Three Imaginary Girls

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"You're naïve, and you're beginning to get on my wick", 7/25-8/24, Intiman Theatre

An enigmatic London psychiatric patient (utterly fantastic Sylvester Foday Kamara) claims to be the son of an infamous African dictator — and his story becomes unnervingly plausible. An earnest young psychiatrist in training, Bruce (Ian Brennan), butts heads with his seasoned supervisor, Robert (great local treasure Laurence Ballard) over the treatment of the young Afro-Carribean man … and at least one person is completely ruined by play's end.

Issues of race are explored efficiently and thoughtfully in Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange, as is the effectiveness of the UK's dying National Health Service. Compelling timeliness brought the play wide acclaim in London, where it won scads of awards on and off the West End. The Seattle production (staged by Kate Whoriskey) is, above all else, gorgeous. Set design is sparse and artful, with a lighted bowl of oranges contrasting cold greens and institutional chromes. But this mounting falters a bit in the casting. Performances are all good, but Brennan's is so calculated and keyed-up that his big moment of enraged hysteria almost comes off unintentionally (and Woody Allen-ishly) funny. While we're at it, consistently wonderful Ballard does fine with his attempts at Britspeak, but could have used a few more dialect-coaching sessions too.

And neither of these performances would seem faulty at all if it weren't for the sheer brilliance of Sylvester Foday Kamara. His Christopher is so intense, so raw and complex, and so Eastender (innits and ya knowwu' ah means pepper his beautifully-accented dialogue) that I went through Act I totally unaware that he wasn't actually British. (A check of the program notes during intermission sorted me out.)

Though it may not be true of all the actors involved, Blue/Orange is as British as any Seattle theatre production can possibly be. It's also riveting, disturbing, darkly humorous, and provocatively beautiful. See it.

* * * * * * *

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

"I said your father was sorry for calling you a fucking faggot," 7/31-8/24, ACT Theatre

Rich autumn hues dominating lovely sets foreshadow big changes for the characters of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in the West Coast premiere of the Tony-winning Edward Albee play. And the changes are huge. Shattering. Heart-wrenching. Medean even.

Famous 50something architect Martin (Brian Kerwin, who my date recognized from The Young and the Restless) is so absent-minded that he remembers the name of a hooker he tried to bang in college, but flakes on basic details about his best friend's family. Yet Martin has still somehow managed to win numerous citations and a huge multimillion-dollar contract to design some Wonder City in the Midwest. (Evidently he likes the farmland.) His beautiful wife Stevie (an uneven and over-deliberate performance by Cynthia Mace) is supportive and witty; his college-age son Billy (cutie Ian Fraser) flighty and rebellious. Martin has issues with Billy's homosexuality … but when we find out about the individual he's fucking …

You see, one day Martin lets his best friend Ross (Frank Corrado, doing the best Frasier Crane impersonation I've ever witnessed) in on a little secret … which I won't reveal here. Listen, you've probably figured it out by now anyway, but you need to see this masterfully-written play to have your curiosities (fears?) confirmed. Ross takes it upon himself to pen a tell-all letter to Stevie, who goes nuts and yells and breaks all kinda shit. Billy finds out too, and a lengthy, heated confrontation with daddy leads to a moment of freaky pop-son intimacy.

And if you think that's creepy, wait until you witness the horrific, gloriously over-the-top finale. Oh how I wanted to laugh. And look away. And scream. (Oh wait, I did scream.) As I type this I'm still agape.

The Goat is a phenomenal family-drama piece, essentially a classic Greek tragedy, complete with Albee's signature crackling dialogue and wit. Our lil' local ACT production is a fantastic theatre experience; with better casting and care it could have been absolutely life-altering.