Thursday, March 30, 2006

ARt's 2006-07 season

Actors Repertory Theatre of the Inland Northwest

Tour de Farce
opens Aug. 25

The Shape of Things
Sept. 22

Together Again for the First Time
Nov. 24

Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jan. 12, 2007

Moonlight and Magnolias
April 6

Civic's new season

Goal Crazy! a musical about sports and spring fever
opens Aug. 10

Singin' in the Rain
Sept. 29

Nov. 17

Barefoot in the Park
Jan. 12, 2007

All My Sons
Feb. 23

The Nerd
March 30

The Sound of Music
May 18

Studio Theatre:
Isn't It Romantic
Oct. 20

Jan. 26, 2007

The Cover of Life
March 9

Dusk, by Bryan Harnetiaux
April 27

24th annual Playwrights Forum Festival
June 7

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Noel Coward's Private Lives

Private Lives
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Kevin Connell as Elyot
Jone Campbell Bryan as Amanda

Spokane Civic Theatre
April 2006

Private Lives

Private Lives
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Spokane Civic Theatre
April '06
directed by Trevor Rawlins
Jacqueline Davis as Louise
Rita O'Farrell as Sibyl

Travolta, Bannon, Interplayers

Interplayers has called a press conference for Wednesday, April 5, to announce some sort of one-time project in support of the theater involving Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon.

Says Travolta, "Everyone knows it's hard times over there. That board of directors — they're trying to do a job that some people spend their entire careers learning how to do. God bless 'em — we need good theater around here. They're working hard to keep it going over there."

Ellen had just gotten off the phone with some brother of hers who apparently has something to do with Hollywood.
I think his name is Vinnie Barbarino.

Anyway, John's in *Lonely Hearts* with James Gandolfini as two detectives who do some detecting that leads to the executions in 1953 of the Lonely Hearts Killers -- two lovers (played by Jared Leto and Salma Hayek) who duped WW2 widows using personal ads, then killed 'em. (Like about 20 of them.) ... AND the movie may be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in late May and Ellen just might be going along, "since I have a nice part in it, playing his sister." (Bobo, however, can't confirm the same online.)

Though why John and Ellen Travolta are so excited about showing up at Spokane cineplexes to collect canned food items, even if it is for a worthy ... Oh. That's Cans, not Cannes. Cannes is in that country that was opposed to the war from the outset. Oh. My bad.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

cast for *Sexual Perversity in Chicago* at the Civic

Paul Villabrille and Damon Mentzer portray David Mamet's take on late-'70s lounge lizards: They chase babes at bars, beaches and libraries -- until they meet Joan and Deborah, played by Joelene Smith and Shalya Keating.

Directed by Wes Deitrick
April 28-May 19 in the Civic's Studio Theater
Tickets: $12
Adult language, not suitable for children -- hey, this is %$#&^*% David Mamet!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

CYT classes

Christian Youth Theatre-Spokane
Spring session of Theater Arts classes for children and teens
Classes started March 28, but you can still register through April 6
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30-6:30 pm
Beginning Drama, Beginning Dance and Beginning Voice, along with Magic, Jazz Choir, Intermediate Jazz Dance and Ballroom Dancing
487-6540 or
CYT will produce Stuart Little and Seussical the Musical in May and June

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Opening-night review of *Stepping Out*

at Interplayers through April 1

Interplayers’ *Stepping Out* is an often funny, sometimes somber slice of life about a group of amateur tap dancers. In Troy Nickerson’s production, it’s a well-directed, enjoyable look at how people act when they commit to practicing something they love — even though they’re really not very good at it, even though their lives are flawed.
Seven women and one man meet weekly in a church basement to practice their dancing. They have an ex-chorus girl for a teacher and one crabby old gal over there on piano. Soon they’ll called up to perform at a charity show — which give Richard Harris’ play a narrative frame.
Wisely, Harris leaves most of his characterizations unresolved. With most of these people, we never find out how or if they solve their problems in the world outside the dance hall. (Which, after all, imitates the way we experience others’ lives anyway.) There’s no rush to underscore the lessons learned from overcoming this misjudgment or that mistake.
With his direction, Nickerson follows suit. People rush in and out, show up late, revert to unconscious habits when isolated off to the side — much as they would in everyday life. For the most part, Harris supplies naturalistic conversations, and Nickerson gets his actors to develop their anxieties and boredoms and petty jealousies in believable ways.

The parallel between the amateurs puttin’ on a show in *Stepping Out* and in Interplayers’ present situation shouldn’t be overemphasized, but it can’t be ignored either. The theater is presenting a show about tap dancers, but its recent efforts at reorganization have appeared like a kind of tap dance, too: artistic director quits, half the season replaced, clear signs of financial distress. In each case — for both the theater and its present show — there’s a fair amount of lofting those straw hats and grinning out into the darkness, hoping against formidable odds that everything will turn out OK.
In the world within the playhouse, Nickerson’s cast gradually puts together a tap routine, overcoming obstacles and ending up with a finale that, if it’s not quite spectacular, it’s still quite accomplished. In the world the playhouse lives in — well, they’re trying to whistle their way past some disappointments, too.

