Monday, February 22, 2010

Well, I eat a little chicken

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Pilgrim’s Natural Market in Coeur d’Alene is nothing if not egalitarian. This Sunday, at 5:30 pm, they’re hosting an informational seminar on “the benefits of a plant food diet.” The following week, they’d like to make us all a little better at “cooking with whole chickens.” The place already has a vegetarian club and it seems like an eating-every-damn-bit-of-meat-on-that-bone club might be on the horizon. Details about all seminars and classes can be found at pilgrimsmarket.com or by calling (208) 676-9730.
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Small Planet Goes West

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Small Planet Tofu’s final day of production at its Newport, Wash., location was Monday. “Tofu Phil” Spiegel has packed up his belongings and left his home of 28 years, moving his 17-year-old company to the greener soy-based pastures of Vashon Island.

Why? “Survival,” Phil says. “Small businesses are struggling and I’m one of them … And plus, it’s tofu.” Small Planet is well loved here, but Seattle is a much friendlier place for soy. But it’s more than that. He has a new partner over there to help shoulder the burden. Small Planet, which will retain its brand name, will now share production facilities with another small organic tofu concern, Island Spring Organics. In addition to splitting rent, he’s looking forward to put more effort into growing the business. “I’ll be able to focus on promotion, sales and marketing — become that tofu celebrity I’ve been striving for years to be,” he says.

Because Small Planet will continue to use all the same distributors (Spokane Produce, Charlies, FSA, etc.), which all have presences in both Spokane and Seattle, Phil says the move shouldn’t translate into a price difference once the product hits shelves.

Spiegel left town on Wednesday and is probably settling in his new digs as we speak, “so we can go into production next week.” Take some solace, then, that while they’ll be coming from 300 miles and a large body of water away, your tofu supply chain remains unbroken.
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More booze for some

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:08 PM

A Facebook status update on Saturday from the goodly state Senator Chris Marr says it all — giving proper credit for the bill (to himself) and name-checking the bill’s primary area stakeholder, completely doing our job for us:

“Chris Marr SB 6485, my bill to allow craft distilleries to triple their capacity to 60,000 gallons, just passed the Senate on a 43-3 vote. Let’s hoist a shot of Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey to celebrate! (After I get off the Senate floor, of course.)”
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Review of *Honky Tonk Angels*

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:04 PM

Honky Tonk Tanks

PLAY REVIEW
This is the worst Interplayers show in nearly 20 years. Pandering is no way to rescue a theater
MICHAEL BOWEN

What if some actors showed up at a cowboy bar and started enacting dramatic scenes from Tennessee Williams? They’d get shoved out into the parking lot.
Why then are theater managers allowing balloon-breasted Dolly Parton caricatures and hot-pantsed farm girls in pigtails to croon pickup-truck music inside a theater?
You want some Patsy-Tammy-Loretta-Dolly melodies, one after another, with rote patter and corny choreography interjected? Fine. They have casino ballrooms for that.
People go to the theater to be exposed to new sensations and ideas, not to be talked down to as if they were a bunch of mindless, lovesick stooges.
Honky Tonk Angels, a musical revue seldom produced (for good reason), is at its most depressing when the audience feels the need to clap along feebly to the pre-recorded, drum-machine beat of “Delta Dawn” while a trio of low-rent angels (white satin dresses, silver belts) act as cheerleaders, their eyes pleading with their onlookers.
By the end of that “Delta” song, I didn’t care what goddamn flower she had on — and as for “Ode to Billie Joe,” I wish Billie Joe McAllister would hurry up, jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge and take this show and its “playwright” with him.

