Saturday, May 2, 2015

For All That at Centerstage

Somme time
by Michael Dresdner



For All That, which debuted last night at Centerstage, is an epic musical as judged by a host of criteria. Written by the theatre’s artistic director Alan Bryce, it is big, bold, and evocative, with strong musical support, powerful technical backup, and a gripping subject.

Set during WWI, the story revolves around a small group of  Seaforth Highlanders from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Andrew (Joshua Williamson) has been away at school, a rarity, and returns to his homeland of simple farmers with eyes for Mairi (Katherine Jett) only to see her marry his brother, Donald (Cooper Harris-Turner.) The wedding celebration is cut short as all the men are called up to fight in the war. Only Andrew, as a conscientious objector, refuses to go, an act that earns him the distain of both is brother and Mairi.

We go with the men/boys as they head to basic training, then to the war. There’s bravery, comeraderie, desperation, breakdown, and ultimately, widespread death at the battle of the Somme. One by one they come to see something quite different than the superficial patriotism they reveled in at the outset. Ultimately there’s the realization that the other side is also human, that your own leaders lie, and that the war itself  brings little more than pain and destruction. Those still living, largely the women of the island, are left with the task of  picking up with life after such stunning futility and loss.

The production values, from the dramatic raked stage (Craig Wollam) and varied period costumes (Janessa Styck) through eye-popping lighting (Christina Barrigan) and copious choreography (Amy Johnson) are all outstanding. And though I mentioned only a few of them, the talented triple-threat (singing, dancing, acting) ensemble cast was more than worthy of this grand production, with almost all responsible for convincingly covering a range of varied characters. They, to a person, deserve kudos for a tough job well done.

This is a true musical in the sense that songs are varied, new, appropriate, and are demanded by the story, as opposed to being tacked on as an afterthought. From the upbeat folk songs danced to at the opening, through a range of patriotic, dark, heartfelt, and resolute offerings as the story progresses, the music is consistently excellent. Billed as by Many Hands, the program lists Joshua Zimmerman for musical direction and arrangements, and John Forster for additional music and lyrics, arrangements, and musical supervision. Live musicians are credited (Joshua Zimmerman, Ian Hughes, Andrew Pang, Matthew Goodin), paired with a complex, realistic, and varied sound track (Andy Swan.)  

By now you should have concluded that this is an excellent production that will drag you through mood changes and emotional responses, but not the sort of musical that ends with upbeat happiness. In fact, it rather leaves one with more questions than answers. Generally, with something so moving, one expects a message; some strong theme or statement that helps make sense of the experience. I’m at a loss as to exactly what Bryce means that to be.

Though billed as a love story, it is really not. Yes, there’s love, but is hardly the dominant theme, and is left largely undeveloped. So, too, is the brotherly love aspect; alluded to but again never really evolved. Sadly, the inner humanity of several key characters, the sort of thing that makes you really bond to and root for a person, is often left undeveloped and unrevealed until right before they die, or until the end of both the war and the play.

If anything, the strongest emotions one comes away with are cynicism about war itself and an overarching sadness over what we do in the name of honor and patriotism. Perhaps that’s the point.

At any rate, Bryce and company have given us a new musical that is both a moving experience and something truly worthy of  its existence. I hope it sticks around, and like most properties, goes through development and refinement as others pick it up and interpret it. At very least, it’s worth your time. Do go see it.  
  
For All That
May 1 to 24, 2015
Centerstage












Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fox on the Fairway at Tacoma Little Theatre

Teed off
by Michael Dresdner

    L to R: Russell, Fry, Bolek, Ferguson, McClure, Torwick      photo by DK Photography

Farce, as its etymology suggests, is forced; over-the-top characters in similarly exaggerated situations. Fox on the Fairway, now at Tacoma Little Theatre, is unabashedly billed as such, and true to form, absurdity clings to both the plot and characters.

Playwright Ken Ludwig has written a lot of farces, but this time he left no cliché unturned, rehashing all of the elements that, when taken in moderation, provided welcome chuckles in his other plays. The convoluted plot is heavily larded with low-brow sexual humor, unlikely mood swings, and ridiculous clothing, all peppered liberally with excess shouting and frenetic physicality. Add a laugh track and you might be watching one of those lamentable yet inexplicably popular 80’s TV sitcoms like Three’s Company.   

