I have had experiences with his writings before. I found Lilies to be similar to his other work, as Bouchard focuses on the idea of honesty, truth and the appeal of lies embedded in a complex multi-leveled, multi-time-framed, metatheatrical structure which allows him to explore a range of themes and issues both directly and indirectly relating to the theme of the show.

Even the Bouchard’s title, Lilies, or the Revival of the Romantic Drama, plays with the presentation of truths. Bouchard immediately draws attention to the concept of “revival” in the subtitle. In fact, the original French subtitle, la Répétition d’un drame romantique, contains a rather clever play on words: “répétition” implies both the rehearsal of a play (which we see in the first scenes), and the repetition of a previously performed drama (which we watch along with the Bishop as his life is played out before him).

Yeah. I know. I’m a theater nerd and a script was my date to the prom.

Lilies is a serious piece about love and revenge which also manages to include a commentary on truth and on theatre thanks to its multi-level structure. The play is set in 1952, in a prison chapel, where Bishop Bilodeau has been invited under the ruse of taking the confession of a childhood friend, Simon Doucet. Instead of hearing Simon’s dying sins, we watch as a Bilodeau is forced to watch his past in the form of a play produced by prisoners.

The prisoners’ play takes the action back to the Quebec countryside of 1912 when Simon, Bilodeau and the Parisian newcomer, Count Vallier De Tilly, were young contemporaries. In acting out the circumstances that occurred immediately prior to Simon’s incarceration, it is intended that Bishop Bilodeau will be the one to confess what he did four decades earlier that resulted in Simon’s wrongful imprisonment.

If I suggest that the play-within-a-play-within-a-play structure is like the layered skins of an onion, it would not do it justice as the intelligence of this play goes far beyond its assembly. It was really quite fun to realize you’re watching actors playing prisoners playing Canadian country folk. By definition, all the parts (including the female characters) are played by men and true to the limited resources that would have been available to prisoners, the costumes and props are simple but effective. Joe Madsen’s costume design did a great job blending past with present. The actors all wore prison uniforms with the addition of a hat, a jacket or at most an old curtain as a skirt.

Without sensitive handling, this story could easily become a camp drag show. Director Christopher Jewell seems to handle this deftly and never once did I fear that the characters would be belittled or caricatured by a performance. The play is funny, yes, but not one of the actors on stage gave anything but 100% devotion to portraying their parts honestly. There are some delightful stand-out performances.

The prisoner’s play takes place 40 years before, when homosexuality was much more taboo, and we follow young Simon, played by the excellent Michael C Robinson, and Vallier, played by Dustyn Moir as they explore their burgeoning sexuality. Moir and Robinson were lovely together and throughout the entire play, I was very drawn to their relationship on stage. They wade through the confusion of right and wrong feelings with passionate performances that I found to be incredibly engaging. Moir is especially adept at affecting his emotional exposure in a way that is sweet, but also deeply tragic. He is everything that resembles the fiery, uninhibited urgency of first love. Robinson’s ability to at once portray reticence, sexual hunger and longing is to be commended. I look forward to seeing him in more productions around town.

Jealousy drives the young Bilodeau, played by a frank and honest Jordan Fermstad, to start a malicious campaign to break up the love affair of Simon and Vallier under the guise of saving their souls.

Villier’s mother, a perceptive, albeit unstable woman, floats through the story on a cloud entirely her own, soaring gently from lucidity to quiet madness. One minute providing haven for her son and the next, planning for a grand future in Paris, which will never come. Patrick Lucey-Conklin was exceedingly lovely in his portrayal of the Countess. His mannerisms and speech, the tone of his voice and the stillness of his stature were elegant, royal and soft. Lucey-Conklin’s timing was wonderful as well, and in some moments, was incredibly funny.

Simon’s intended wife, Lydie-Anne de Rozier, was played by Nick Prelesnik. He juggled an excellently tricky balance between intelligent languor and mawkish sentimentality with a sharp tongue and barbed, spikey manner.

