Saturday, March 31, 2007

opening-night review of *The Nerd*

at Spokane Civic Theatre's Main Stage through April 22

Comedy is tough, actors will tell you, and there are a number of reasons that the Civic's *Nerd* isn't as funny as it could be or should be.
Oh, there are bright spots: Brian Lambert's squinting, beaver-tooth obtuseness in the title role and Paul Villabrille's slow-burn exasperation as Willum, the host who feels he simply has to put up with the King of Clueless — along with several sequences of effective silliness.
But director Maria Caprile's production overstays its welcome with slow pacing and the excessive stageyness of actors who are straining to score comic points with the audience (as opposed to acting with and at one another within the parameters of playwright Larry Shue's comedic world — which, admittedly, are sometimes absurd).
Take Chad Hagerty's performance as the prematurely world-weary, wise-cracking best friend, Axel the theater critic. Hagerty often punctuates the action well with his sarcastic one-liners tossed in from the sidelines (though he misses just as often). But Hagerty aims some of his comic riffs — a quick Mary Tyler Moore spoof, a Groucho Marx allusion — out into the darkness where the eavesdroppers are instead of keeping the comic energy up onstage where someone like Jaime Mathis (in the role of Tansy the girlfriend) might be able to use it and react to it. Actors who act toward the audience instead of toward one another create continual reminders that we're not actually witnessing anything that's real. And for Shue's farce to function well, characters with a strong sense of propriety need to be established so that the Nerd can come along, nose-picking and faux pas-ing his way toward whatever's improper.

With this show, however, propriety isn't held that dear. Mathis makes Tansy the kind who's continually traipsing in and out of the kitchen like Mrs. Cleaver, attempting to maintain decorum with smiles (and bayonets) fixed. But since her career beckons more than Willum responds (and because of her unexplained friendship with Willum's best pal, Axel), it's not clear at all that Tansy and Willum value having everything just so. Hence, no comic deflation when Nerd Man comes on the scene.
Willum's business client Warnock "Ticky" Waldgrave (Dave Rideout) and his son Thor (Spencer Lambdin on opening night, though he'll alternate in the role with Hunter Jasper) are sketched from the outset as blowhard and brat. Both Shue's script and this production under-emphasize how big the stakes are for architect Willum during the dinner party that's exploded in Act One by the arrival of that darn guy with the pocket protectors. If we were made to realize just how proper and formal Willum's expectations are, we'd cringe in greater delight over how Rick the Nerd upsets the apple cart of even the simplest social interactions.
Good jokes contain little surprises; there's a reason we say they relieve monotony. But too often in Shue's script, jokes keep getting repeated even after the pattern's clear and the surprise has been revealed. For example, a sequence of second-act shenanigans requires several characters to act in deliberately outrageous ways. But once we've watched inappropriate things being poured into teacups three times, the pattern's established and no longer very funny, even if there's mild interest in just how the next type of deliberately and self-consciously outrageous behavior will arrive. It's like watching parents trying too hard to be silly at a 3-year-old's birthday party: It's mirthless and forced.

Lambert's portrayal of Rick the Nerd, however, does bring on the mirth while avoiding some details of the stereotype. (There aren't really any pocket protectors.) Inflicting on us not one but two pairs of truly horrific plaid pants, and with his shirttail sticking out through his zipper hole, with teeth like an elderly rat's, his eyes scrunched behind horn-rim glasses and a chest that's a concavity, he kicks his heels when delighted with surprises and hangs his head when he meets with disapproval. Lambert's Nerd has a child's perspective on things: "I don't make these rules," he advises, even as everybody around him is flailing about ridiculously in the midst of some ridiculous party game that he himself has instigated. Did he forget that it's his game? Does he have a kid's exaggerated respect for authority? No matter: Lambert makes his Nerd an endearing, child-like creature.