All the action takes place in bar at a golf country club. Rival golf club presidents Henry Bingham (Andrew Fry) and Dickie Bell (George McClure) make an excessive bet on the upcoming yearly match, each believing he has an ace in the hole. Bell’s brashness extends to his outlandish clothing, consistently misquoted phrases, and a penchant for fornication, and he goads the more upright Bingham in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, new employee and secret golf whiz kid Justin Hicks (Rodman Bolek) is in love with club factotem Louise Heindbedder (Tracy Torwick). When he’s pressed into playing the tournament, he shines, until he is emotionally derailed by a glitch in their engagement. Adding to the tumult is libidinous club VP Pamela Peabody (Stacia Russell), who has a schwarm for Henry Bingham, and Henry’s wife Muriel (Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson) who conveniently feels the same way about Dickie Bell. After a few surprises, a lot of sturm und drang, and an excess of hideous golf outfits, everyone ends up, as is often the case in Ludwig plays, happy and heterosexually paired off.

The set by Burton K Yuen and scenic artist James Venturini, with stage dressing and props  by Jeffery Weaver, was elegantly spot on; beautiful and convincing. Intentionally outre outfits by costumer Michele Graves were both eye-catching and thoroughly appropriate. The same can be said for lighting (Pavlina Morris) and sound design (Darren Hembd.)

Say what you will about this genre and style but the audience on opening night spent an appropriate amount of time laughing it up. I suppose that’s a recommendation all by itself.

Fox on the Fairway
April 17 to May 3, 2015
Tacoma Little Theatre


Friday, April 17, 2015

The 39 Steps at Lakewood Playhouse

Thank you, Mr. Bones
by Michael Dresdner

    Bryan Bender, Deya Ozburn                                               All photos by Kate Paterno-Lick 

You can accurately describe The 39 Steps, currently at Lakewood Playhouse, in just two words: madcap romp. I’ve reviewed iterations of it over the years in three different theaters and this one, directed by John Munn, is by far the best.

Steps is loosely based on Hitchcock’s famous 1935 “chase” thriller of the same name, but is given the extreme comic treatment a la Shakespeare Abridged. In other words, the plot – a man is roped into being both fox and hounds while trying to prevent a secret formula from getting out of the country – is almost completely irrelevant. It is nothing more than a platform on which to haul out and deliver every comic tableau you can imagine.

   L to R: Deya Ozburn, Bryan Bender, Frank Roberts, Paul Richter 

Along the way there are homages to Hitchcock in words, music, and images that are far too numerous to mention. You’ll probably pick up on Vertigo, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window (as a curiously portable prop) and North by Northwest (as a shadow puppet show,) but that barely scratches the surface. Chances are you won’t catch them all, which may be a damned good excuse to see this play more than once.

Though versions vary, this one had a decidedly vaudevillian flavor, and Munn has resurrected almost every piece of comic shtick that’s ever graced the old time stage. Thus, it requires a flawless comic cast supported by innumerable (and excellent) costumes (Diane Runkel), clever props and set pieces (Virginia Yanoff and Lex Gernon), lighting (Kristin Zetterstrom) and sound tricks (Nena Curley.) Even the booth gets into the act with gags like intentional sound cue screw-ups, so here’s a tip of the hat to stage manager Jenifer King.

    L to R: Frank Roberts, Paul Richter 

Mostly, though, a property like this requires an ideal cast, and this one has it in spades. The leading man, and the only actor who plays only one role, must first be as charming a heartthrob as Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, and Bryan Bender, who plays hero Richard Hannay, is just that. From the moment he steps out on stage and flashes a winning grin you can almost see that cartoon trick of a flashing glint of light off his teeth. That’s not all, though. He also brings flawless timing,the athleticism for very physical comedy, and a finely tuned annoyance when things (intentionally) go wrong on stage. Thus his perfectly nuanced glances at the booth when phones keep ringing after being picked up or lights that refuse to turn off and on, and his impatience when he tires of the slow-motion staging of an elaborate fight scene well before his fellow actors. In short, he’s the perfect Hannay.

His three primary female counterparts are played by Deya Ozburn, who morphs from exaggerated Germanic vamp Annabella Schmidt, through sweet but back-stabbing Pamela, to unsophisticated but helpful Margaret. As with all the roles, there are tons of physical demands along with the comedic ones, and Ozburn can keep up with the rest of this talented cast just fine, thank you very much.

