Friday
July 1, 2005

Volume 33
Issue 26

IN THE SGN

Thursday,
Jul 31, 2014
06:30
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Bits & Bytes  
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer



A film with strong Gay elements slipped quietly into town last week and is slowly building an audience within Seattle Gay’s community—just like the director hoped it would when he talked with “Bits & Bytes” about Heights when it screened at the recent Seattle International Film Festival. ACT has a huge hits on its hands with a wonderful new production of Born Yesterday, Intiman’s fine, fine Three Sisters is drawing appreciative crowds, Sunny Sings Sinatra, a Las Vegas-styled revue opening tonight, transforms Crepe de Paris intro Crepe ala Italino for the summer—it’s a great week for “Bits & Bytes” and for Emerald City entertainment fans.

BILLIE DAWN LIVES IN ACT’S BORN YESTERDAY

There’s no doubt about it—ACT Theatre has a huge hit with its sparkling new production of Born Yesterday, the 1946 political-based comedy about an ex-chorus girl who knows nothing but knows everything. Warner Shook, best known as artistic director of Intiman Theatre during the Angels in America years, has continued his career as guest director, reaching new highs with each independent project. Last year, his Enchanted April delighted (and, yes, enchanted) ACT subscribers. This year, Born Yesterday reaches new highs. The political satire is fresher than anyone could have imagined, and the comedy center of the play continues to work like a Swiss watch.

Born Yesterday is totally dependent on the success of the director picking the right actress to play Billie Dawn, the quintessential dumb blonde at the center of the script. Judy Holliday won Broadway raves when she created the part, but Hollywood would not consider her for the film version in 1950—until no one else could match her performance. Reluctantly cast, she went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress, beating out Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard the same year. It became an iconographic film performance that remains fresh in the memory.

For ACT’s Billie, Shook picked Jennifer Lyon, a young actress with regional and some New York credits. She is uncanny in her recreation of Holliday—this scribe would like to see what she does a decade from now when she is old enough to play Billie (an ex-chorus girl at the end of her few moments of fame) with a little worn-torn feeling. Lyon is outstanding in the role, but, as often happens in Born Yesterday, she seems to be playing Holliday playing Billie. It’s a minor quibble that few in the sell-out crowds will notice.

Richard Ziman is terrific as Harry Brock. Ziman has extensive Broadway, regional and ACT credits and he grounds Brock, the junkman who buys and sells senators, in a comic reality. Paul Morgan Stetler is solid as Paul Verrall, the “intellectual” writer who is hired to give Billie some class and some smarts. As Paul and Billie talk about art, music, literature, politics and personal matters, one speech sums up the delightful Billie Dawn on the eve (yes, the dawn) of her transformation. She is talking about her father: “I haven’t thought about him in five years, but, then, I haven’t thought about anything in five years.”

A strong supporting cast of Seattle and ACT regulars flesh out the production. A handsome set from Robert Dahlstrom and solid (if derivative) costumes from Frances Kenny add to the fun. The show is most famous for its gin rummy scene—Billie calls “Gin” almost as fast as she can sort her cards. In ACT’s in-the-round production, the card table is against one “wall” and the whole scene is difficult to see for a third of the audience. Single ticket buyers should ask for seats across the circle from the card table....or the card table should be moved center stage by bellhops for the pivotal scenes there.

Born Yesterday plays through July 17. Ticket information at (206) 292-7676.

SUNNY SINGS SINATRA OPENS AT CREPE DE PARIS

The new cabaret at Crepe de Paris in downtown Seattle turns the popular French restaurant into Crepe ala Italino for summer as Sunny Sings Sinatra opens for a two month run.

Sunny, the single named star, brought Sunny & Her Seven Blondes to the Crepe de Paris several seasons back before taking it to Reno and other entertainment centers. It remains the most lavish production in Seattle cabaret history. Sunny is the blonde and talented wife of Seattle-based entertainment producer Greg Thompson who builds all of his Reno, Las Vegas and cruise ship shows in his Elliott Avenue complex. To extend the Sinatra element and his strong involvement in the Italian community, Crepe de Paris will feature an “all Italian” gourmet menu with the dinner/theater package that is offered for the Cabaret At The Crepe shows. “Bits & Bytes” will tell you all—watch this space.

HEIGHTS DIRECTOR TALKS ABOUT FILM’S GAY ELEMENTS

Heights, an intellectually challenging and emotionally rewarding new film, moves into its second week at the Harvard Exit and is slowly finding it audience. The film’s producers have deliberately kept the lid on the numerous Gay elements that might have made the independent film a hot topic within the GLBT community.