The Civic's *Nerd* has other hightlights too. After intermission, when Willum and his girl and his buddy team up to get Revenge Against the Nerd, they create a lot of funny moments. There was, however, a fair amount of stepping on laugh lines (not letting a sight gag register long enough for the audience to extract a full laugh before the dialogue plunges onward) and of underplaying the sexual tension (when a Willum-Tansy kiss gets interrupted, or when a loaded remark that could affect both their public and private lives is rushed past).
But Shue's script and Caprile's direction both underscored nicely how much selflessness and generosity matter in all our interactions, even the ones with the world's misfits and outcasts and nerds. Lambert projects a nice pleading quality when his feelings are hurt, or when he can't believe that Willum lacks a copy of some central moral teachings. His nerd just doesn't catch the simplest social hints — the ones we all take for granted. It's not until the end, when Rick Steadman reveals a vindictive streak, that our sympathies realign.
By then, more than two and a quarter hours after it started, the Civic's *Nerd* has been traveling for too long on the comedy highway, even if it has dropped several Easter eggs along the way. It's a production with some funny stretches that are undercut by slow pacing and by a failure to establish propriety as the pretty balloon that everyone onstage would like to play with and that the Nerd would just like to puncture.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Six short comedies at Auntie's on April 7

"Spring Fling"
Saturday, April 7, at 2 pm
Liberty Cafe at Auntie's Bookstore, 402 W. Main Ave.
Write or call 953-9928

Six 10-minute staged readings of comedies by Spokane-area playwrights
directors: Sandra Hosking and Paul Spencer
actors: Jackie Davis, Terry Sticka, Rebecca Cook, Kathleen Malcolm, Ray Bunker and Kaliene Roth

plays and playwrights:
Sandra Hosking, "The Insured"
Penny Lucas, "The Peeper"
Parker Francis, "Project Unity"
Jeanne Gustafson, "Phone Booth"
E.M. Lewis, "Lend Me a Mentor"
Sandra Hosking, "Trademark"

See *The Inlander* on Thursday, April 5, for the plays' premises.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

no *Wicked* next season

Best of Broadway Spokane has announced their 2007-08 season. No *Wicked,* "but it wasn't for lack of trying," Bobo was told. Maybe next year ...

Movin' Out, Sept. 25-30, 2007
Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp

Chad Mitchell Trio, Oct. 6
Chad's from Spokane; first time here in 43 years
some funny B&W clips of the Trio in action on the Ed Sullivan Show and on a Dinah Shore special

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Oct. 30-Nov. 4
in the videotape compilation showing off the announced productions, they cut around John Lithgow; apparently they figured nobody would recognize Norbert Leo Butz -- anyway, it's not THAT cast ...

The Wedding Singer, Nov. 27-Dec. 4
first national tour

Jesus Christ Superstar, Dec. 18-19
with Ted Neeley ("the original Jesus Christ," as Jack Lucas of WestCoast Entertainment referred to him; Neeley, who was born in Sept. 1943, was 30 -- appropriately enough -- when he played Jesus in the 1973 film; that makes him 64 by the time he appears here)

Riverdance, Jan. 18-20, 2008
the final year of that tour

Gypsy, Feb. 21-24, 2008
was on Broadway in 2003, and is now, as Lucas said, "being resurrected" for a national tour

Mamma Mia! March 25-30, 2008
Six nights of ABBAbabba.

Only Movin' Out, Dirty Rotten, Wedding Singer and Gypsy are part of the season proper; the other four events are add-on shows. Lucas mentioned that "there's always the possibility" that other shows might be added

A sign of last-minute juggling: on the signs lowered from the fly space on the INB Center stage to announce the season, both Riverdance and Mamma Mia! were dated Jan. 18-20, 2008 -- so one or the other got swapped into its present date

Lucas characterized the April 24-26 production of Cats as "the fourth one, I think," that WestCoast has brought to Spokane. In fact, it is the sixth production of Cats at the Opera House/INB Center: August 1987 (the very first BofB show in Spokane, followed by feline productions in 1988, '93, '97, 2004 and now 2007. (And that doesn't count the productions at CdA Summer Theatre and at WSU's Beasley Coliseum.)

This is being billed as the 20th Anniversary Season. In fact, the 20th season is concluding this spring; the 2007-08 season will be the 21st in Spokane.