Over all, the play takes a little while to fall into place, since the action is slow the first hour and the pace is broken up between jumping back and forth between 1952 and 1912. The simple set, I loved the chains, is a perfect counterbalance to the slightly overblown romantic melodrama playwright Michel Marc Bouchard is known for. Local Jewell’s knack for taking risks and presenting thoughtful theatrical pieces has been a joy to watch over the last few years and Lilies or the Revival of a Romantic Drama is no exception.

By Jennifer Nöel Klouse

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#CLPsuggests: “Amadeus”


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web-preview-amadeus2_largeAmadeus
Presented At Bainbridge Performing Arts
A BPA Chambers Music Collaboration
Written by Peter Shaffer
Directed by Kate Carruthers
Music Direction by Josh Anderson
Fridays & Saturdays, March 11-26th
TICKETS HERE 

Whenever I hear the name ‘Mozart’ or ‘Amadeus’, I inherently giggle and then thank the universe for a few things. One, that I had an incredible drama teacher in high school who became (and remains to be) one of my theatrical mentors. Two, that this teacher led a class where we explored and analyzed the text for Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. Third, that this happened within my teenage years and that I have been able to grow up with and see this beautiful production live. While the film version is fantastic (if this is your only means of exploring this brilliant text, I highly recommend it) the stage production is the way it was meant to be experienced. Unfortunately, this weekend is closing and that means you only have TWO MORE CHANCES! Do yourself a favor and book a ticket for this Friday or Saturday HERE. You will not be disapointed! A ferry ride to and from the island, a fantastic show and an evening of Mozart…what more could you want? I can almost guarantee that you will be as spellbound as I still am, well over a decade later.

In Amadeus, Shaffer weaves together the two lives of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The latter being our narrator throughout the show and our insight into the life of a legend. We begin on the night that Salieri plans to take his own life. He is consumed with guilt and desperate to admit to the murder of Mozart, believing that in the end, he and his actions are what truly what killed him. What follows is a brilliant melding of music, madness and mystery. Even after all this time, I always find myself completely enraptured.

The performances in this show are what sets this production apart from any other. Nelsen Spickard as Salieri and Luke Walker as Mozart are extraordinary. They play off each other like old friends and the sibling-like competition between the two, which grows throughout each scene they share, is palpable. Melissa Fenwick, playing Constanze, is phenomenal. Constanze is a complicated character to be sure (Stanze is not your average woman in the late 1700’s) and one that requires depth, vulnerability and gallons of charisma all at once. Fenwick absolutely shines in this role. Also worthy of mention are Geoff Finney and Lee Anne Hittenberger as the Venticelli, Salieri’s henchmen and his main source of the town gossip. Both clownish and animated, they help keep the audience in the moment, create mischief and generate comedic relief in some of the more tense moments of the play. I found myself, more than once, audibly uttering an emphatic, “There it is!”

Did Salieri’s influence push Mozart over the edge? Is it merely circumstance? Destiny? The work of god? In this play about humanity and forgiveness, isn’t it also at its core, a cautionary tale of jealously, arrogance and deceit? These questions are for you to decide for yourselves.

Bravo, BPA! You hit all the notes, and not one too many!

By Chelsea Madsen 

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#CLPsuggests: “From Kings to Controllers”


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Kings_Controllers_FINALFrom Kings to Controllers 
Presented by Ghost Light Theatricals
Written by Stacy D. Flood
Directed by Jennifer Crooks
The Ballard Underground
March 4-19th
TICKETS HERE

As disturbing as it is entertaining, From Kings To Controllers, a new, refreshing, take on the Rape of Lucrece is well worth a visit… Or two. I am not ashamed to say after I went to the show, I immediately bought tickets for the next day and brought friends.

Before I get to my opinion of the show (spoiler alert: I LOVED IT FOREVER and I’m sorry for yelling… almost), I’d like to explain why this play is so essential and necessary. Perhaps you live a life that is blissfully unaware of the Gamergate movement. If that is the case, the story of Liv and Lucrece may feel less powerful overall.