L to R: Bryan Bender, Frank Roberts, Deya Ozburn 

Anchoring all the other 100-odd parts are the two rubber-faced, loose-jointed clowns, who switch personas, voices, costumes, and even genders faster than a nymphomaniac can drop her dress. Frank Roberts and Paul Richter do the honors here, and they are superb, creating wildly different and hilariously bizarre characters in the blink of an eye, flashing both tirelessly and seamlessly from one to another. These four make up the entire cast, and believe me, they make this show.

It’s spring, the sun is out today, and this is the perfect accompaniment to the mood. The 39 Steps is as pure a night of goofy, easy-to-swallow fun as one can divine. As the song says, pack up all your cares and woes and let these four delightful comics treat you to a couple of hours of mindless, non-stop hilarity.

The 39 Steps
April 17 through May 10, 2015
Lakewood Playhouse
http://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Shipwrecked! at Centerstage

Foley, Fanfare, and Fantasy
by Michael Dresdner

   L to R: Elinor Gunn, Chris Shea, Terry Edward Moore   Photos by  Michelle Smith Lewis

Imagine, if you will, sitting in a Victorian theater in fin de siecle England being regaled by a man who took to sea as a youth and emerged three decades later with a swashbuckling tale that defies belief. That, in a nutshell, is the premise of the fulsomly titled SHIPWRECKED! An Entertainment. The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as told by himself) now playing at Centerstage.

Directed by Roger Curtis, who also directed Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin, it’s not surprising that it has some of the upbeat feel of a Panto.

The action begins with Louis de Rougemont himself stepping out on stage and introducing himself to us, the audience. Adroitly crafted by Terry Edward Moore, he graciously welcomes us to the story of his life, then launches into the tale, acting it out as he goes.

    Terry Edward Moore (center). L to R: Chris Shea, Elinor Gunn 

Moore does a superb job of becoming the charismatic and picaresque de Rougemont. Starting from his sickly childhood at his mother’s side, his story drags us along through a stint on a Coral Sea pearl hunting boat and a storm induced shipwreck in which he and the captain’s dog are the only survivors. Left washed up on a deserted shore, he eventually saves three lost aboriginals, bonds, and returns with them to their homeland, where he, of course, becomes something of a hero.

Through it all, his story is amplified by two fellow actors. As good as Moore was, his two sidekicks quite litterally ran circles around him.

Watching the amazing Elinor Gunn and Chris Shea spin through a dizzying array of characters, both human and canine, was captivating. In the space of a second or two they’d change gender, personality, action, and voice, go up and down levels and ladders, and grab (and discard) a staggering stream of clever props, costume pieces, and headgear. Think of the character changes of Shakespeare Abridged or 39 Steps coupled with the gaudy energy and splashy accoutrements of a Panto and you’ll have some idea of what they offer.

  L to R: Terry Edward Moore, Elinor Gunn, Chris Shea 

Gunn went smoothly from mother to publisher to waif to ship captain, and dozens of others, all without a flaw. Ditto for Shea, who took on tars, gents, suffed shirts, primatives, and a variety of femmes, both fatale and elegant. His repeated appearance as Louis’ trusty canine companion, coupled with short shots of him as either a fetching or prim woman, were alone worth the price of admission.

Together they filled the stage with all the sounds, characters, and props needed to flesh out de Rougemont’s tale and make it come to life audibly and visually. In short, they were wonderful.  

But wait; there’s more. In spite of the heavy and atheletic character load, they find the time to also provide all the play’s elucidating sound effects. Armed with an array of gizmos and period machines, they create sea gulls, waves, rain, thunder, falling masts, and all the sounds of London, Australia, and an island of primatives. They’re living proof that fancy sound programs in use today have nothing on a pair of skilled Foley artists.

A huge range of innovative, often makeshift, costumes by Rachel Wilkie, including an ungodly number of hats, helped the actors transform roles, often using as little as one item of clothing or gear. Cunning lighting changes by Amy Silveria offered everything from the suble change in an oil lamp being blown out indoors to dark skies, hot sun, and even an underwater scene. It’s all done on a clever set by Benjamin Baird that works as home, theater, ship, island, and street scene, replete with trapdoors for fire pit, buried treasure, and a hot bath. There’s even a shadow puppet screen that, among other things, let’s us watch a giant octopus take down a sailing ship.  

Of course, if you shy away from bombast, high energy exposition, frivolous folderol, and “squash-buckling tomfoolery,” this may not be your cup of tea. Even so, you’d miss some of the finest performaces I’ve seen from three incredibly tallented actors.

