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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
Cool Crooked ranks with the best of Seattle theatre
Arts & Entertainment
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Cool Crooked ranks with the best of Seattle theatre

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Crooked
Theater Schmeater
Through February 12


At first, the new play, Crooked, at Theater Schmeater seems like a great play for all sorts of high schools to do, focusing as it does on a 14-year-old girl moving to a new school. But the layers and complexity and subject of the piece begin to draw you inexorably into a deeper and more philosophical world. Playwright Catherine Treischmann has written sharply drawn characters, all of whom expose their hearts in ways that make you want to love them.

The 14-year-old, Laney (Mariah Caine Ware), is a smart girl who is great with words. She's an aspiring writer, but one who is lonely and unsure as her mother moves her back into mom's childhood hometown. Her mom, Elise (Jená Cane), is hoping for a new start in an old place, and is maybe thinking that 'going home' will help her gain roots and solidity.

Maribel (Zoey Cane Belyea) is a lonely, ex-home-schooled daughter of a preacher who finds herself isolated due to her eager desire to 'save' people by introducing them to the love of Jesus. She's held back in school, since she needs remedial help to catch up to her peers.

Elise is disdainful of Maribel's religious beliefs, but somehow still gains Maribel's attention as being an adult who will listen. Laney wants her own distinct relationship with Maribel and is jealous of Maribel's attachment to her mother. Elise is torn between letting Laney grow up and wanting to hold on to the great relationship they've shared, which bolsters Elise's ability to make it in the outside world.

Part of what is so great about Treischmann's play is that she captures young teenagers with such clarity. Laney all of a sudden decides that she wants to 'convert' to Maribel's Christian beliefs and 'get saved,' and due to her rush of feelings for a new friend (and because she spontaneously kisses Maribel), she decides she is a Lesbian! She tells her mother, with 14-year-old conviction, that she's a 'holiness Lesbian' and her mother must swallow her laughter in order to honor her daughter's fervent beliefs.

The second act could go just about anywhere from the first. The unfolding story doesn't hint at what's to come. But it brings a lot more than you might bargain for, as the religious undertones emerge more strongly, and the longing for each character to connect to other humans is revealed.

Laney, in her desire not to talk about painful areas of her life, has lied to Maribel, telling her that Laney's father is dead, when actually he is mentally ill, leading Elise to feel she has to divorce him. Elise has said nasty things about Maribel to Laney, since Elise doesn't believe in religion, and Laney hurtfully repeats them to Maribel. Emotions run hotter and higher.

There is an abrupt ending that leaves the audience almost gasping. But on reflection, that ending allows us to all write our own ideas of what happens next. If Treischmann had continued, it would have been just her idea of what those characters would do, and many audience members would resent that idea. This way, you get to debate afterward what you think it means and what these characters will do next in their lives.

Every actor in the production is marvelous in inhabiting her role and bringing complete believability to the character. A fun quirk is that Zoey and Jená are daughter and mother in real life, but Zoey does not play the daughter in this production.

Directing with a sure hand, Russ Banham decided to stage the play in the round, which increases the intimate feeling. A very utilitarian set by Brendan Mack helps make scene changes quick and painless.

Original music during scene changes is provided by Charlie Banham (Russ' son) and his group, Shaymlusly Elliterate - which is a funny name for this production, focused as it is on literacy! One interlude in particular is an evocative hip-hop style song that is great for that moment in the script. Subtle lighting shifts by Dave Hastings help distinguish reverie from real time.

This is just a really cool play and a really cool production. Enjoy it. For more information, go to www.schmeater.org or call 206-324-5801.

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