Gamergate, the nom de guerre adopted by anonymous trolls to personify their movement, is still very much alive, even if it isn’t today’s hottest topic in gender equality. It’s still an ongoing “conversation” surrounding the equality of women in the video game industry and the ethics of video game journalism. I use “conversation” loosely because it’s hard to have a conversation when one person talks while duct taping the other’s mouth shut. The simple fact of being a woman online is playing with fire. Having an opinion online as a woman is downright dangerous. Debating video games while appearing to be a woman online is regarded as the same as wearing a revealing outfit to a concert or drinking in public: you might as well be asking for the harassment you’re undoubtedly going to get.

All it took was the appearance of a woman being empowered and knowledgeable of video games in 2014 to cause an entire group of gamers to lose their minds. Death threats, doxxing (the act of publishing or threatening to publish the personal information of targeted female individuals), hacking, swatting (hoaxed reports to emergency services designed to send SWAT teams to a victim’s home) and sending sexually explicit photoshopped images of the victims to their families, churches and places of work all actually happened to numerous women in the gaming industry, and online. And the men who were responsible for the social rape of these women insisted the victim was to blame. If she hadn’t troubled the waters, she wouldn’t be in the mess she is currently in. Gamergaters hide behind a mask of upholding ethics, transparency and the idea of “gamer” as a masculine identity. Many supporters of Gamergate oppose what they view as the increasing influence of feminism on video game culture.

Gamergaters aren’t ethics crusaders. They’re a fear mongering hate group. What is it like to be violated, forced against your will, assaulted and made to feel so much fear that you’d rather be buried among the ruins of a life that was once thriving? Lucrece and Liv could tell you.1780851_10154742114932818_1411217861235678932_n

The entire plot of From Kings To Controllers weaves together Liv, modern video game designer and her desire for more gender equality in games and The Rape of Lucrece, a Shakespearean narrative poem based upon the Roman matron Lucretia. Tarquinius, son of Etruscan king Tarquin, rapes the virtuous Lucretia (wife of Governor Collatinus) in her home. She kills herself after begging her husband for justice, which sends him into a bloody revenge, and eventually inciting a monarchist rebellion, which caused the overthrowing of the Tarquinii government. She inadvertently changed the face of the Roman people forever. Likewise, Liv is making her way up the chain in video game design when she decides to switch the male protagonist in her game, with an empowered female: Lucrece herself.

Almost immediately the attacks begin.

fromkingstocontrollersfightThe online outcry of male videogame oppression is personified in Geb Brown’s portrayal of the Tarquinius. He struts and creeps around the stage, and Liv’s thoughts, preying upon her fears, her loved ones and over and over blames her for her own humiliating exposure and victimization. Liv, played by a spunky and endearing Elizabeth Brammer, bears her burden the only way she knows how, by moving inward and protecting herself and those she loves.

The story of Liv is familiar and deeply, deeply troubling. Brown and Brammer are fantastic as the victim and her attacker. They both grasp for power, while appearing to being strong. He slowly suffocates her as she attempts to hold onto what little life she has. At times in the play, I grew uncomfortable with how real it all was.

For all the controversial material, From Kings to Controllers balances itself well by bringing a light, fantastical element to the story, one where the characters in Liv’s video game come to life and influence the outside world. One particular moment, where video game hero Collatine (played by a fantastically charismatic Bjorn Whitney) mansplains the best way to take down some minions, had me rolling.

Beth Pollack’s portrayal of Lucrece, was stoic and still, but when movement was called for, her movements were pointed, regal and aggressive. I very much enjoyed watching the video game heroine and her creator breathe life into each other in one of the play’s more moving scenes. They exchange breath, share power and handle each other’s weapons: Lucrece’s sword and Liv’s laptop. The relationship between creator and character was emotionally touching and I loved watching them together.

fromkingstocontrollersnarratorsThe show even comes with its own narrator chorus, there to serve as the audience’s guide through the many tropes of the videogaming world. Aimee Decker, Christine Lange and Maddy Noonan work in tandem to introduce new players and those unfamiliar with the gaming industry and lifestyle (AKA Noobs) in an adorable and unthreatening way. I was constantly charmed by the three and found their presence comforting and warm like a hug.

