Performance picks for July 28-Aug 3.
Want to see a show? Each week, Seattle Times critics offer a few opinions. We haven’t seen them all, but here are excerpts from reviews and best guesses.
Katori Hall’s “Hoodoo Love” centers on Toulou, a blues singer with demons in her past — and her future — and Candylady, a former slave who serves as the neighborhood folk healer. Seattle Times critic Misha Berson writes: “As in many a mythic tale, however, elixirs for winning love and wishing harm don’t always work the charm. As Candylady advises, free will can really botch things up. … Though set in the 1930s, ‘Hoodoo Love’ (now in its vivid local premiere by Sound Theatre Company and the Lorraine Hansberry Project) is steeped in antebellum African-American lore and in modern feminist convictions. Redolent with steamy blues and erotic imagery, it is less about a young woman’s musical ambitions than her liberation from victimhood at the hands of men — be they rapacious or just unreliable. ‘Hoodoo Love’ preceded Hall’s best-known play, ‘The Mountaintop,’ a supple, meaningful dialogue between Martin Luther King Jr. and a feisty female spirit. Here, too, her writing is ripe with sensuality and gritty candor, though by the end the story gets mired in melodrama at the expense of mystery.” Through July 30, Sound Theatre Company, Center Theatre at Seattle Center Armory; $25 (206-856-5520 or soundtheatrecompany.org.)
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This should be one for the books — a collaboration between some of Seattle’s best playwrights to write a map of contemporary American struggles where, as Pony World Theatre artistic director Brendan Healy said, “New York can be next door to Montana.” This crazy-quilt of a play, he said, is “not browbeating or dismal; there’s a lot of joy in it.” Nevertheless, “American Archipelago” (perhaps riffing off The Stranger’s famous “Urban Archipalego/Do Not Despair” cover after George W. Bush was re-elected), Healy added, “addresses some of the things that are going on in America, things that have people riled up.” In lesser hands, this project could tilt toward the saccharine or maudlin, but Pony World has a solid lineup of playwrights who know how to thread the needle between genuine angst and gallows humor: Holly Arsenault, Kelleen Conway Blanchard, Tré Calhoun, Vincent Delaney, Brendan Healy, Maggie Lee, Sara Porkalob and Seayoung Yim. If you can’t stand the heat, get back in the kitchen and learn to deal with it. It’s your duty as an American. Through Aug. 12, Pony World Theatre at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave.; $20 (800-838-3006 or ponyworld.org).
This new play by local actor/writer R. Hamilton Wright isn’t a sharp-edged satire about science, government and the corporate interests that loom over the world of intellectual property — instead, it has a serrated blade that cuts in several directions at once. A naive but well-meaning scientist, Dr. Timothy Hei, stumbles across a new kind of grass seed that needs no pesticides, almost no mowing and is capable of asexual reproduction. The agronomist-protagonist becomes an overnight celebrity and attracts a platoon of business cowboys, government agents and hired strongmen who want to kill the project — by either buying off or threatening the scientist. Actor Ashley Bagwell commands the stage, playing a sack full of entertaining zanies, from a bolo-tie-wearing lawn magnate who seems like a “yee-haw!” burlesque of Oklahoma financier T. Boone Pickens to a conservative talk-radio host. (Host: “Come on, doctor, don’t hide behind 10-dollar words. Speak plain to the real America!” Dr. Hei: “Uh …” Host: “That’s better!”) Through July 29, MAP Theatre at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle; choose your own price from $5-$50 (800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com).
Though I loathe the already-clichéd term “hackathon” — yeesh, people are using it as a synonym for every group-thinking project these days, from “brainstorming at work” to “improvising a new recipe with friends” — Strictly Seattle at Velocity Dance Center is like … one of those. This year’s choreographers, who’ve been working with dancers from beginners to professionals, are some of Seattle’s best, from longtime legends to young guns just starting to put their thumbprints on the national dance/performance-art scene: Mark Haim, Wade Madsen, Kate Wallich, Jody Kuehner, Andrew Bartee, Maya Soto and many others. If you’re already a dance fan, you know those names. If you’re not a dance fan, you should. July 28-29, Velocity Dance Center at Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway; $18-$25 (206-325-8773 or velocitydancecenter.org).