Apair of well-traveled comedies by a writer who didn’t live to enjoy their full success, a sci-fi rom-com for the tech age and a world-premiere drama about a woman who gives her child up for foreign adoption due to economic hardship are among the plays opening this weekend and next at local theaters.
“The Foreigner” and “The Nerd”
Larry Shue was a crowd-pleaser.
A skilled stage actor who excelled at comic roles (though I was lucky enough to see him in a dramatic part, as the larcenous junk-shop owner in “American Buffalo”), he was also an inventor of antic, gently instructive, contemporary farces — plays which would, long after Shue’s untimely 1985 death at 39 in a plane crash, become regional-theater staples in the U.S. and abroad.
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His two best-known titles emerged in the 1980s. They are frequently presented by Seattle-area community theaters and are getting higher-profile productions currently by Issaquah’s Village Theatre and Federal Way’s Centerstage.
In Centerstage’s “The Nerd,” which employs a mistaken-identity tactic Shue excelled at, a young architect is visited by a socially inept man who presumably saved his life in the Vietnam War — and now turns up to make a mess of it.
Seattle director John Dillon, who is staging the Federal Way show, goes back a long way with the play. He commissioned the work and directed its premiere at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, while artistic head there. And he was a close friend and colleague of Shue, who was part of the Milwaukee Rep acting company.
“The Foreigner,” which also debuted at Milwaukee Rep, cleverly mocks American xenophobia and racism with another identity twist. A British man visiting a Southern resort pretends he doesn’t speak or comprehend English, and is thereby privy to a nefarious Ku Klux Klan plot, which he is determined to (very quietly) foil.
Mounting the Village Theatre production is another director of note: former Village artistic associate and Tony Award winner Brian Yorkey, writer-lyricist for the musical “Next to Normal” and for the new collaboration with Tom Kitt, “If/Then,” which is set to debut on Broadway this spring.
“The Foreigner” plays through March 2 at Village Theatre, Issaquah (425-392-2202 or villagetheatre.org). Note: Also runs March 7-30 at Everett Performing Arts Center in Everett.
“The Nerd” runs through Feb. 9 at Centerstage, Federal Way (253-661-1444 or centerstagetheatre.com)
What if you could store your fondest memories on a digital device, to be preserved for all eternity?
That’s the conceit of this Michael Mitnick play, which was introduced in Denver last year and receives its Seattle premiere next week from Washington Ensemble Theatre (WET). A blend of live action and video, “Ed, Downloaded” uses technology to explore mortality, a love triangle and the possibilities of digitizing and downloading experiences to create a kind of heavenly scrapbook.
This is just the sort of multimedia/au courant material you can imagine WET tackling, which they do here under the direction of lead producer, Ali el-Gasseir.
Runs Jan. 31-Feb. 24 at Washington Ensemble Theatre, Seattle (206-325-5105 or washingtonensemble.org).
A voyage backward in time is part of Seattle writer-director Charles Waxburg’s new play, presented by Theatre 9/12.
The First Hill company describes “The Equation” as a “play of excavation” and a “howdunit” (rather than a whodunit) about a Depression-era couple trying to adopt “the infant son of a Russian woman desperate to give her child a shot at the American dream glittering impossibly beyond her grasp.”
The cast includes “Northern Exposure” alum Cynthia Geary.
Through Feb. 15 at Theatre 9/12, Trinity Parish Church, Seattle (206-332-7908 or theatre912.com).
Misha Berson: email@example.com