For those who love the tall tale told first hand, cast off the present and let Centerstage plop you into a seat anchored firmly in the late 19th century. Sit back while de Rougemont’s thoroughly implausible tale washes over you in all its breathless glory.

SHIPWRECKED! An Entertainment. The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as told by himself.)
March 20th through April 4th, 2015
Centerstage


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Tacoma Little Theatre


Diamond in the rough

by Michael Dresdner

   L to R: Rodman Bolek, Jacob Tice, Bryce Smith             Photos by DK Photography

Written by comedian Steve Martin, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, now at Tacoma Little Theatre, is a seriously funny play. The lines are brilliantly comic, the concept interesting, and the characters, if not wholly fictional, are certainly charismatic.

The conceit is that it’s 1904 and we’re eavesdropping in a bar visited by both Einstein and Picasso as young men, just before either of them made his first big breakthrough. Other characters come and go primarily for comic value, and there’s plenty of that. As for the plot, what little there is has slim import. For the most part it’s all about setting up funny characters in funny situations and giving them even funnier lines.

Director Rick Hornor’s pacing was briskly satisfying, and the ensemble cast was solid. Yet, I had a nagging feeling that there was a spark of eclat that was missing. What was good could have been greater.

That’s not to say it was not sprinkled with some great moments. The opening absinthe/vodka exchange between barkeep Freddy (Jacob Tice) and Einstein (Rodman Bolek) was perfect in both timing and delivery, one of many humorous gems that sparkled in this play. An amazing piece of brilliance from Tara Jensen as a gorky fan was another all too brief shooting star of comic perfection. Then there was Dan Lysne in a bit part, rushing through like a bracing breeze as an inventor with delusions of adequacy. Add in the stolid, sensible foil Germaine (Colleen Bjurstrom) and you have my personal handful of on-stage favorites.

  L to R: Colleen Bjurstrom, Jacob Tice 

As usual, the production values were very much up to par. Blake York’s set, dazzlingly dressed and propped by Jeffrey Weaver and superbly painted by Maggie Knott, is both beautiful and clever. In what has become eerily familiar at this theatre lately, it not only stood out, but at times, especially during the last scene, damned near stole the show from the actors. Costumes by Michele Graves and lighting by Pavlina Morris were smoothly integrated and had their own moments in the sun, the latter particularly obvious in the closing sequence.  

So, then, what’s the problem? Often, when doing Shakespeare, directors will tell you to let the words do the work. While Steve Martin is definitely not Shakespeare, his strength resides not in the physical acting, but in his finely tuned comedic lines. In this case I feel the best way to let the humor shine through is to take a more subtle, less-is-more approach as far as the acting is concerned.  

To be fair, it was only opening night, and these things have a way of ripening with age, so don’t let that hold you back from coming to see this more than pleasant gaggle of onstage oddballs. Focus on what is, rather than what could have been, and you’ll still have a very funny, very lighthearted evening of pure entertainment.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
March 13 to March 29, 2015
Tacoma Little Theatre



Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Miracle Worker at Lakewood Playhouse

The life of a soul  
by Michael Dresdner

   L to R: Liberty Evans-Agnew, Deya Ozburn         All photos by Kate Paterno-Lick 

Disabuse yourself of any notion that this play will be depressing, maudlin, or dispiriting, for it is anything but. The Miracle Worker, now playing at Lakewood Playhouse, is as superb and enjoyable a production as you can imagine. As easy as it might have been to slip into the noir, it is instead gripping, hopeful, and at the end, thoroughly rewarding, thanks both to skilled direction by Pug Bujeaud and simply amazing acting by the cast.

Yes, there are wonderful period costumes by Rachel Wilkie, especially Kate’s outfits, lighting (Daniel Cole) used to change our focus to make one stage appear as five distinct settings, and an unobtrusively convincing set by James Venturini that worked beautifully without drawing focus. But it is the cast, and in particular three leads, who made this show the absolute winner it is.

The play itself is superbly written, laced with foreshadowing, subtle parallels, and even some circular connections, all rewards for the observant theater denizen. For instance, the figurative ongoing tug of war for control of Helen between Annie and mother Kate actually plays out literally in one scene. The play even does a fine job of adroitly answering the classic question of why Annie Sullivan would devote such superhuman effort and patience to Helen. It’s all part of an ultimately closed circle of guilt and redemption surrounding Annie’s deceased younger brother, and comes complete with an insight into Annie’s own horrendous childhood.