Oh,
Honky Tonk Angels — bravely performed by a trio of women with pasted-on smiles — has its moments of harmonized prettiness. But it’s a floor show, not a musical.
At the outset, unfortunately, Jennifer Jacobs is required to stroll out and start jabbering about her fellow actresses (instead of doing exposition and actually interacting with them). The effect is like one of Disney’s animatronic World of Tomorrow exhibits, and just about as realistic and engaging. Soon they’re threatening us with a hootenanny.
Jacobs has the trio’s loveliest singing voice and a gift for engaging front-row onlookers while riffing on “playwright” Ted Swindley’s predictable patter. Marina Kalani gamely tries to inject some hubba-hubba excitement into a mostly anemic “9 to 5.” As the farm girl, however, Emily Cleveland’s throatier delivery didn’t project as well. But there was some lovely three-part harmony at the end of “Paradise Road,” and “I Will Always Love You” was a stirring highlight.
And while the singers were hampered by piped-in music — there are no live musicians here — the evening prompted a lot of “Five down, 26 musical numbers to go” thinking. Because characterization is not Mr. Ted Swindley’s strong suit. At least his
Always… Patsy Cline (performed at Interplayers in 2003) had the benefit of the developing singer-fan friendship and Cline’s tragic story arc. Unfortunately, as subtitle for this show, apparently he chose “Two and a Half Hours of One Damn Thing After Another.”

No, I’m not a country fan. But as my review of the Jeff Bridges movie Crazy Heart (page 39 of the Feb. 11 Inlander) demonstrates, I like it fine when it’s sung to express genuine dilemmas and accompanied by credible behavior that doesn’t talk down to its listeners.
The purpose of selling out like this — of doing a show for people who don’t really like theater — was to rake in the bucks so that Interplayers can live to fight another day. And maybe the theater will sell a few more tickets to country fans who aren’t regular theatergoers.
But later this season, will those country fans return to the likes of
Eleemosynary and Psychopathia Sexualis?
Pandering doesn’t mean profit. Pandering just drives away your core audience.
The way to make people come back to Interplayers is to perform intelligent comedies and dramas, not the
Hee Haw high jinks of dreck like this.
And as for ticket sales: The opening-night house was almost exactly half full.

Artistic director Reed McColm is working hard to rescue a Spokane cultural institution that people care about, as the capacity and near-capacity audiences for the recent Love Letters fundraisers indicate. But his board’s decision to pin their hopes on a Honky Tonk hit were unfounded.
The conclusion was emotionally manipulative, with the sadness unearned and the bid for significance unrealized. And then the sound system wavered.
In my 18 years of going to Interplayers,
Honky Tonk Angels is the worst show I’ve seen. Only one or two others even come close.
So it’s fitting that
Honky Tonk’s bumpkin characters sing “I’ll Fly Away” four times.
After Feb. 21, thankfully, they will. 

Honky Tonk Angels continues at Interplayers, 174 S. Howard St., on Wednesdays-Sundays through Feb. 21. Tickets: $15-$21; $12-$19, seniors. Visit interplayers.com or call 455-PLAY.
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Review of *Avenue Q*

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:02 PM

at the INB Center through Valentine's Day

You know how psychologists sometimes encourage troubled little kids to talk to dolls? Externalizing feelings like that — talking to a pretend-friend — helps the tykes reveal and examine anxieties that they otherwise might not be willing to discuss.
That’s what it’s like watching Avenue Q.
The puppets do the heavy lifting for us. Are you a lot more likely to discuss the weather and the latest sports scores than you are to earnestly engage another human being on issues that really matter, like sex and race and the meaning of life?
Well, join the club. We could all use a little puppet therapy.
Bobo feels fortunate to have witnessed a musical as amusing, edgy and yes, inspiring, as Avenue Q.
Brent Michael DiRoma has expressive voices in both halves of his significant gay-straight equivalence doubling as both Princeton and Rod.
And while I was initially disappointed that the Thursday night audience was getting the understudy Kate Monster, Ashley Eileen Bucknam and her talented doubling demonstrated that conventional Kate & provocative Lucy live, at least a little bit, inside many women.
From the soundtrack alone, you wouldn’t know how extensively this show uses TV screens to spoof the simple-minded teaching methods of Sesame Street, then twists them to give them a wicked adult kick.
The sound mix, however, was off: some voices were shrieky-squealy; sometimes the five-man band simply overwhelmed the lyrics with too much volume.
The doubling of puppets could be confusing -- three actors have no puppets, some have two, some have more than two, some throw their voices over to puppets they’re not holding; some puppets have two operators, one of whom never speaks or sings. Couldn’t the creators have divided the roles more generously? (But as I said, the doubling of Rod (gay) and Princeton (straight) does highlight how romantic-longing is a human emotion, not exclusive either to my kind of sexuality or yours.
Face-to-face puppet squabbles are funny. (In general, the puppet-choreography was remarkably expressive and well done.)
Because of the puppet confusions, personally, I never quite resolved the look at the puppets/look at the humans dilemma.
Bobble-head chirpiness and dance moves, when shared by both humans and puppets, are funny -- it mocks the over-serious side of ourselves and unlocks the playfulness. That’s what Avenue Q does: It gives us permission, during a two-hour recess for overworked adults, to pause and be creative and accepting again. It allows us to look at ourselves from the perspective of the kid inside, who always wanted better things — back when we first were dreaming our dreams.

