Monday, June 10, 2024

Theatre: Season's End

 Clyde's by Lynn Nottage, Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton, Arts West, June 6-30, 2024

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales Together Again, Again! Created by Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales, Original Music by Major Scales. Seattle Rep, 31 May-23 June,2024

The Lovely Bride (herein known as the LB) and I have season tickets to local theatres Arts West and the Seattle Rep, but rarely do the stars align such that we have plays at both the same weekend. On this particular sunny Seattle weekend, we did, and so the entire weekend became theatrical in nature. And eating. Lots of eating.

Friday we set out for West Seattle on the far side of the industrialized Duwamish river for dinner and show. The dinner was at the Phoenicia, our go-to place in good weather as we like to eat on the patio outside. They know us there by now - we're the older couple that orders way-too-many small plates and defeats the lot of them. Olives, pita, hummus, burrata, manila clams, green beans and lamb chop lollypops. Baklava to go. This time, for once, there was no parking weirdness. 

On to the play. Clyde's is a truck stop restaurant on the off-ramp to purgatory run by Clyde (Tracy Michelle Hughes), literally the boss from hell, who torments a kitchen crew of ex-cons that no one else will hire. The kitchen staff in return have banded together into a demi-family who trade fantasies of sandwich combinations and try to create that perfect bite. Montie (Reginald Andre-Jackson, last seen tearing up the stage in the Rep's Fat Ham) is the zen master of sandwiches, and the only one who doesn't seem afraid of Clyde. Rafael (Jacob Alcazar) is the acolyte, seeking to learn from the master. Tisha (Deja Culver) tries, but is too weighed down by her reality. And Jason (Joe Moore), is the new guy, whose racist tats are scribed on a very sensitive flesh.

The dialogue is as rapid-fire and intense as a kitchen in the weeds. The character laugh, yell, argue, and fume at full volume. The actors throw everything into it, and leave nothing in the tank afterwards. Hughes' portrayal of Clyde is that of head devil, rampaging in make everyone's life miserable, knowing that her staff has nowhere else to go. The set itself is an intensely detailed kitchen, its walls stained by smoke and pain. 

The LB says it was the best play of the season, and I would agree, though I will note that the entire season from the Arts West was excellent. English was very good, Born with Teeth was excellent, and Matt & Ben was OK in a weird, quirky way. Hedwig didn't work for me, and I am filled with Christmas charity for the cheesy, breezy Snowed In. In General, Arts West had more hits than misses, and is a strong season of seriously good performances. 

So, that was Friday. Saturday, after the last practice session of our Tai Chi class (we get three weeks off) and poke (from Big Island in Renton), we decamped for Seattle Center. This year they moved the matinee performance up to noon, so we decided to stay in town overnight as opposed to rushing around on Sunday morning. So we stayed overnight at the Mediterranean Inn, a nice 3-start hotel caddy-corner from Dick's Drive-in (and with that, everyone in Seattle knows where I am talking about). Most of clientele are families going on cruises, gathering in Seattle before heading off to parts unknown. Nice rooms, but the strong recommendation is the rooftop patio, which gives a sweeping view of Queen Anne Hill, the Needle, Rainier, the docks, West Seattle, and the Olympics. The LB and I spent the afternoon and early evening on that deck, reading (Demon Copperhead for Kate, while I finished up a Raymond Chandler novel (more on that sometime later). I got takeout from our fave place in the area, Racha Thai - calamari, fresh rolls (for her) chicken satay (for me), bananas in coconut milk (desert for her) and black sticky rice (for me). So yeah, we've been eating out a lot this weekend.

Breakfast was at the Mecca Cafe, a bar that serves all day breakfast. Denver omelet and hash browns for me, oatmeal and ham for the LB. One of the two elevators in the hotel broke down, so all the guests going on cruises with all their luggage had to manipulate the surviving lift (the younger couples took their luggage down multiple flights of stairs instead). We spent the late morning on the roof again, which the cruise people had abandoned. The LB had gotten some advance parking in a lot a few blocks away, and to my surprise, everything worked. Has the curse been lifted? (OK, the lot was a little too far from the theater, and the LB had to take the walk in stages, but we still got there in plenty of time - she is a little brilliant that way).

So, the Rep. I can honestly say we has seen Monsoon and Scales back in the before-time, before she won RuPauls' Drag Race a second time and got to be a Doctor Who villain. I likes the performance then. This one? Not so much. The conceit of the show is that this is the final reunion of vocalist Monsoon and pianist Scales in a dystopian future where the sun has burned out and gelatinous aliens are in charge.  Fun times. And both characters have seen better days, as Monsoon Norma-Desmonds her way through memories and songs, while the age-makeuped Scales is equal parts provocative Larry David and subservient Renfield. There's not much of plot, rather just a framework for the songs, most of them about the perils of getting old. Maybe that's what frustrates me, as a bonified, card-carrying old person. A lot of references to Drag Race, which I had never watched and so the references went over my head (but landed firmly with the quartet of young women behind us). Monsoon's voice is amazing and Scales keyboard work was great. In the intimacy of a cabaret show, or even the smaller Leo K theater, all this probably could work, but up on main stage of the Rep, not so much. Monsoon made the best of it interacting the decidedly less-than-full-house on that way-too-early-matinee, but it was just OK.

And I think "just OK" is the final judgement I have to throw at this Rep's season. Passengers was another not-quite-a-play but was another good performance. Islander was good. The queer-themed Little Women had challenges living up to the original text. Same with Fat Ham, thought the end result was much better. And ditto Quixote Nuevo, which had the additional sin of using puppets.  Sanctuary City was probably the best of the season and was darn good. So yeah, there have been better years, and this season had a brace of solid performances. But were this baseball, we would be talking about it being a building year. Next year's agenda looks much stronger. 

And that was our weekend. We headed home, got a couple small pizzas from the local Romio's, and collapsed in the hanging chairs overlooking our back yard. I think I've had enough activity for a little while.

So how was your weekend?

More late,