The return of Intiman? 2-month, 4-play season opens in July
A preview of the four-play Intiman Theatre Festival, which is the Seattle theater company's first season since financial distress caused the company to close in 2011. Previews begin July 5; the fest runs through Aug. 26, 2012.
Seattle Times theater critic
Intiman Theatre FestivalFour shows in rotating repertory. Previews begin Thursday; shows run through Aug. 26. Intiman Playhouse, Seattle Center; $30 general seating (schedule: www.intiman.org; tickets:www.ticketmaster.com).
With a new artistic director at the helm (Andrew Russell), a new format, a tightened budget ($1 million for four shows) and a 17-member rep ensemble of local actors rotating roles, the Intiman Theatre's imminent summer festival won't be business as usual — artistically or otherwise.
The stakes for the 40-year-old company are higher than they've ever been. After a financial meltdown in 2011, Intiman energetically rallied supporters to back this compressed summer season. And the board and staff are already looking toward a 2013 program along similar lines.
But let's not mince words: To move forward, with funders and patrons, what Intiman throws down onstage this month had better be good. Really good.
Details of what's in the wings:
"Romeo and Juliet": The early word on this airing of William Shakespeare's tragic romance was that the titular lovers would be from warring Israeli and Palestinian clans. That has shifted to a less-specific cultural milieu — but one still influenced by director Allison Narver's travels in the Middle East.
The mood of Narver's version, says Russell, is "claustrophobic, messy, urban and very young and sexy. It feels like these kids were raised in a culture of violence. It feels very modern, relevant and accessible."
The sweethearts' roles are filled by two fresh local talents: Quinn Franzen, of Seattle's Satori Group company, and Fawn Ledesma, a recent Cornish College grad.
Like all three shows slated for the Intiman mainstage, the play will share a flexible unit set by Jennifer Zeyl.
"Hedda Gabler": Henrik Ibsen's saga of fatal female frustration in Victorian Norway features busy local thesp Marya Sea Kaminski in the lead. (She was also Hedda in a 2007 experimental riff on the play.)
Russell has directed the work as "an emotional thriller" set to Norwegian folk music. "It's not deconstructed, or absurdist, or performance art-y. We're loyal to what the script says, but we've highlighted how all the play's events take place in just 48 hours."
A collaborator here is Olivier Wevers, who heads Seattle's Whim W'Him dance company and is choreographing movement for the piece.
Timothy McEuen Piggee portrays Hedda's predatory friend Judge Brack, and recent Yale School of Drama grad Michael Place is her idealized former beau, Lovborg.
"Miracle!": The riskiest bet of the fest? This go-for-broke parody of William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker," the renowned drama about deaf, blind and mute author Helen Keller's early relationship with her devoted teacher, Annie Sullivan.
Created and directed by controversial local author-activist (and longtime theater guy) Dan Savage, the play tells the story of the mute Helen Stellar, who finds his voice in Seattle's drag-show scene with the aid of a tutor and "an army of divas."
A parody in the manner of Savage's 1990s theater troupe, Greek Active, "Miracle!" contains a 20-minute drag segment, raunchy language, disco tunes and wigs galore.
In dubious taste? Yup, agrees Russell. "It's loud, offensive and very, very funny. I think there is a generation and a demographic that will absolutely love it, and a lot of so-called 'normal' theatergoers will, too."
Intiman proactively reached out to the deaf-mute community about the show, including a local deaf and mute actress who has performed in Gibson's play. "When I explained the concept to her," recalls Russell, "she said, 'I love it!' "
Among the actors strutting their stuff in "Miracle!": Seattle's Burton Curtis, who knows his way around a high-heels role.
"Dirty Story": Perhaps even more sexually explicit is this twisted romantic comedy by John Patrick Shanley ("Doubt," "Moonstruck"), which will inaugurate the black-box performing space behind the Intiman Theatre.
Under Valerie Curtis-Newton's direction, actors Carole Roscoe and Shawn Law are a New York pair who start off flirting and wooing, and move on to S &M, role-playing and other kinkiness.
In its 2003 Off Broadway debut, The New York Times described this audacious study of gender power dynamics as "appallingly" humorous, and one of the "liveliest, boldest and — against the odds — funniest studies ever of a subject that even hard-core satirists tend to approach on tiptoe."
Allen Fitzpatrick and Quinn Franzen round out the cast in multiple roles.
(Footnote: An ex-girlfriend of Shanley's recently slapped him with a $5 million lawsuit alleging he violently abused her during lovemaking. More evidence that life and art don't just imitate each other, but are sometimes inseparable.)
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org