One impressive aspect of the various tap dance rehearsals we watch in *Stepping Out* — carried through all the way to the predictably triumphant final extravaganza, when these regular-gal hoofers finally get to show us what they got — is that Nickerson and the two cast members who serve as choreographers, Kathie Doyle-Lipe and Greg Pschirrer — keep it plausible. The first, halting rehearsals have eight dancers doing eight different — and laughably bad — routines, but without indulging in slapstick. Later on, the more polished routines have touches of anxiety and not-quite-there-yet indecisiveness, even though there are clearly some accomplished dancers up there onstage who could show off a lot more if they needed to. But Richard Harris’ play doesn’t have any use for either the Three Stooges in the early going or the polish of the Rockettes later on. Nickerson and Pschirrer found the balance.
Doyle-Lipe does, too, though more as choreographer than performer. As Vera — the bubbly little Brit who’s constantly nosing around other people’s business and trying to improve their lives — she’s in full shtick mode. Maybe it’s because (as in ARt’s recent Ayckbourn show) she’s playing yet another compulsive cleaner who’s in denial about the dirty little secrets of her own life, but Doyle-Lipe here is taking the easy way to laughs. The mincing pitty-pat steps, the bobbing head and overeager gesticulations, that one flamboyant costume — they’re all funny, but they all undermine the big speech that Harris has written to explain Vera’s quirks. The playwright is trying too hard for a Big Speech, but the performer in this case overdoes the setup.
As the teacher of the class, Danae Lowman projects the right kind of concern for her students while still demonstrating over and over that, compared to them, she’s in her own dancing league. A dramatic second-act revelation of hers isn’t entirely convincing — but then there are a couple other lapses like that as well late in this production. As the Troubled One of the group, Angela Snyder needs to let the emotional lava flow when her turns comes, though she certainly creates some haunting moments before then. Nicole Hicks injects some black sass and simply puts it on out there. And Becky Moonitz — the passive-aggressive accompanist, shades of Estelle Getty in *Golden Girls* — displays her talents for comedy, classical music and dance. (She’s even displaying her art work in the Gellhorn Gallery.)
Just when they need it, Interplayers has produced a fun and engaging show. Like these insecure dancers down in a church basement, who among us hasn’t wished for a little more time to do the things we love, even if we’re not particularly good at them? These ragtag characters aren’t particularly talented; their lives are just as screwed up as the rest of ours are. But still, they keep coming back every week, facing their insecurities and their failings. For the people who keep showing up, there are little victories in store. If your marriage is falling apart or falls short of the ideal, just keep dancing, keep smiling — and don’t look at down at your feet where you’re stepping. Just keep on stepping out.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

opening-night review of *Life 101: A New Musical*

at the Civic’s Studio Theatre through April 1

Like an undergraduate essay that’s too much in love with big words and big ideas while still showing some potential, *Life 101* displays some pleasant musical numbers but isn’t nearly as profound as it would like to be.

Donovan Stohlberg and Yvonne A.K. Johnson’s book sets up its premise with stereotypes, stretches them through predictable situations and clutters its second act with a series of unconvincing emotional revelations. When death comes to the forefront near the finale, you can hear the gears of soap opera clanking. On the other hand, Stohlberg — in combination with L.B. Hamilton’s lyrics — knows how to write an affecting love ballad, and Johnson’s energetic direction packs a lot of business into the small confines of the Studio Theatre (proving that musicals can work downstairs at the Civic). But even the best parts of this Life don’t add up to a very satisfying whole.

It’s an uneven evening, all right. *Life 101* takes us to London on a study tour — only this particular pack of students are majoring in Stereotype Studies. Characterizations include the loner, the nerd, the arrogant guy and his love interest, the jock, the romantic ditz and the sorority girl.

From the opening number, “Today Is the Day” (which is reprised as the finale), it’s clear that this show’s characters are entirely too convinced that they’re about to have a really, really profound life experience. (It’s the first of several eye-rolling moments.) But even during this opening song, Johnson coordinates lots of varied movement while the four men singing the male student roles harmonize well.

The leading couple bicker about their writing projects — they’re at odds both romantically and academically — but the stakes aren’t clear: Who mimicked whose ideas when, and why is all that supposed to matter?

Midway through Act One, Stohlberg and Hamilton have written a kind of self-assertive feminist ballad for the leading lady (Kendra Kimball) that’s one of the show’s stronger moments. Her bravado is just a front, she’s yearning for the truth, intends to trust her own insights from here on out — a bit preachy, perhaps, but a well-constructed tune that Kimball delivers with conviction.

Johnson cleverly sets up one scene as choir practice — and just when we think we’re used to the convention, all five choristers turn on the arrogant writer and lecture him in song. It’s a surprising, funny moment that doesn’t take itself too seriously, unlike so much of this show.

What follows, unfortunately, is a let’s-get-the-nerd-drunk scene, tee-hee. We can see what’s coming for miles. Michele Whalen’s choreography stoops to being conventional here — the women’s assertive tabletop dancing had been effective before, but not here — though it’s true that she and Johnson create some nicely increasing intensity and fervor as the students consume more and more Guinness.