And I feel embarrassed about having bought into WestCoast Entertainment’s cautions about not over-stressing the profanity content.
(Hey, cussing is nothing to be proud of, and we should all limit it, especially in public -- which I DO find offensive — but studies have shown that a little cussing is physiologically a good thing, and we should stop being in denial about how we all do it from time to time. Sort of like this show’s themes about admitting that racism, porn, sexual desire and schadenfreude are not exactly utterly foreign to the vast majority of us.)
But it’s about time to shed the poor-little-provincial-Spokane attitude. Yes, we’re in the red half of a blue state, and I did see two walkouts tonight, and the mega-church members probably aren’t flocking to a gay-porn-puppet show. But judging from the ample size and laughter of Thursday night’s opening-night crowd, there’s a critical mass of folks here now who aren’t fazed by those New York City liberal ways.
Avenue Q, far from being childish or obscene, is enlivening, enspiriting, and very human and forgiving.

DiRoma’s voice was particularly expressive on “Purpose,” his longing-song. In general, Bobo was pleasantly surprised by how often this show, often marketed as being full of potty-mouth puppets and oh-my-God-somebody-might-be-offended, instead has plenty of quiet, touching, serious, wise, well-integrated moments. And DiRoma made his “I want” song dramatic.
The pair of Bad Idea Bears (Kerri Brackin and Jason Heymann) were hilarious: They were externalizations of our guilty impulses. (So is Trekkie Monster.) The show lets us see how easy it turn one Long Island Iced Tea into four, how easy it is to fall into bed with the wrong/right person.
Treating serious stuff in a silly manner is cathartic, too. (Monsters are discriminated against as “people of fur.”) The song about racism devolves into a soft-shoe routine: silly but serious, but silly, all at once.
The cast was vocally strong.

The best test of your threshold for what’s funny or not in this show might be Kate’s crabby old bitch of a boss at the kindergarten where she teaches, one Miss Lavinia Thistletwat, who insists on being called by her last name, because otherwise the kids wouldn’t respect her.
As for the "Porn" song, it’s hilarious when Trekkie self-censors (covering his mouth instead of chiming in for the 15th time with “for porn!”) — especially when juxtaposed with the line soon after: ‘Hey, guys, just grab your dick and double-click ... for porn!”
A cheap joke that appeals to my own sensibilities: Rod, as a Republican and an investment banker, is good for ... absolutely nothing. And therefore he might as well just stay in the closet.

Soon after, Princeton and Kate are having loud, screaming missionary-position sex! (Can they do that onstage?) And then you realize, they’re just puppets.
Dislocating emotions from the actors to the bunches of fuzz and latex that they’re manipulating can be

In the context of all the puppet play, Gary Coleman stroking the broom obscenely got a bit too crude, too literal. But Gary and then Trekkie burying their faces lasciviously deep, deep into the bosoms of Lucy the Slut --that was hilarious.

Bucknam was touching on “a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time.” Again, lots of serious, thoughtful emotion here, given all the more impact by the fact that moments before, you were laughing at puppet-silliness.

And you’ll never think the same way again, ever, about the relationship between a slang word for orgasm and the word “commitment.” (Brilliant. Summarized in just two words the whole battle of the sexes.)
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Laura Little named exec director of CdA Summer Theatre

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Longtime arts and community supporter Laura Little has been named executive director of Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater.

Little has been a subscriber and committee member for several theaters; has been on the board of the Civic; has served on the board of a charitable foundation; has founded a talent agency; and served until recently as executive director of Christian Youth Theater--Spokane.

"My overall focus will be to ensure that the Northwest understands what a treasure in has in CST. Why go to Seattle to enjoy the arts? We have Broadway right here!” Little says.

