Fair-weather theatrical offerings past, present, and future.
Summer in Seattle means theater, theater, theater!
OK, not even I believe that. But there are some decent offerings around our local playhouses these days. Dramatic alternatives to the steamy days and nights, if you will. I’ve just been so busy lately (watching the complete only season of The Comeback, for one thing) that I didn’t get around to telling you about two good recent ones in late July: the beloved Seattle Neutrino Project’s brief single-weekend run at CHAC, and Bridget Bailey’s fantastic one-woman show Child of Hungry Times at WET. Sorry about that.
But Neutrino will be at Bumbershoot next month, Ms. Bailey will surely be up to something cool (exactly what, I don’t know), and two currently-running plays deserve your attention right now: Mitzi’s Abortion at ACT, and the Intiman’s Heartbreak House.
Mitzi’s Abortion, if the frank title didn’t already fill you in a little, has to do with a difficult decision made by a character named Mitzi (portrayed with charm, sweetness, and just the right amount of not-yet-a-woman naïveté by Sharia Pierce) after she discovers a complication in her pregnancy with soldier boyfriend Chuck (solid Sean Cook). There are handwringing and tears aplenty, but this big-on-satire play is essentially a comedy — yes — and a pretty funny one at that.
And (no slights to playwright Elizabeth Heffron or director Kurt Beattie) the fantastic cast gets much credit for that. Dream sequences involving St. Thomas Aquinas (Eric Ray Anderson) and 17th-century Scottish midwife/abortionist Reckless Mary (Leslie Law, a total hoot) could have taken very wrong turns without strong all-or-nothing comedic performances to back them. But no one is better than Mitzi’s mom, played to gloriously blunt, wounded, Southern-fried perfection by Kit Harris. (Why was I the only audience member who laughed at her off-the-cuff authenticity when she mentioned picking something up at “Safeway’s”?)
But Mitzi’s story is also rather heartbreaking in its ungainly but very thoughtful way, and the handy multimedia-tinged staging (video and, um, puppetry are in the mix) enhances the proceedings nicely. As good as it all is, though, I can’t imagine Mitzi’s Abortion having legs outside of Seattle (hello, the title alone)… so get yourself to ACT before it closes 8/20.
The Intiman’s new production of George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House, with its pre-WWI Britty witty misfits, has bite and humor and poignancy all its own. Set in the country manor of old Captain Shotover (Michael Winters, who you may know from his recurring role on Gilmore Girls), the action takes place during a kooky weekend gathering which begins with the arrival of Ellie Dunn (Alexandra Tavares), a bright young woman set to marry an older, oilier business tycoon named Alfred Mangan (the ubiquitous Laurence Ballard).
Soon to join the jumble are Shotover’s daughters, Lady Ariadne Utterword (always-fantastic Suzanne Bouchard) and Hesione Hushabye (fiercely wonderful Kate Goehring), plus the former’s infatuated brother-in-law (great physical comedian R. Hamilton Wright), the latter’s tale-telling husband (Stephen Pelinski), and Ellie’s fair-minded dad (David Pichette). A full cast, but a tightly-knit one — nearly every member gets a great two-person scene with another, and the intimate revelations that transpire work beautifully with the rapid-fire group scenes to make for genuine familial tension onstage.
Director Jon Jory deserves big kudos for keeping things so engrossing through the nearly 3-hour runtime, but George Bernard Shaw has name recognition for good reason. The play is subtitled "A Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes," after all. Is Hesione really so untroubled by her husband’s philandering ways? Is Managan really wrong for Ellie? Why has Lady Utterword been AWOL from her family for 23 years?
Will every question get a tidy answer by the jarring, metaphorical, apocalyptic final act?