Trending in Seattle theater in 2012: “Bad guys” played so well, we had to love them.
But just how “bad” were they?
A totally subjective rating system:
1 star = Trickster. Buries your keys to teach you a lesson.
2 stars = Morally questionable. You hide their Facebook posts.
3 stars = Despicable. Deplorable. Below-par hygiene.
4 stars = Haunts your dreams and days ever after.
In no particular order...
Ryan Higgins (shown above)
The Maniac in The Accidental Death of an Anarchist at Strawshop
The jury is still out on whether or not this local actor may really be certifiably insane. If he’s not, how do you explain his ability to sustain such a wild-eyed look for over two hours, while hardly stopping for breath between his elastic pseudo-acrobatics punctuating every line in totally berserk monologues. When he did stop, it was only to demonstrate perfect comedic pause. Best of all: when he emerged from underneath a desk after what must have been a most uncomfortable costume change, wielding a visibly fake hand, pantomiming a gimp leg and wearing the worst fake mustache clipped to the tip of his nose. Bad has never looked quite so bad.
Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls at Washington Ensemble Theatre
The picture (at right) just about says it all. But it took more than creepy contacts to make Macall Gordon’s portrayal of the quintessential fairy tale witch so delectably good. Her every move evoked the twisted intentions of her dastardly cannibalistic character. At one point she looked straight out into the audience, smiled a threatening, hungry smile and licked her lips—and sent a chill up every spine in the room.
Jud in Oklahoma! at 5th Avenue Theatre
In a storyline that is typically about as passionate as rubbing two paper dolls together, this actor stunned as he stormed and trembled on stage in full 3-D. As Scatliffe leered at leading gal Laurie, and nervously challenged the sickeningly upbeat Curly, it was easy to forget we were watching the play that popularized singing in corn fields. He conjured real fear, anger and pity for his mixed-up character—and we still think about his solo, “Lonely Room,” when he sang the roof off the theater. Did we mention that this was at a production of Oklahoma!?
Applegate in Damn Yankees at 5th Avenue Theatre
This local actor tends to do more Shakespeare than Sondheim, so it was a treat to see him take the stage as the devil himself in George Abott’s classic baseball spin on the Faust tale. Sporting a sharp red pinstripe suit and piping out a few impressive big notes, Altwies winked, ribbed and, yes, sang all the way to an impressive finish. The pyrotechnic entrances reminded us, too, that bad guys always get the best toys.
Karl in Clybourne Park at Seattle Repertory Theatre
Local actor R. Hamilton Wright once told me that he had to say a mea culpa backstage every night while performing at 5th Avenue’s inaugural run of Memphis (his character physically assaults the leading lady in the story because she is black). I wondered if Darragh Kennan had to do anything similar while playing Karl, a more inconspicuous breed of racist in Clybourne Park. That is, one who feels so entitled in their opinions, they express bigotry with disarming politeness. Extra kudos go to Kennan for his role as the vengeful Caesar in Antony & Cleopatra at Seattle Shakespeare Company, in which he delivered a most authoritative monologue while wearing biker shorts and performing an impressive number of push ups.
Allen Fitzpatrick, Quinn Franzen, Shawn Law and Carol Roscoe
The cast of Dirty Story at Intiman Theatre
Madness can be among the most difficult things to portray realistically on stage—without spoofing, over-dramatizing or romanticizing it—but these talented local actors did just that on the tiny Intiman studio stage this summer. That is, played a ridiculous but captivating cast of characters mixed up in a labyrinthian allegory, and convinced us that badness sometimes comes from good intentions....we think.
The Skriker in The Skriker at Erickson Theatre
We’re still not quite sure what the Skriker is, was or will continue to be through time immemorial, but we are certain that we don’t want to meet her in person, ever. As expertly played by Ewald, this ancient and scary fairy is a master of wordplay and wheedling manipulation who latches onto teen mothers because she really, really wants to get her hands on their babies. (We don’t want to know why.) Ewald was both jaw-droppingly good at delivering the Skriker’s extended, technical tongue-twister monologues and also genuinely freaky.
Susanna Burney and Stephen Hando
Murderous sister/brother duo Marlo and Dominick in Torso at Theater Off Jackson
Local playwright Keri Healey’s brilliant new play Torso (named Best New Play of 2012 in our December issue) reveals how perceived slights paired with insecurities can build into a resentment large enough to inspire fratricide. The noir tale features a whole mess of misguided anger, most shockingly illustrated by a brother and sister (Burney and Hando, shown above, at center and second from right) whose familial dysfunction pulls you in as much as you want to run away. The murder plot they concoct—and follow through on—is so greedy and small-minded it feels both ridiculous and exactly like something you’ve read in all too many newspapers.
Additional photo credits: Macall Gordon, photo by LaRae Lobdell; Kyle Scatliffe in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Photo by Chris Bennion; Chryssie Whitehead and Hans Altweis in Damn Yankees. Photo by Chris Bennion; Aaron Blakely and Darragh Kennan in Clybourne Park, photo by Alan Alabastro; Cast of Dirty Story in rehearsal, photo by Chris Bennion; The Skriker, photo by Julia Salamonik; Torso cast, photo by Tiffany Diamond.