She'll be concentrating on "promoting the summer camps, booking master classes, starting a volunteer guild, finding housing for the actors, setting up auditions" along with enriching audience development, performing employee evaluations and doing community outreach.

According to her job description, she will also develop and oversee budget guidelines and generally act as the face of CST to the community.

Little adds that "Roger is still in control of the artistic end and Grant will continue running the business side of things."

This year's season runs from June 12-Aug. 21 and includes The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Cinderella, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and Hairspray.
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Best American plays?

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 3:59 PM

John Moore of the Denver Post has surveyed 177 theater professionals for their opinions about the 10 greatest American plays. Top-ten results are here.
Complete list of all 296 plays that got votes is here.

Comments:
For what little it's worth, Bobo named eight of the top ten off the top of his head.
The two I missed reveal my own provinciality.
But in the overall rankings, note how August: Osage County is knocking on the door.
Women and ethnic minorities might wish for more representation.
I think the list is muddied: Best play by an American that's on ANY subject vs. best plays about the American experience.
I've seen the top 24 plays in performance — then, Little Foxes and Children's Hour, only in the movie versions — and Nos. 27-29 (Topdog, Blue Leaves, Normal Heart), I've never seen in any form.
I'll admit my ignorance: I've never even heard of Mud or My Head Is a Sledgehammer. And I am embarrassed to say that I have never even read A Moon for the Misbegotten
I think Buried Child is ranked ahead of True West because people admire it, respect its artistry, not because it plays better onstage or is more beloved.
Sorry, but Iceman Cometh is a duty, not a pleasure. And I saw Jason Robards in it. 
The plays of Horton Foote should move up; so should Sondheim's.  Musicals, in general, undervalued here.
But your mileage will differ. 


Best candidates for Spokane productions?
Our Town, Osage County, American Buffalo, Little Foxes, Dutchman, Grapes of Wrath, Kentucky Cycle (first half is best, and phenomenal), The Goat, Indians (big production values have lessened its perceived value?), The Boys in the Band. And that's just in the top 100 (after which, in my opinion, choices start getting quirky -- though I've long been an old softie for Christopher Durang's The Marriage of Bette and Boo).
Things would clarify if you restricted these, as the Pulitzer does, to an American focus.Enough. Your choices and comments?
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Gleaning details on *Behanding*

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Patrick Healy surveys Christopher Walken's career in the New York Times today. What comes across is Walken's remarkable insecurity and nervousness about his more than four decades as an actor. What doesn't come across is much about Martin McDonagh's play, now in previews on Broadway. (It runs March 4-June 6; visit behandinginspokane.com.) In A Behanding in Spokane, Walken's character, Carmichael, lost his left hand 47 years ago. He encounters a couple of con artists (played by Anthony Mackie of The Hurt Locker and Zoe Kazan) who are willing to give him a hand, so to speak, by selling him one. The entire play takes place nearly in real time (in 90 mins.) and inside a hotel room -- so not much chance for local color there.
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Coming soon to a Spokane-area theater near you

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Just some reminders, listed by closing date ...

Charlotte's Web, Spokane Children's Theater at SCC, thru 2/28
High School Musical, Lake City Playhouse, thru 3/4
Is He Dead? (by Mark Twain), Whitworth, 3/5-13
Love, Sex and the IRS, Ignite readers theater, 3/12 at G.U. and 3/14 at Blue Door
Beauty and the Beast, Theater Arts for Children, Spokane Valley, 2/26-3/14
The Comedy of Errors, SFCC, 3/4-14
Romeo and Juliet, EWU, 3/3-15
The Wizard of Oz, Christian Youth Theater, 2/26-3/17
Steel Magnolias, Spokane Civic Theater main stage, 2/26-3/21
Dearly Beloved, Sixth St. Melodrama, Wallace, 3/5-24
Art, Interplayers, 3/11-27
The Nightingale, SCT at SFCC, 3/20-28
Lysistrata, Gonzaga, 3/25-29
Amadeus, Lake City Playhouse, 3/25-4/4
The Spitfire Grill, Civic's Studio Theater, 3/19-4/11
Little House on the Prairie, INB Center, April 8-11
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