Chris Terrio, the film’s young director, sat down with “Bits & Bytes” during the recent Seattle International Film Festival where the film was one of this scribe’s Top Five favorites. Terrio got his big break as a production assistant to James Ivory, personal and professional partner to the late Ismail Merchant. The discreetly openly Gay pair are best known for their Merchant Ivory films, usually beautiful period pieces like Room With A View and Howards End. Terrio was just 25 when he was asked to make a short, three-character play into a sprawling Woody Allen-styled kaleidoscope of New York with dozens and dozens of characters. He worked with playwright Amy Fox to transform her three-character play into the complicated one-day-in-New-York film script.

“Amy gets most of the writing credit, but it was really a collaborative effort,” Terrio told “Bits & Bytes” in an exclusive SIFF interview. Terrio, who claims “I never discuss my private life in interviews,” does acknowledge he brings a “Gay sensibility” to the script. “The campy, ‘in’ jokes and brittle All About Eve one-liners are all mine,” he proudly acknowledges. Why the low-key approach to the film major Gay elements—one of the film major characters in a young out-of-work Gay actor, a major plot point hinges on the hidden Gay past of another of the major characters “Bits & Bytes” asks. In its long list of GLBT films at the Festival, SIFF did not even list Heights.

“It was a conscious decision not to ‘type’ the film as a ‘Gay Film’,” he explained. “Ismail and James decided the film had such a wide appeal that it would be misleading to suggest it was only for Gay audiences.” Interestingly, the best reviews locally or nationally have come from the Gay press or openly Gay film reviewers who seem to better understand the fears of the closeted young man on the eve or his marriage to the perfect wife. When he finishes a long phone call with his lawyers to block publications of graphic nude pictures taken by an older lover/photographer when he was in his early 20’s, the camera draws back to show that nude shot of him as a huge billboard right behind him. His secret is obviously out, even if he isn’t. Because of the working styles of Merchant-Ivory, Heights was made as an independent film. Glenn Close was drawn to the project because of the strength of the writing, Terrio said, not the salary. Indeed, it gives Close her first strong roles in years that is not a caricature of her own career.

A number of major actors in minor roles adds to the texture of Heights. Isabella Rossellini makes her mark with two words, “Super Duper!” George Segal, Eric Bogosian, Rufus Wainwright and others make supporting or cameo appearances. For most of the audience, this adds a lot of fun to the film. For some, it is distracting. Many at the SIFF press screening found the early part of the film hard to follow. Glenn Close is clearly the leading lady, but she is not. It is her daughter, underplayed by Elizabeth Banks, who takes center stage well into the film. She is the bride with the closeted “perfect” groom.

Heights continues at the Harvard Exit on Capitol Hill. It is a challenging and rewarding film and will hopefully find its audience on the big screen. If not, it will be one of those “how did I miss this” films with a long shelf life in video and DVD stores. Check it out at the Exit.

LAST WEEK FOR INTIMAN’S THREE SISTERS

Intiman’s fine, fine production of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, in a new adaptation by openly Gay playwright Craig Lucas, made Seattle theater history even before it opened. With the press night and opening night set for a Wednesday, the Seattle press corps was informed on Tuesday that “the show was not ready” and the critics would be invited for Friday night (or soon thereafter). “With a world premiere (in this case a new adaptation), we usually schedule extra previews,” Intiman’s press rep explained. The director and the playwright decided during the scheduled preview period that the show needed extra performances before facing the press. “This has never happened in Seattle,” one long time critic noted, “but it should have.”

“Bits & Bytes” caught up with the show the next Wednesday and, glad to report, it is a winner in every department. Craig Lucas’ adaptation/translation is effective and plays well. Bartlett Sher’s direction is on target throughout. His decision to import three New York-based actress to play the title trio was well thought out. All three were new to Seattle which made their characters even fresher and more appealing. A strong Seattle cast in supporting roles made the show one of Intiman’s best productions of a classic title in many years.

The show starts its final countdown this weekend and closes July 9. Check with the box office for final performance dates—and discounts. Details at (206) 269-1900.


ENTRE LATIN@S
Hugo Overjero
Spanish & English



GENERAL GAYETY
Leslie Robinson



DEAR GLENN
Glenn Pressel



LESBIAN NOTIONS
Paula Martinac


NOTE** finding non clickable links? Sorry these columns are not featured in this weeks edition