You probably know the story. Helen Keller, struck blind and deaf by disease before the age of two, had morphed into a spoiled wild-child thanks to the guilty indulgence of her parents. When she was seven, they hired 20-year-old Annie Sullivan, herself almost completely blind in spite of several operations, who through extreme patience and tenacity set out to break through the wall of dark silence Helen occupied. After a frustrating start, Annie realizes that Helen’s enabling parents are undermining her efforts with well-meaning and loving over-indulgence. She insists that the only way she can get through to Helen, and get her to behave as well, is to have her to herself, isolated in an out building on the property. There, with no one to turn to but Annie, the two finally start to make some progress.

While the entire cast was worthy of praise, three women in particular stand out. All were completely endearing, and I found myself genuinely caring about these people whether their actions were right, wrong, kindly, or seemingly cruel. That’s the first step toward creating a play well worth watching.

   L to R: Liberty Evans-Agnew, Gretchen Boyt 

First, there’s Gretchen Boyt, who plays Kate Keller, Helen’s mother, and takes us convincingly through a range of severe and conflicting parental emotions. Struck with horror at Helen’s illness-induced debilitation, Kate becomes the classic enabler, showering Helen with extreme forbearance, love, and unfortunately, pity, to assuage her unfocussed guilt. Later she is forced to come to grips with the fact that she is a very large part of Helen’s problem, and Boyt lets us see the struggle of her internal battle between well-meaning indulgence and tough love.

Helen herself is played by Liberty Evans-Agnew, and it’s hard to imagine a young actor doing a better job of holding her own bracketed by such pros. With no dialog to fall back on, everything she does is physical, yet she both wins us over and thoroughly conveys the range of emotions Helen indulges in, from frustration and anger, to fear, trust, and love. This young woman does the part yeoman service in a performance that would be called marvelous by an actor of any age.

   Top to bottom: Deya Ozburn, Liberty Evans-Agnew 

Last, and most certainly not least, is Deya Ozburn’s staggering portrayal of Annie Sullivan. I have in the past praised Ozburn for very varied roles here at Lakewood in The Children’s Hour, Twelfth Night, and The Importance of Being Earnest, but this was a new high. Ozburn brings the tireless, highly focused Annie to life. She wears dark glasses to protect her sensitive eyes, and reads hunched over with her face a mere inch or two from the page. The bulk of her portrayal is physical, but when she does speak, her terse, emotionally vibrant words reveal a young woman with a tormented body and soul who somehow found uncommon strength and confidence from her travails, and one seriously worthy of our respect and admiration. 

Not surprisingly, much of the interplay between Helen and Annie is wordless, but highly energetic. During one scene in the first act, Annie chases everyone out of the dining room to be left alone with Helen. What follows is a long battle of wills between Helen and Annie that is surely both physically and emotionally taxing in the extreme for both actors. Not a word is spoken the entire time, yet that scene, the high point of the play for me, was by itself a brilliant tour de force for which both Ozburn and Evans-Agnew deserve kudos.
  
By the time the play ends with the final, uplifting reward of Helen’s breakthrough at the water pump, the audience has been treated to some of the finest performances of the year. This is a theatre experience that can take you well outside your comfort zone, then cap the adventure with palpable relief and pure elation. Grab your calendar and schedule a time to see The Miracle Worker. You will not be disappointed.


The Miracle Worker
Feb. 20 to Mar. 15, 2015
Lakewood Playhouse

http://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Great Gatsby at TLT

The great gamble  
by Michael Dresdner 

Rarely do people say “it’s better than the book,” but The Great Gatsby at Tacoma Little Theatre is one such example. By putting together a flat-out amazing cast, director Dale Westgaard turned a multiple, triangulated love story into a showcase for outstanding performances, from the strong, compelling leads right down to the solid supporting ensemble parts.

    L to R: Daisy (Veronica Tuttell), Gatsby (Rodman Bolek)   Photos courtesy of DK Photography

Make no mistake; it was the cast who made this play a wonderful experience. Yes, the production support was there, but this is one case where the acting, pardon the phrase, took center stage.