More than 1.5 million attendees at BofB shows in Spokane over the past 20 years

$10 million in economic impact every year in Spokane: hotels, restaurants, shopping and other local services

Visit Janean Jorgensen's for a list of the shows that MIGHT have come here (and, in some cases, are coming to the Northwest): Putnam County Spelling Bee, Light in the Piazza, Camelot

Note that Spamalot opens in Portland on Aug. 22 and in Seattle on Oct. 10, 2007
Sweeney Todd and Avenue Q will play Portland in April and June of 2008

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hart benefit on Thursday, March 29

Actor/director John Hart and his wife Beth have a critically ill newborn. A month old now, Colin is at home but the prognosis is not good.
To help with the ongoing medical expenses, St. Aloysius Elementary School (where Beth teaches in the Early Learning Center) is holding a spaghetti-feed dinner on Thursday, March 29, from 5-7 pm. Please come to the cafeteria at St. Al’s, 611 E. Mission Ave., for spaghetti, salad, rolls and dessert. Suggested donation is $5 adult, $3 child, or $20 family. Gift baskets will also be raffled off.
If you can’t attend but would like to make a donation to the Hart family, please mail to Sandra Skeim at St. Aloysius, 611 E. Mission Ave., Spokane WA 99202.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

opening-night review of *Relative Chaos: The Plumb-Nutts Family Reunion*

at CenterStage through April 14

OK, so I’m the Big Bad Wolf of local theater reviewers, and I may have said a disparaging thing or two about past shows at CenterStage.
But I’m here to tell ya, folks, that the dinner theater on West First Avenue may have lighted upon its formula for success: interactive dinner theater.
You chat with friends, you drink some wine — next thing you know, some loudmouth actor is sticking a camcorder in your face, crying drunkenly on your shoulder, pulling you into some kind of party game (like catching walnuts with toilet plungers — I caught two! After two glasses of wine!)
And it’s involving and escapist and fun (mostly — some of the comic bits missed).
Upon entering into the world of Jean Kavanagh’s *Relative Chaos,* you’re seated at a family reunion with either the Plumbs or the Nutts, and they have you fill out a 25-item questionnaire (sample: “Would you pay someone to make sure that Verizon guy can’t hear you now?”) as an ice-breaker between you and your table mates. (They may be your “relatives” now, but five minutes ago, they were total strangers.)
But the best fun lies in entering into the improvisation games with the actors. When an actor strolls by your table and starts trading improvised jests with you, reality slips away in a form of structured play for adults. It’s time to leave the spreadsheets and blueprints at work, because CenterStage is providing grown-ups with a sandbox for finding the kid inside again.
For most of the first two-thirds of this interactive show, I was having as much fun (and felt as thoroughly involved) as at any show I’ve attended in quite awhile. (Things go downhill during some scripted musical skits later on, but it’s nothing that playwright Kavanagh can’t cure if she’s willing to slice an hour out of an over-long show. But there’s a very funny, very entertaining play in here.)
Some examples of interacting with the cast from my experience (your mileage may vary):
Erin Wissing as a tree-hugging PETA activist, so ardent while pressing a spaying/neutering pamphlet into my hand that I signaled the server for another drink.
Distant cousin Maude (Ginny Isbelle) informing me she really, really hates beets — this was from the questionnaire — and would like to spend some time on a desert island with Bill Clinton “because he’d be so entertaining.”
I try heckling Jamie Flanery, who’s playing a drunken lout named Pete. He’s going from table to table, complaining to everyone within earshot “about that guy with an earring over there.’ “You’re Plumb out of line,” he snorts, working the crowd.
Hey, Pete, have you ever heard of “intervention”? How about “abstinence”?
Later on, I overhear Flanery as Pete complaining to his father Walt (Ron Ford, the addle-brained patriarch) about “that troublemaker” in the crowd. And that troublemaker was me. I was getting the hang of this!
It’s hard to know when to cut in, when to end the bit. (Just ask the improv artists at Blue Door and ComedySportz.) But a real sense of team play emerges: You’re in this with the actors, and that sensation overcomes a lot of criticisms about how community-theater this bit felt or how under-rehearsed that segment seemed. Because with a show like this, we are the community: We’re all in it together, creating an escapist illusion just for one night.
And that goes well with the pea salad, ham, garlic potatoes, corn with red peppers and strawberry shortcake that I finally remembered to devour even though I’d shown up hungry for this family reunion. I was having so much fun, I forgot to eat.
Hey, psychic moonbat lady (Judi Pratt, with an endearing Agnes Moorhead as Endora in *Bewitched* vibe): Can I have another of those moonstones?
“They’ll create double the peaceful aura for you, my dear.”
Screw the aura. I just want to ward off that Pete guy (Jamie Flanery, playing a drunken lout). He brings a lot of negative energy into the room, you know?
Would I like a second glass of wine? I sure would. My side of the room is starting to take sides. “Nutts! Nutts! Nutts!” we chant. …

