Seattle Shakespeare’s Bring Down the House: Part 2 excels…Seattle Symphony Important Free Concert, February 8th!

Bravo and kudos to Seattle Shakespeare Company and upstart crow collective for bringing relevant well-done inventive new work to the Seattle stage in Bring Down the House in two parts on two consecutive Friday evening opening nights. Tickets are a must! See review of Part 1 below this post.

Last night’s Bring Down the House Part 2: Crusade of Chaos is quite a feat…continuing on with all the same excellent production values, inventive directing, cast energy and even more wonderful acting as exhibited in Part I: Throne of Treachery last Friday night. No small thing to accomplish….let alone to build upon one week later!

Narrowing its theme to mainly one: war is hell and such a waste – the writers Rosa Joshi and Kate Wisniewski effectively continue to use Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy set in the bloody War of the Roses period to make this point in Part 2. This play still also raises other important questions in a series of well-done monologues, ensemble work and brilliant theatrical bits. What is the meaning of King and of crown, of good and evil, of commonness and royalty, of woman and man and of life and death?

Joshi (also, the director) mixes brutality with beauty in her unique directing style; again, proving her outstanding talent for theater that matters, and theater that surprises with its visual impact and eloquence. The choreographed slow-motion battle for the crown, the father’s losing sons/sons losing fathers scene and the martial arts/tai chi sequence all have poignant meaning and are visually graced with her gifted theatrical vision. Outstanding!

The sound design and live score composer/adapter (Robertson Witmer and William Satake Blauvelt) holds to their high standards and creativity in Part 2 besting what they did in Part 1 (those drums)! Lighting by Geoff Korf is improved and more effective. Shawn Ketchum Johnson’s scenic design continues to be simple and amazing.

Betsy Schwartz as Henry VI continues her wonderful acting in Part 2 as does the entire cast/ensemble. Photo by John Ulman.

The cast calls forth an almost impossible to believe earnestness and energy that carries on the traditions of Part 1 and creates a cohesive addition in Part 2 that reaches even greater heights and does not disappoint. Characters and ensemble work are very demanding here…four acts, two scripts, two times everything in one run. The cast pulls it off stunningly! Special mention in acting in Part 2 to Betsy Schwartz as Henry the VI, Peggy Gannon as Jack Cade and Edward, as Yadira Duarte as young Clifford, as Mari Nelson as York and Sara Harlett  as the deformed and evil Richard. Two things: diction and projection could be improved in spots by many of the actors and editing the script down some would have benefited the show.

In the end, (and, what an end it is and isn’t…), this is in my opinion: must see theater (again)! The Part 1 and Part 2 format is unique and worthy! See both.

Bonus: if ever a theater should be rewarded for fulfilling its mission with exciting, well-done, risk-taking plays Seattle Shakespeare Company is one! This was the annual performance Seattle Shakespeare asked for donations to help defray its costs for its wonderful productions like Bring Down the House, its’ Shakespeare in the Park performances (Wooden O) and its’ Shakespeare tours and in the schools program. It is a massive good effort and worthy cause! Donate here.

Upcoming: Taming of the Shrew, the touring production (tickets), and their annual fundraiser Bill’s Bash and it sounds like a ton of fun. Details here.



FREE Concert on February 8 with Program Drawn from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

Seattle–The Seattle Symphony will present Music Beyond Borders: Voices From the Seven on February 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium in Benaroya Hall. This FREE concert for the community will feature music drawn from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The community is invited to experience the rich and diverse musical heritage of these countries. The program is still being developed and will include as many of these seven countries as possible including works by Syrian-born Kinan Azmeh, Iraqi-born Rahim AlHaj and two Iranian-born composers, Gity Razaz and Alireza Motevaseli. These composers reside in the United States except for Motevaseli who lives in Iran.

“Our musicians and I are passionate about using our art form to create connections with others and celebrate the diversity of our community,” shared Music Director Ludovic Morlot. “Many of our musicians are immigrants themselves, so when they suggested we create a concert like this, we enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to bring the universal power of music to speak across boundaries and borders.”

President & CEO Simon Woods remarked, “During the past week, I’ve seen the arts community around the U.S. coming together in meaningful ways following the recent executive order restricting travel and immigration from certain countries. At the Seattle Symphony, inclusivity is a core value. We feel inspired to add our voice, with the hope that we can bring our community together to celebrate the freedom of expression and open exchange of ideas which the arts have always stood for, especially in times of division and conflict.”

Additional programming information will be posted on the event page on the Seattle Symphony website as it becomes available. The performance will be streamed live on the Seattle Symphony’s Facebook page.

Approximately one quarter of the Seattle Symphony’s musicians are immigrants.

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