The story begins on the fashionable shores of East and West Egg in 1922, where nouveau riche Jay Gatsby throws endless stylish parties fueled by bootleg booze. Said parties are spied on by old-money conservative Tom Buchanan and his yearning wife, Daisy, who was in love with Gatsby before he became wealthy, and before she married Tom. Gatsby’s goal is to win Daisy away from her husband and pretend the intervening years never happened. Tom’s goal is to bed other women but still keep Daisy. The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, Daisy’s cousin, an appropriately moral Midwesterner who observes and gets involved, but can never adopt the loose ethics of this crowd of exciting Eastern swells. Naturally, it eventually all goes wrong, and everyone ends up either disappointed or dead.

Now for the fun part; the players.

Rodman Bolek plays a cool, stoic Jay Gatsby, convincing in both his love for Daisy and as a character who could have gone from rags to riches quickly through sheer determination (and a handy mob connection.) Veronica Tuttell crafts a Daisy that is fragile, passionate, weak, and confused, with a timorous voice and a winsome mien that makes it easy to see why both Jay and Tom want her. Jacob Tice, as her husband Tom, is amazing as the quintessential swaggering, sneering bully; a wealthy, right-thinking member of the superior race.

   L to R: Myrtle (Stacia Russell) and Tom (Jacob Tice)

Daisy’s recently arrived Midwestern cousin Nick Carraway is well-crafted by Kelly Mackay, who shows a fine balance while straddling the innocent, moral imperative with which he was raised and the enticing allure of money, women, illicit booze, and the pursuit of pure fun. He’s loved and pursued by the exceptionally sultry Jordan Baker, appealingly brought to life by Ana Bury.

     L to R: Jordan (Ana Bury) and Nick (Kelly Mackay)

Stacia Russell treats us to, among other scenes, a wonderful drunken rage as Myrtle Wilson who is in a rather one-sided illicit affair with user Tom Buchanan. She also does a great contentious scene with her poor, benighted husband George, played by Mason Quinn, who gives us a painfully accurate portrayal of a timid man taken advantage of by both his wife and her lover, a man he thinks is his friend.  

No less impressive was the thoroughly believable chemistry between all the couples, whether loving or contentious. That goes for Nick and Jordan, Tom and Daisy, Jay and Daisy, Tom and Myrtle, and George and Myrtle.

I won’t mention all the supporting players (I’ll leave that to my dear friend Lynn Geyer) but I will say they were worthy of the leads, from Kerry Bringman’s mob heavy Meyer Wolfsheim to the earnest witness, Mrs. Michaelis (Kaylie Rainer) ­­­­who, behind the main action, recreates the events of the car accident in mime for the policeman’s benefit.

To solve the insurmountable problem of a play with many lavish indoor and outdoor scenes, designer Blake York gambled on minimalist; no sets at all. Instead, there was a large screen at the back of the stage on which was projected images of an appropriately elegant room, picturesque garden, roadside, or shoreline. The one downside to that was that when the stage lighting came up, it washed out the image a bit, and there were times when actors cast shadows on the scrim.

Nor were there a lot of props or furniture pieces; just a few chairs that doubled as couch or car seats, a drink cart or two, and at one point, an armoire. What scene changes there were, mostly moving chairs and drink carts on and off stage, were done not by shadowy, black-clad stagehands, but by minions in livery, yet another delightful touch.

The upshot of this was that the actors were very naked on stage; they had almost nothing in the way of props, furniture, or set to distract the audience or aid them. Consequently, there was intense focus on their acting alone. Such a minimalist set could be a disaster for a weaker cast, but in this case it reinforced just how outstanding these actors were. In short, the gamble paid off, thanks to a superb cast.

And the costumes? Divine. Frequent changes meant MANY lavish period costumes by Michele Graves, appropriate not only for the time and income, but for the character personalities as well, right down to Gatsby’s swim suit and Daisy’s classic fringe flapper dress. Equally outstanding were the sweet wigs by Jeffery Weaver. A nod as well to Ben Levine for sound design and Pavlina Morris for lighting, but a double nod to choreographer Elizabeth Richmond Posluns, who must have had her hands full getting a few of the less-than-spritely dancers on stage to do flapper era steps.   

While this production is a surprise and delight, there’s a bit of bad news. This is a short run; only three weeks. So GO NOW! Don’t miss it. And if there are any high school groups out there listening, seeing this is vastly more pleasant than trudging through the book. If you have to read The Great Gatsby, plan a trip to TLT. I wish I could have done that when I was in high school.

The Great Gatsby
Jan. 23 to Feb. 8, 2015
Tacoma Little Theatre