It’s a serious miscalculation to include so many obviously rehearsed (and not improvised) sketch-comedy spoof musical numbers in the show. There were spoofs of *The Beverly Hillbillies* and Marvin Gaye and the Eagles that were, frankly, embarrassing to watch.
The fun of a night like this, you see, has to do with *commedia dell’arte*-style improvisation: Actors have a character note or two, a scene with a few scripted lines, but then they try to reach right through that reality/fantasy barrier, grab us by the lapels and shake us till we laugh. But that’s the problem with the obviously staged musical skits: After the actors have worked hard for half an hour to create a merger of illusion and reality, along comes some hokey pre-set business to remind that for the next three minutes, it’s not that anything could happen — only this dumb prearranged thing is going to happen.

*Plumb-Nutts* has at least one too many endings and a final dance number that was embarrassingly bad.
But at one point, Flanery, while stumbling around “drunk” as Pete the party boy, fell down — hard — all the way to the floor. Diners leaned forward — did he need a help up? “It’s OK,” he improvised as he struggled to his feet, “I do this for a living.”
And he was. They all were. *The Plumb-Nutts Family Reunion* merges playtime with everyday living in an intriguing and funny way. Even better, perhaps it’s pointing the way toward a kind of theater with which CenterStage could improve its standard of living.


For a much-revised version of this review (Bobo has nearly three times this much in notes, and many more examples to cite, and some pondering of interactive reality/illusion blurring to do), see the Thursday, March 29 *Inlander.*

Thursday, March 22, 2007

some random *Plumb-Nutts* photos

For two photos of Jean Kavanaugh's *Relative Chaos: The Plumb-Nutts Family Reunion* (at CenterStage, March 22-April 14), navigate over to

or if that doesn't work, try seaching for Plumb-Nutts or theater Spokane

1017 W. First Ave., Spokane
(509) 74-STAGE
Tickets: $43; $39, Thursdays (only combination dinner-theater tickets are available for this show)

An audience-interactive spoof of family reunions. When you enter, you become either a Plumb or a Nutt. They've entered Oprah's Family Reunion Contest to play a Family Feud-style game and, hopefully, beat those darned Baskett-Cases (who are currently in the lead).

Ron Ford as patriarch Walt Nutts
Jamie Flanery as son Pete Nutts
Judi Pratt as daughter-in-law Hazel Nutts
Dennis Ashley as son-in-law Stanley Plumb
Evelyn Renshaw as daughter Dolly Plumb-Nutts
Erin Wissing as Stan and Dolly's daughter, Sugar Plumb
Jone Campbell Bryan directs and plays the reunion planner, Kathmagerdor Korn
Austin Mell as Pine Nutts
Ginny Isbelle as Maude
Jeff Sirek as Richard Awesome

set by Jason Laws
lighting by Jeffrey Bryan
costumes by Dee Finan
produced by Tim Behrens

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dorothy Darby Smith remembered

Spokane's Grande Dame of Theater, Dorothy Darby Smith, died on Friday, March 16.

Smith was the Spokane Civic Theatre’s first President of the Board when it began 60 years ago, in 1947. She acted, worked backstage and covered the box office.
She directed Barry Sullivan in *Born Yesterday* during Expo ’74 and Mercedes McCambridge in *The Glass Menagerie* the following year. She directed six productions alone of *A Christmas Carol.*
Smith’s final appearance on stage was in 1992, portraying the title role in Driving Miss Daisy.
Smith was also a drama professor at Gonzaga University.
A tireless supporter of many arts organizations in Spokane, Smith was recognized for her service in 2002 with the Spokane Arts Commission’s Individual Artist award. She continued to be an Honorary Board Member for Spokane Civic Theatre until her death.

