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August 4, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 31
 
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Bits & Bytes
ACT hosts world premiere of controversial Mitzi's Abortion, Seattle Opera opens Der Rosenkavalier
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Opening highlight the week for Emerald City entertainment fans. The city's newest shows-Mitzi's Abortion at ACT, the latest films, fringe offerings at various Capitol Hill theaters, the outdoor Shakespeare offerings-all seem to have qualifications in various reviews. The future-in this case, the near future-holds promise of better things. It should be a great month for Seattle stage, music and film fans-which, of course, includes Bits&Bytes.

OPENINGS HOLD PROMISE OF FUTURE SUCCESS

It seems a new show is opening in every theater in town.

Der Rosenkavalier returns to Seattle Opera using the incredibly gorgeous sets and costumes of the 1997 production. It opens tomorrow night and runs eight performances through Aug. 26. Ticket information and sales at 389-7676 or (800) 426-1619 for out-of-area music fans.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels moves direct from Broadway, with its Tony Award-winning Best Actor, opening its national tour here in the Emerald City. The raucous music comedy adaptation of the charming film plays for nearly two weeks at the Paramount Theatre as part of its Broadway Across America touring series.

George Bernard Shaw's social comedy, Heartbreak House, just opened at Intiman Theatre and continues with evening and select matinee performances through Aug. 26. It should be one of the major dramatic successes of the summer.

Rewind 1987, an interactive musical salute to the 1980's, continues at the Last Supper Club in the Pioneer Square area, playing Saturday performances through Sept. 30. Watch Bits&Bytes for a full review.

Tonight and tomorrow, ACT offers two free readings of an important new play, Ghetto Mansion, by Seattle-based actor/playwright David Scully. The second event of ACT's new The Hansberry Project, the readings are at 7 p.m. today and 4 p.m. tomorrow afternoon in the intimate Bullitt Cabaret space at ACT.

The Hansberry Project, is a new "African American theater lab designed to provide the community with consistent access to the African American artistic voice." The project got off to a shaky start last month with the mainstage production of Wine In The Wilderness, a stage adaptation of a 1960's television script that offered few fresh insights into anything. The ACT physical production and acting were excellent, but the script was dated and seemed a questionable choice for a mainstage production. Hopes are high for Ghetto Mansion. Admission is free, as in free.

Me & My Shadow: A Swinging Evening Of Jazz Favorites continues Thumper's Cabaret On The Hill series. The "summer evening of music and enjoyment" opens this Sunday, Aug. 6, and continues Sundays through Aug. 27.

Aaron Shanks and Samuel Pettit join together for a cabaret featuring the music of Rodgers & Hart, Kander & Ebb, Cole Porter and other Great American Songbook composers. Inspirations for the comic musical outing include Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra & Bing Crosby, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis and others. Reservations at 328-3800.

MITZI'S ABORTION CONTROVERSARY MARKS ACT OPENING

ACT Theatre and Seattle playwright Elizabeth Heffron expected controversy with the world premiere of Mitzi's Abortion, the in-your-face new work running through Aug. 20 at ACT's downtown theater. Indeed, many theater types feared that ACT and Heffron courted controversy with the endless interviews about the subject matter and the confrontative title.

The playwright's graphic explanation for the title-"I want to say it out loud myself and not wait for a pipe bomb in my mailbox"-was used so often it became a running joke in the theater community.

Many loyal ACT fans and supporters were concerned about the title-Mitzi's Choice, Mitzi's Dilemma, anything except Mitzi's Abortion.

Expectation were high for the new award-winning script in its world premiere production. And the capacity opening night crowd seemed ready for the controversial nature of the play.

Alas, the controversy was not focused on the abortion aspects of the play. It came from an unexpected source (read on for details). The playwright worked so hard to keep Mitzi and her predicament fairly balanced that she went overboard. Mitzi discovers through medical science that her unborn son suffers from a rare condition-the fetus has no brain and will be stillborn or die within hours of delivery.

Shudders of revulsion swept through the opening audience when Mitzi's doctor explained that without a brain, the fetus will have no idea when the nine-month gestation is finished-Mitzi's pregnancy could last more than a year before the fetus self-aborts.

There is really no choice. And, with a play load of buffoon characters-even her Gay best friend is an obvious, didactic stereotype-the audience has no real voice in an on-stage character. Even Thomas Aquinas is an anachronistic fool-addicted to Diet Coke, Subway sandwiches and modern recliners that vibrate-he provides no clear voice of the conservative Catholic Church.

The plays ends with a funeral for the aborted son-and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is sung in Esperanto by the cast. It's that kind of play-with that kind of overkill.

Turns out the controversy on opening night revolved around a throwaway put down of Seattle's Group Health. The play is set in Seattle and many of the local references work fine (but many fall dead on the ACT audience). The best use of local color occurs when one character explains the differences between patrons on the Metro buses: "This isn't the No. 2, dear, it's the bus to Burien."

Discussing medical insurance, one character says, "I hate Group Health." A few other put downs followed. That was the hot spot for the opening night crowd.

The next day, ACT announced that because "of concerned audience and community members" (and, if rumor is correct, a couple of powerful ACT board members who went ballistic), the script had been revised and a hypothetical Seattle HMO was now the subject of attack, not Group Health. So much for the pipe bomb.

As it is, Mitzi is simply not ready for a full production at a major theater. With major revisions, more workshopping, more character depth and variation, there might be a good play lurking in the rambling script. All of the actors and the fine ACT technicians do solid work, but the script is simply not strong enough to support a full production. There's much to like, but&

Mitzi continues through Aug. 20 with evening and select matinee performances. A loyal supporter of the GLBT theater crowd, ACT offers its traditional ACT-Out Fridays tonight at 6:30 p.m. Free nibbles and a no-host bar allow Gay and Lesbian stage fans to mix and mingle before the performance.

Other special events are ACT traditions-like the Aug. 11 "signed" performance for deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons. Check with the likeable ACT box office staff at 292-7676 for complete details. Remember to ask about various discounts-student and senior rates, assorted "rush" policies, the $10 under-25 tickets, etc.

PLAN AHEAD FOR MOZART & MORE! AT U OF W

The University Of Washington's School Of Music offers Mozart & More! on Friday, Aug. 18, in the Walker-Ames Room in Kane Hall. The 7:30 p.m. concert, featuring the UW Summer Chorale and Orchestra, offers works by Mozart, Boulanger and Faure.

Admission is just $10 for general admission or only $5 for students or seniors. All tickets-cash or check only-will be sold at the door. Jason Anderson conducts; student soloists will be featured.

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