But just like life itself, *Life 101* has its temporary triumphs, its momentary embarrassments. The first-act curtain song, “In Those Eyes” is a nice love song, sung by Vinson as he’s getting all gooey over Emily again.

Conductor and keyboardist Gary Laing injects energy throughout, displaying particular skill in the entr’acte. Which would be a pleasant diversion, except that, having set up all these one-note characters, *Life 101* devotes its second act to piling up one attempt at an unexpected reversal after another. But it’s too much, too quickly. Gender bias, economic disparities, insecurity, moral failings, disease — no TV-movie crisis is spared as this Life hurtles toward one emotional catharsis after another.

The best voice in the cast belongs to Tony Caprile as Professor Ryan, who sings engagingly, hopefully, even if his solo (“When Night Calls”) is undercut by schmaltz. First Caprile is asked to be *Paper Chase* haughty, then he’s in a join-hands-and-twirl dance number, then he’s tugging tragically, so tragically at our heartstrings.

And yet just before all that — not terribly well prepared for — comes another of Stohlberg and Hamilton’s affecting ballads (“If we can’t have tomorrow, will you give me today?”) with a lovely melody, sold powerfully onstage (especially by Kimball) and adding up to … an overly rapid reconciliation of the focal couple.

It’s back and forth like that all night long: some affecting moments and promising episodes spread out among too many long and *meaningful* dramatic scenes.

*Life 101* needs a remedial class or two before it’ll be ready for upper-division course work, let alone the tenure track. •

(The Thursday, March 16, revision of this review in *The Pacific Northwest Inlander* will include comments on the literary allusions in *Life 101,* about a self-referential number early in Act Two, and about the very different emotional origins of two of the first-act numbers, "Tell Me" and "Simple As They Seem.")

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

dual auditions at Interplayers

Try out for *Laughter on the 23rd Floor* (director: Reed McColm) on Sunday, March 12, from 10 am-1 pm at Interplayers, 174 S. Howard St. 2W, 7M, ages 20+ Call (208) 660-0781.

Then hang around and try out for *Of Mice and Men* (same Bat day, same Bat channel and location) but from 1-4 pm (director: TBA). Call 455-PLAY.

*Laughter* will run April 27-May 20. *Mice* will run June 1-24.

Life 101: A New Musical

Life 101
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Spokane Civic Theatre, March 2006

from left: Tony Caprile, Charles Gift, Kendra Kimball, Kelly Carnahan, Maureen Krels, Douglas Vinson, Jimmy James Pendleton, David Hardie

Life 101 at Spokane Civic Theatre

Life 101: A New Musical
Music by Donovan Stohlberg
Lyrics by LB Hamilton
Book by Donovan Stohlberg and Yvonne A.K. Johnson
Directed by Yvonne A.K. Johnson
March 10-April 1, 2006

from left: David Hardie, Kelly Carnahan, Charles Gift, Maureen Krels, Douglas Vinson

auditions for *The Music Man*

Spokane Civic Theatre Audition: Main Stage – *The Music Man*
Book by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Directed by Melody Deatherage

Sunday, March 12 (Children 5 pm, General 7 pm)
Monday, March 13 (General 7 pm)

Prepare 1 ½ minutes of a song NOT from *The Music Man*
Cold readings from the script will be the audition.
Roles: Multiple parts ages 8 – 60+
Performances: May 19–June 18

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Stepping Out! at Interplayers

March 9-April 1, 2006
Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
directed by Troy Nickerson

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

auditions for *Take Me Out*

Bobo's directing a Reading Stage production of Richard Greenberg's play.
Auditions at The Inlander, 1020 W. Riverside Ave., on Tuesday night, March 14, from 7:30-9 pm. (between the Spokane Club and the Masonic Temple, diagonally across from Our Lady of Lourdes; you may have to park a couple of blocks away, but at least parking is free after 6 pm)
Cold readings from the script: solo, duos, trios
All-male cast; 11 roles

Darren Lemming of the New York Empires (read A-Rod or Derek Jeter of the N.Y. Yankees) is a superstar -- biracial, utterly self-confident, self-contained to the point of arrogance. He decides to announce to the media that he's gay. The play concerns Darren's best friend and the Empires's shortstop, Kippy Sundstrom (more or less the play's narrator); Darren's new financial advisor, Mason Marzac (who's gay and knows nothing about baseball, at least at first); Darren's boyhood friend, Davey Battle (who's the superstar on an opposing team, dark-skinned, married with three kids and a conservative Christian); and the Empires' new whiz-bang relief pitcher, Shane Mungitt (full of homophobia and racism, analogous to John Rocker); along with five other Empires -- the manager (who doubles briefly as a letter-writing fan), two Hispanics, one Japanese pitcher, and a couple of undereducated/easily awed types just up from the minors.

The auditions are open to all local actors. Because race is important for five of the roles, ideally I'd like to cast actors of the appropriate ethnicities. Figure on about five two- to three-hour rehearsals of this three-act play before our sole performance in the Civic's Studio Theatre on Sunday, April 9, at 7 pm. Call 325-0634 x228 or write