Dorothy Darby Smith memorial

Dorothy Darby Smith memorial service at Spokane Civic Theatre
Friday, March 23
5-6 pm reception in lobby
6-7:30 pm a celebration of her life
Open to the public
1020 N. Howard St.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

opening-weekend review of *The Cover of Life*

at the Civic's Studio Theater through March 31

Rosie the Riveter didn’t just work in factories. All over the country during World War II, with the men absent, women learned that they actually had personalities and dreams of their own.

Director Susan Hardie’s production of R.T. Robinson’s *The Cover of Life* (in the Firth J. Chew Studio Theater through March 31) starts out as a slice of Southern small-town life during wartime and concludes by revving up the engines of sisterhood and solidarity.

The premise has promise: Three brothers have gone off to war, leaving their wives to move in with Mama. Amid the difficulties of merging four disparate lives, in comes a fifth woman: a reporter from Life magazine who’s gotten wind of the story and wants to make something more of it than just a cozy human-interest profile.

But of the men in the lives of the five main women in Robinson’s play — the mother-in-law’s worthless husband, the three brothers gone off to war, and the Life reporter’s boss and publisher — only one actually makes an appearance in this play. This has its advantages and bigger disadvantages. Plays are often enlivened by discussion of off-stage characters, after all: It creates the sensation that the onstage folks live in a complete world. But when so much of the conversation involves unseen, unspeaking male characters, the deck seems stacked in favor of the girls. (In fairness, playwright Robinson is of the male gender, and his grandfather was one of the three Cliffert brothers who went off to fight the war.)

The men’s exclusion from the action has its distractions: With all that telling instead of showing, I found my attention wandering much more often than with other plays. Which husband’s in which branch of the armed forces? And he’s fighting where? Who’s the switchboard operator spreading gossip about now? And tell me again why the third husband’s a rotten scoundrel just like his no-good father?

Despite the absence of some ghost characters, some of what we see onstage is engaging. Hardie’s direction and Sara Nicholls’ performance as the Life reporter are the best things about this show. There’s a sequence early in the evening — the three young wives scurrying around the kitchen, gossiping and bickering as they swirl past their mother in law — that seems so naturalistic, you forget you’re watching a play. Hardie choreographs the ebb and flow of conversation at a tricky point — during the necessary exposition — but makes it all seem like real-life bustling-about.

As the big-time New York City reporter, Nicholls has the proper swagger. In the slacks and shoulder pads supplied by costumers Susan Berger and Jan Wanless, she looks like the picture of 1940s proto-feminism, a kind of Margaret Bourke-White character (the photojournalist played by Candice Bergen in *Gandhi*). The action quickens whenever Nicholls appears as the city fish out of water down here in Loozeeanna, partly because her character is resisting Henry Luce up in NYC from the beginning.

As the sailor-husband of one of the three sisters-in-law, Andrew Biviano captures the put-upon pleading of a runty youngest brother. He’s weak enough to make over-fancy promises in his fervent love letters home while still appearing strong enough to expect that any wife of his will bury her own dreams in favor of his own. And Biviano and Morton cut a rug with some nifty ‘40s dance moves. Beau Wilkinson has provided an evocative swing-dance soundtrack.

Susan Creed contributes her usual sense of command as the matriarch, though a gun-wielding crazy scene didn’t carry much conviction. As for the three wives, Lauren Waterbury plays a good drunk but isn’t up to the tragic demands of her philandering wife role. As Weetsie (yes, they have names like that in this play), Melanie Simka doesn’t make much of an impression, partly because Robinson doesn’t clarify her story and doesn’t give her much to do other than bicker. The best of the lot is Tanya Morton as Tood, the one who gets enlightened through contact with a Modern Urban Woman and learns to stand up for her dreams, even when her hubbie comes triumphantly home. Morton has a vulnerable quality that serves her well in scenes when she reluctantly has to confront others about their narrowness. Along with Nicholls’ reporter, Tood’s journey is the most interesting investigation of how you can’t judge life — “upper-case or lower-case” — by its cover.

