This Week In Theater: The First Big Wave Arrives

Press image for Erin Jorgensen's Redemption at On the Boards; courtesy of OtB.

Anybody paying attention to the way 2011 unfolded could have predicted that it was simply a matter of time before we were the recipients of an impossibly busy weekend; that it would arrive during the month of January might have been unexpected however. By and large, it is a pretty varied slate in front of us, so let’s get to it.

The name Tommy Smith should not be unfamiliar to Seattle theatergoers; after graduating from UW’s PATP program, Smith made a few splashes about town in plays like Matt Fontaine and Zack Lenihan’s HP Lovecraft’s Re-Animator at Open Circle Theater, and Letters to Wendy’s, his solo show that won a few awards (as well as being the Artistic Pick at that year’s Seattle Fringe Festival). Since then, he’s moved to New York City where he’s been a vital part of that city’s alternative theater scene as well as being awarded the PONY Fellowship at the Lark Play Development Center in 2010. If all that weren’t enough, Smith has regularly returned to Seattle to have his work produced by the Washington Ensemble Theater and at On the Boards (in collaboration with comedian/vocalist/persona-extraordinaire Reggie Watts). This weekend find him reuniting with fellow UW alum Mark Siano in a production of his 2007 play, White Hot. Featuring a stacked deck of artists both on stage and behind the scenes, White Hot is centered around an increasingly imploding young family unit that relentlessly finds ways to self-immolate.

Thursday through Saturday at 8:00p.m.; January 27 through February 11 // West Of Lenin, 203 North 36th Street // $18

While that’s going on, over at On the Boards we have the highly anticipated Redemption; an evening featuring the talents of Seattle musician Erin Jorgensen, with on-stage support from legendary local producer Steve Fisk. Local media coverage have rightly accentuated Jorgensen’s proficiency with the marimba and highlighted her work in the justly celebrated The French Project (Jorgensen along with other local singers and musicians and theater types where performances revolve around covers of French songs or songs translated into French — and German). What’s exciting about this weekend’s production is that Jorgensen is bringing not just her musical talent to center stage, but also her lacerating insight, dangerous humor and intelligent observations at long last. Fisk’s bag of tricks, which have supported a lengthy list of popular and alternative music artists, is also a considerable attraction as Jorgensen explores the themes surrounding a seemingly ineffable sense of fulfillment.

Thursday through Saturday at 8:00p.m. // On the Boards, 100 West Roy Street // $20

Over at Capitol Hill’s Erickson Theater, the Strawberry Theater Workshop company is bringing us Theresa Rebeck’s The Bells, a mystery set in the rugged Northwest frontier land during the Alaskan Gold Rush, among the rough and tumble world of hardened individualists — the play is billed as something more than a simple whodunit. While the central mystery unfolds, themes of guilt and responsibility are explored at the same time a ghost story is constructed. Featuring another collection of great talents, this could be a moody evocation of a haunting chapter of our region’s past.

Thursday through Saturday at 8:00p.m.; January 26 through February 18 // Erickson Theater, 1524 Harvard Avenue // $30

A few blocks East along Pike Street, Annex Theatre expands their recent trend toward cornering the theatrical science fiction market by delving into the realm of Steampunk in their production of Cocktails at the Centre of the Earth. Cocktails is Simon Astor’s romp through an anachronistic past filled with musical numbers, inter-species love, flustered ambitions and other merriments found in a comedy of manners. A production that asks, “why settle for stuffy old steampunk, when zany madcap steampunk is on offer?” Why, indeed.

Thursday through Saturday at 8:00p.m.; January 26 through February 25 // Annex Theatre, 1100 East Pike Street // $5 – $15 (Thursdays at Pay What You Can)

Let us now head over to the Green Lake, where that neighborhood’s resident company, Seattle Public Theater gets ready to mount Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s extended witty goof on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Instead of the Prince of Denmark, the play’s focus is on two characters who serve as plot mechanisms in Shakes’ famous play, filled with clever allusions, the incorporation of other of Hamlet‘s characters and Stoppard’s trademarked wordplay. R&G is quickly becoming as oft-produced as its source material, to the point where a given production’s success depends greatly on how well it is executed; this production ups the ante by gender-reversing all of the roles. Normally, we’d look at this development a bit askance, but then we found out that amid the now-ubiquitous superlatively-talented-cast, the leads are being performed by two of Seattle’s underused comedic actresses: Angela DiMarco and Alyssa Keene. We had no choice but to admit that this is likely a wise move.

Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30p.m., Sundays at 2:00p.m.; January 27 through February 19 // Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse in Green Lake, 7312 West Greenlake Drive North // $15 – $30

Next stop: Ballard, where Ghostlight Theatricals is bringing us another Shakespearean experiment in the form of competing modern adaptations of the Bard’s canonical works. In Ghostlight’s Battle of the Bards VI, three different adaptations are given 20 minutes to make an impression upon the audience, who then vote on which production they’d like to see move to the next stage of development. This iteration’s slate includes Mack The Knife, a musical adaptation of Macbeth set in a 1930s mob-heavy milieu; Apocalypse Soon, wherein a collection of religious figures are taken from various texts and together they plan the apocalypse as well as pick out who will be saved; and Paper Bullets, a modern take on Much Ado About Nothing where two competing media powerhouses play with the lives of four male and female ingenues. (Seattle Star contributor alert: John Allis has written one of these adaptations, but in the interest of fairness, we won’t tell you which.)

Friday and Saturday at 8:00p.m. // Ghostlight Theatricals’ The Ballard Underground, 2220 NW Market Street (Lower Level) // $10 (ticket includes one vote; additional votes available for $1)

No weekend of theatrical overindulgence would be complete without at least one world premiere play, and for that entity we need look no further than First Hill’s Trinity Parish Church, where Theater 9/12 is presenting Charles Waxberg’s A Shade of Green. Waxberg, Theater 9/12′s Artistic Director, has written a play that delves into themes of integrity, as an accountant for an archdiocese in Pittsburgh is asked to visit a prisoner who is 19 days away from being executed without being told why. From that moment onward, the accountant is faced with escalating decisions that leave him wondering what he is going to do. This is a theater company that’s been around for a while, with members who’ve worked with numerous other companies about town (Waxberg was a pivotal presence in the creation of Balagan Theater, for example), and they are an Equity Eligible production company. This deserves some looking into.

Fridays and Saturday at 8:00p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00p.m.; January 27 through February 19 // Theater 9/12 at Trinity Parish Hall, 609 8th Avenue // Pay What You Will

Our penultimate stop takes us over to Belltown, where the New Muses Theater Company is producing Wallace Shawn’s The Fever at Freehold Theater’s New Blackbox. A solo-performance, Shawn’s Fever finds its narrator holed up in a shabby and disreputable hotel room in a third world country; while he tries to recover from the titular ailment, he feverishly reacts to his surroundings and the open display of poverty seen in the streets below — and not in a pleasant manner. The Fever‘s narrator, while obviously smart and keen-witted, is also clearly pampered and is so weak that his darker impulses are on display nakedly, although he is well-intentioned. This can be a discomfiting and rewarding tale.

Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00p.m.; January 27 through February 4 // Freehold’s New Black Box Theater, 2222 2nd Avenue // $12 – $15

If after all of that, you need a break from all things directly tied to a theatrical production, head over to Theater Schmeater this Sunday where Man Alone Productions is hosting Star Trek Trivia Night as a benefit for future productions. Their trivia nights have earned a reputation for not being standard fare; past nights have included Buffy, Arrested Development, Battlestar Galactica, among other Geek-friendly subjects and the questions are, reportedly, more advanced than most. Take that with a grain of salt, as your correspondent does not frequent pub nights, so adjust your difficulty levels accordingly. All your correspondent knows for sure is that their press invitation included a challenge to spot the errors in their event image, and your correspondent can only count three of them. In any scenario, these are good kids, their trivia nights are pretty popular, the Schmee’s bar will be open and there’s tons of prizes so get your tickets early.

Sunday at 6:00p.m. // Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit Avenue // $5