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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 4, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 1
Live and local: The best Seattle-area theater of 2012
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Live and local: The best Seattle-area theater of 2012

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Two thousand twelve feels like a year of solid, well-done theater, with not so many OMG moments. In fact, some of the most intense experiences this year (some will argue most years) were to be had in the low-budget theaters.

Certainly, theaters that have less money often have more ability to create challenging work without regard to offending subscribers, and 'gypsy' companies with no permanent location can wait to mount a production until they're ready, potentially allowing for more development time. One highly anticipated such production for January 2013 is The Seagull Project, wherein a collection of Seattle talent has been working together for more than a year to bring that Chekhov play to life. (See www.theseagullproject.org.)

BEST TREND: LOCAL WRITING
The year was notable for great local writing. While some large companies are incubating playwriting groups, most of the new work on stage was produced by small companies. Plays such as Emerald City by S.P. Miskowski (who used to live here and came to workshop this very-Seattle play with Live Girls! Theater while based in California); Torso by Keri Healey (produced by Printers Devil Theater); Kittens in a Cage by Kelleen Conway Blanchard (produced by Annex Theatre); Thebes by Kristina Sutherland and Sweet Nothing by Stephanie Timm (both produced by Macha Monkey); White Hot by Tommy Smith, another sometime-local now mostly in New York (produced at West of Lenin); Pullman Porter Blues by Cheryl L. West (at Seattle Repertory); a new musical by Scotto Moore and Rob Witmer, A Mouse Who Knows Me (also at Annex); a prequel at Annex, Team of Heroes by Alexander Harris; and Paul Mullin's Ballard House Duet. All summed up, that's a hell of a lot of solid writing!

The best of those works, for me, were Torso and Kittens in a Cage. Kittens is going on to become a web-based serial launched by ex-pat Jillian Armenante, in Los Angeles.

And that doesn't include two intense and personal works by solo artists: David Schmader's autobiographical A Short-Term Solution to a Long-Term Problem at Hugo House and ACT Theatre's production of Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam by Trieu Tran. Both of those works were transformational in their own ways.

Book-It Repertory had a stellar year, always with local adaptors, with triumphant productions of Prairie Nocturne (adapted by Elena Hartwell), The Art of Racing in the Rain (adapted by Myrna Platt), and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (adapted by Annie Lareau). Prairie Nocturne featured Platt and Geoffrey Simmons in a marvelous relationship on stage as well as Platt's wonderful original musical compositions. Racing included a virtuoso performance by David Hogan as the smartest dog on stage. Hotel had a huge cast with many of our community's Asian-American actors joining in, bringing its uplifting story and informative history to us. Jose Abaoag and Stephanie Kim captured the spirit of 12-year-olds perfectly.

Also, SiS Productions ended its long-running serial, Sex In Seattle, with the 20th episode, mostly penned by the supremely talented Kathy Hsieh.

MORE EXCELLENT PRODUCTIONS
A mini-trend included some gender-bent casting starting with Seattle Public Theater's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, featuring the talents of Angela DiMarco as Rosencrantz, Alyssa Keene as Guildenstern, and Heather Hawkins as The Player, and ending with a whole host of Seattle women playing men in upstart crow's production of Titus Andronicus. Amy Thone played herself limp every night in that title role.

Tight direction, top-notch acting, and excellent technical support were evident in productions such as Jesus Hopped the A Train by Azeotrope; The Pitmen Painters by ACT; a beautifully rendered Pygmalion by Seattle Shakespeare Company; Seattle Children's Theatre's transplendent A Single Shard and Danny, King of the Basement; Seattle Public Theater's Superior Donuts and This Wide Night, Or, at Seattle Repertory; the great ensemble production of Driving Miss Daisy at ReAct Theatre; and a transcendent Happy Days at New City Theater.

TWO DESERVING SPECIAL PRAISE
Young Myrna Conn starred in a most difficult role as Little Voice in ArtsWest's presentation of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. She was called upon to mimic some of the most important singers of our time and showed an incredible versatility, especially for her age. Rodney Hicks, relocated from the East Coast to Portland, debuted in Village Theatre's Big River with a big voice and a big presence. We don't expect to see him here much, but we certainly can hope for it.

MUSICALS, MUSICALS, MUSICALS
The year 2012 was one of solid achievement by the 5th Avenue Theatre, with well-done presentations of Damn Yankees, First Date, Rent, and Elf. Village Theatre had top-notch productions of The Producers and Fiddler on the Roof, with some of the funniest performers Seattle claims doing outrageous stuff in The Producers (here's looking at you, Nick DeSantis).

Balagan Theatre moved front and center into musical theater attention with the help of Eric Ankrim's direction of both Spring Awakening and Avenue Q. With productions of both Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Next to Normal (co-produced with Contemporary Classics) coming in quick succession, they're showing every indication of staying right there.

SORRY YOU PROBABLY MISSED THEM ...
Three productions from tiny companies that most probably missed seeing (but provided stellar entertainment values) include The Illusion by Sound Theatre Company, directed by Teresa Thuman. Suzi Tucker created some gorgeous projections and supported a fantastic set build with Bryan Boyd, and the play introduced Seattle to more of Tony Kushner's work. 'night, mother by KTO Productions (at Odd Duck Studio) displayed the talents of Danielle Daggerty and Bradetta Vines. Also, Mirror Stage Company was able to mount a full production of one of their previously staged readings, Odin's Horse, that portrayed many aspects of old-growth forest logging with compassion and insight.

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