Betty Tomlinson memorial on Wednesday

Betty Tomlinson Memorial Service at Spokane Civic Theatre
Wednesday, March 14
5-6 pm reception in lobby
6-7:30 pm a celebration of her life
Open to the public

Tomlinson was Spokane Civic Theatre’s first executive director and ran the theatre from 1961-91.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Spokane Civic Theatre Endowment Fund, 1020 N. Howard St., Spokane WA 99201.

Monday, March 12, 2007

cast for *Humble Boy*

Charlotte Jones' comedy
at Actors Rep, April 6-22
directed by Michael Weaver

Patty Duke (you may have heard) is playing Flora Humble
Carter J. Davis (Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Intiman Theater) as her son, Felix Humble
J.P. O'Shaughnessy ("Proof" at the Civic) as her fiance, George Pye
Jane May (*Wings* at Interplayers) as Rosie Pye, George's daughter and Felix's ex-girlfriend
Therese Diekhans (ARt's *Absurd Person Singular*) as Mercy
Patrick Treadway (oh, he's simply everywhere) as the gardener

set by John Hofland
costumes by Lisa Caryl
lighting design by Justin Schmidt

Arts and Stats in Spokane

According to an EWU report ("The Economic Impact of the Arts in Spokane County") to be presented to the Spokane City Council tonight, there were nearly three-quarters of a million paid admissions to arts events in Spokane County in 2005 (to be exact, 737,291).
Nearly 20 percent of attendees were from outside Spokane County. (Bobo speculates that this would break down as roughly about 10 percent from Kootenai County and about 2 percent each from a couple other counties in Washington and Idaho each. But he's following up with the number-crunching economists.)
Forty-three percents of paid admissions were for the performing arts (split among music, dance, theater and opera), with 27 percent from visual arts exhibits, 23 percent from festivals and fairs, and 7 percent from all the rest (youth and adult education, literary arts, etc.).
What Bobo wants to know: That 737,000 figure is an aggregate. But how many unique attendees were there? (In other words, how many distinct people make a habit of attending arts-related events in Spokane?) And what proportion of those go to theater? Is it really true that the same 2,000 or 4,000 people go to theater events around here — or not?

March 24 fundraiser for *Forever Plaid*

Help send the Lake City Playhouse musical to Tacoma for the AACT regionals (that's the American Association of Community Theaters) by attending a fundraiser on Saturday, March 24, at 7 pm at the Old Church Arts & Cultural Center, 405 William St. in Post Falls. Tickets: $15.
Visit or call (208) 667-1323.

photos from *The Cover of Life*

three photos from the Civic's production (through March 31) are up at; search for "Sir Andrew Aguecheek's photostream" or for "theater Spokane"
All six women in the cast are pictured at least once. (Sorry, Andrew.)

cast list for *The Nerd* at the Civic

*The Nerd,* by Larry Shue
Directed by Maria Caprile
March 30–April 22
Tickets: $18; $15, seniors; $12, students
Call: 325-2507
Back in Vietnam, Rick saved Willum's life. (Willum was unconscious and never saw Rick's face.) Now Willum is an architect who's having his 34th birthday party. Rick shows up — and turns out to be a socially inept, tactless, bumbling oaf.

Jaime Mathis as Tansy, the TV anchor next door
Chad Hagerty as Axel, the best friend
Paul Villabrille as Willum
Dave Rideout as Warnock, the haughty client/boss
Ryan Patterson as Clelia, Warnock's wife
Hunter Jasper and Spencer Lambdin as Thor, their bratty son
Brian Lambert as Rick Steadman, the nerd

Sunday, March 11, 2007

*Assassins* Kills at Kaleidoscope

The recent Spokane Civic Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim's *Assassins* was the adjudicators' overwhelming favorite at the Washington state community theater competition ending today in Walla Walla, winning seven of a possible nine awards:

Best Costumes -- Jan Wanless
Best Set Design -- David Baker
Best Supporting Actor -- David Gigler as John Hinckley
Best Actress -- Marianne McLaughlin as Sara Jane Moore
Best Actor -- Patrick McHenry-Kroetch as John Wilkes Booth
Best Director -- Troy Nickerson
Best Production

The only two awards SCT missed out on were for lighting and supporting actress.
The *Assassins* production was up against one-hour shows from community theaters in Tacoma, Olympia, Edmonds, Walla Walla, Richland and more. (All had to have set designs confined to a 10-foot-by-10-foot space, set up in 10 minutes, performed in an hour and broken back down in under 10 minutes.)