I have to say, though, one of the things I most excitedly took from this was the direction and overall design of the show. Jenny Crook’s direction was inspired and incredibly clever. I always admire a director who makes good use of space and can tell stories with silence and darkness. Two platforms, some blocks and a pixelated backdrop were all that was necessary to create multiple worlds. Sound designer David Gordon did a bang up job creating a video game anthem that could be mustering and rousing and then sweet and sad. The incidental music during scene changes and transitions was really well done.

Overall, From Kings to Controllers is a seamless vehicle full of fantastic performances, great human moments and I wish I could go see it again before it closes this weekend.

Actually, I might.

By Jennifer Nöel Klouse 

copious love suggests

#CLPsuggests: “(Not Your Mom’s) HMS Pinafore”


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Poster 2(Not Your Mom’s) HMS Pinafore
Presented by King’sPlayers
Directed by Jennifer Nöel Klouse
Shorecrest Performing Arts Center
February 18 – 28, 2016
Thu.- Sat. 7:30pm, Sun. 2:00pm
TICKETS HERE

(Not Your Mom’s) HMS Pinafore was a fun, cheerful show and had me giggling the whole time. Director Jennifer Nöel Klouse has setup the stage as an intimate blackbox on top of the stage. So when the audience walks into the theatre they see all the ropes and pulleys backstage which makes it feel like you are entering a ship. Also, the cast and crew have managed to work in some audience interaction so you really feel as if you are part of the crew aboard the HMS Pinafore. The ensemble does a great job of supporting each other, several of them play main roles as well as being part of the ship’s crew. This double casting is very successful because it makes the ship crew seem like they are actually an acting ensemble akin to old traveling troupes or even the Mickey Mouse Club.
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I was especially blown away by the pipes on Katie Castro, playing Buttercup, and Berit Johansen, playing Josephine. Both of them sang so seamlessly as if it were easy, but the audience was consistently taken aback by the power they held in each song. I was transfixed to the scene whenever they started belting out love songs or chants. I especially enjoyed Buttercup and Capt. Corcoran’s duet “Things Are Seldom What They Seem, it was fast-paced tango, and left me wanting more, and “Nevermind The Why And Wherefore” where Josephine gets a little tipsy but still manages to sing beautifully! I also appreciated Justin John’s character Dick Deadeye, this was a guy that everyone hated because of his looks, but Justin played him as a down-to-earth normal guy, which lead to some great moments. This show is also a great night out for families as it is fun for the kids but there are also some mature jokes the parents will appreciate. I thought it was an enjoyable show and hope you can make it out to support this hardworking cast and crew!!

By Lacy Gavilanes

copious love suggests

#CLPsuggests: “The Birds”


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12400871_10153376112421270_8350360907760289246_nThe Birds 
Presented by Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Greg Carter
12th Ave Arts
January 21- February 20, 2016
Thu-Fri-Sat 7:30pm, Mon 7:30
no performance Mon Jan-25
TICKETS HERE 

From the moment the lights dimmed and Diane (Sarah Harlett) entered panicked, anxious and terrified I was 110% invested in the fate of this character and in the fate of the world.

Diane and Nat (Shawn Belyea) are kept prisoners indoors while bloodthirsty birds attempt to break in and attack. In this apocalyptic world where birds are killing for no reason, and scavenging is the only way to survive, Diane and Nat take in the mysterious Julia (Meme Garcia) because in this very scary world, “as long as there is kindness, there is hope.” With Julia, they determine if they should interact with their estranged neighbor Tierney (Sean Nelson) or make a break for the next town.

I held my breath the entire 90-minute run as each suspenseful scene took place and must highly praise Sarah Harlett for making each moment fresh and raw as the world of The Birds unfolded. Shout outs to Brendan Patrick Hogan and Reed Nakayama for the best sound and lighting design I have ever experienced in a suspenseful production.

Go to this show and prepare to be on the edge of your seat for the entire performance.

By R.H. Tyrrel