Congratulations to everyone involved! And now it's on to Tacoma in two weeks for the regionals (against the Lake City Playhouse production of "Forever Plaid," which won in Idaho, and a show from Alaska — and then, one hopes, on to the national competition in Charlotte, N.C.

(Bobo took notes quickly at intermission of *The Cover of Life,* so apologies to anything he got wrong or overlooked. Please write in with corrections.)

A resounding affirmation of the idea that musicals could thrive even in a black box theater. Also, vindication for the idea of doing edgier material "even at a community theater in a conservative town." A longtime labor of love by a very talented director will attract a top-notch cast and result in a riveting show -- even for the folks who are put off by the appearance of somehow "glamorizing" criminals. The fact that some people are/were offended is EXACTLY WHY shows like this should be done. Saying that the theater should bring pleasure — purely and unadulterated, without any admixture of, oh, all those other emotions we feel in life (like anger and confusion and curiosity and sadness) is just a way of confining theater to hidebound, familiar productions. People who solely want escapism aren't the theater's friends -- not really.

OK, off the soapbox. This is the *Assassins* people's moment. Great job!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sirius auditions March 19 for Durang double bill

Try out for Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All to You” and “The Actor’s Nightmare” on Monday, March 19, at 7:30 pm at the Kenworthy, 208 S. Main St. in Moscow, Idaho
director: Warren Carlson, (208) 885-1436 or
Short monologue preferred
4 M, 6 W, one 8- to 12-year-old boy
Rehearsals: March 20-April 11
Performances: April 12-14, April 19-21 at 7:30 pm

Sunday, March 04, 2007

opening-weekend review of *Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks*

at Interplayers through March 17

It’s important to be reminded of the need for simple compassion. We live in a world of stereotypes: It’s easy to be quick about sizing up people and then dismissing them even quicker.
That’s why it’s so annoying to have potentially genuine moments of generosity and affection undercut by the predictable, cloying bit of manipulation that is Richard Alfieri’s plot in *Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks* (at Interplayers through March 17). To arrive at the moments of genuine compassion in this play, you sure have to grind your teeth through a lot of scenes.
Alfieri’s scenes are predictable in their structure and in the revelations they attempt (none too well) to withhold. When a lonely retiree (Kathie Doyle-Lipe) invites a bitchy gay dance instructor (Joel Richards) into her hardwood-floor living room for the title’s course of instruction, you can just sense how differences in age, class, gender, social values, religion, sexual orientation — and preferences in the color and material of throw pillows — will all become debating points.
Even worse, the tonal shifts in Alfieri’s writing are head-snapping: first Lily’s stomping off the stage, then Michael’s barging out the door. He lets fly with a few choice uncensored thoughts, so she’s offended; then she lets some of her prejudices show, and he’s off somewhere sulking.
Then they make up, toss off some wit-cracks and then pause under a pin spot just long enough to let you know not only that this particular dance lesson has concluded but also that we have reached an Emotional Moment of Reflection.
As Lily and Michael, Doyle-Lipe and Richards are reasonably good half-characters: Neither is persuasive during the more serious moments. That leads to a serious imbalance, but at least both are accomplished comedic actors: Doyle-Lipe with her engaging elfin grin as she throws her head back in glee during a particularly torrid tango, Richards with his consistent cheerfulness as he enters each scene in another flamboyant dance instructor’s costume. But the comic rhythms — the extensions of sly grins, the holding for laugh lines — creep over into the dramatic exchanges, particularly in Richards’ case, with the result that the pain of being ostracized and the sadness over loss aren’t fully conveyed.


For the remainder of this review — with comments on the production’s dialogue, set, lighting, direction, dance sequences, final scene and more (including some audience behavior), please pick up a copy of *The Pacific Northwest Inlander* on Thursday, March 8.

Friday, March 02, 2007

*Six* pix

photos of Kathie Doyle-Lipe and Joel Richards in Esta Rosevear's production at Interplayers of Richard Alfieri's *Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks* are now posted on Bobo's Flickr account
Try searching for "theater Spokane," then click on any photo that belongs to "Sir Andrew Aguecheek"