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Dark humor onstage ‘Crimes of the Heart’ marks Kathryn Van Meter’s solo directorial debut By Ryan Murray


azlehurst, Mississippi is home to blues singers, pitchers of sweet tea and the troubled Magrath sisters. The latter are reuniting at their grandfather’s house for the first time in years. But one has a dark secret the other two will have to help her deal with. This is the setting of playwright Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart,” a Southern Gothic tragicomedy play staging at Village Theatre in Issaquah. The show opened Jan. 21 and runs through to Feb. 28. Under the guidance of freshman director Kathryn Van Meter, the Magrath sisters (Babe, Meg and Lenny) will pool their brainpower and knack for getting out of sticky situations to help impulsive and passionate Babe (played by Sydney Andrews) avoid life in prison. Why? Because she’s shot her husband, of course. Depressed, shy Lenny (Rhonda J. Soikowski) and boisterous, cocky Meg (Brenda Joyner) join their troubled sister, out on bail, back at their grandparents’ home where they shared many a complicated childhood summer day. “It is a dark comedy,” said Van Meter, a frequent actor and choreographer for Village. “One of the challenges of directing a play like this is finding the balance of the darkness and the humor.” Van Meter said placing ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances is what facilitates real change, and in “Crimes” we see six people placed in just such a position over the course of 24 hours. “I think it’s the way humans change in any meaningful way,” she said. The entirety of the play takes place in their grandmother’s kitchen, which allows for interesting blocking arrangements for the characters, including a window that breaks the fourth wall with the audience. Using a single set for the play was a stylistic choice

{ { Brenda Joyner, Rhonda J. Soikowski and Sydney Andrews as Meg, Lenny and Babe in “Crimes of the Heart.” Photo by

Mark Kitaoka





The children’s version of the beloved musical opens on Mercer Island PG 3

The Pacific Northwest shines in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition PG 4

‘Vanishing Points’ at Sammamish City Hall inspired from WWII resupply campaign PG 6



The Don’t Miss List YTN PRESENTS ’SEUSSICAL JR.’ By Carrie Rodriguez


The Kirkland Arts Center will unveil its new “Secrets Can … ” exhibit, which takes a modern look at how secrets shape identities and relationships as they are withheld or shared. The diverse contemporary works range from abstract to figurative, exploring what it means to be vulnerable and strive for meaningful connection in the 21st century. The exhibit features a number of artists, including Nick Kosciuk’s “Paulina in Green” (pictured above, courtesy of Hall | Spassov Gallery in Bellevue), which depicts a young girl covering her mouth, unable or unwilling to speak, leaving the viewer to wonder what she is thinking. WHEN: Feb. 6- March 26. For more information, visit www.kirklandartscenter.org WHERE: Kirkland Arts Center, 620 Market St., Kirkland

Youth Theatre Northwest will continue its School Season with a musical extravaganza “Seussical Jr.” through Feb. 22. Based on Dr. Seuss’s beloved books, favorite characters come to life in this uplifting and hilarious musical. Seussical Jr. is directed by Kim Douthit with musical direction by Nikki Delmarter. All performances will be held in the auditorium of the Stroum Jewish Community Center, located at 3801 E. Mercer Way on Mercer Island. In this production, Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, and all of your favorite Dr. Seuss characters spring to life. Transporting audiences from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus,

the feline narrator (in a very large hat) tells the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust containing tiny people called the Whos. The story takes off and away when Horton is also called upon to guard an abandoned egg that’s been left in his care. Seussical is best for ages 5 and up. Performances will begin at 7 p.m. on Jan. 29 and 30; 2 p.m. on Jan. 30, 31 and Feb. 7. There will also be an 11 a.m. showing on Feb. 6. There is no show scheduled for Feb. 5. Ticket prices are $15-$17. Tickets may be purchased in advance at www.YouthTheatre.org, by calling 206-232-4145, ext. 109 or at the performance.


Maestro Adam Stern will conduct the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra as they present “Energy, Life, Affirmation,” a concert displaying the virtuosity of the Sammamish Symphony in compositions from three different centuries. Featuring Nielsen’s Symphony No. 3: exhilarating and irresistibly sunny in character, it is the perfect antidote for the gray of winter. For information, visit www.sammamishsymphony.org WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21; 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27. WHERE: Feb. 21 at the Eastlake Performing Arts Center, 400 228th Ave. NE, Sammamish; Feb. 27 at the Meydenbauer Theatre, 11100 NE Sixth St., Bellevue


Some of the best players in the Northwest who make up Pacific MusicWorks, including Stephen Stubbs and Tekla Cunningham will perform their first purely orchestral concert “Viva Vivaldi!” Their program includes Concerto for Two Cello’s in G Minor, Concerto for Viola d’Amore and Lute in D Minor, Concerto in C for strings and Vivaldi Four Seasons. WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27. For tickets, call 206-708-6003 WHERE: Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 4400 86th Ave., Mercer Island


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NORTHWEST SHINES IN SF CHRONICLE’S WINE COMPETITION By Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue Great Northwest Wine

flavors of orchard fruit, honeydew melon and spice backed by steely acidity. A gold medal winner.

On the American wine industry’s biggest stage, Pacific Northwest wines showed just how good they can be. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition took place the first full week of January in this Sonoma County community. It is the largest judging of U.S. wines, this year drawing 7,162 entries from more than 20 states. Wines from Washington, Oregon and Idaho won an impressive 676 medals, including 144 double gold and gold medals. At the top, two of the five top wines were from Washington: Barnard Griffin’s 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese and Claar Cellars’ 2013 Riesling ice wine. We were among the more than 70 wine professionals who served as judges at the 31st annual San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Here are a few of our favorite Northwest wines from the judging, all tasted under blind conditions. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Westport Winery 2013 Swimmer Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, $29: This big, bold red from a winery on the remote Washington coast is loaded with mesmerizing aromas and flavors of plum, blackberry and dark chocolate, all backed by rich, approachable tannins. This won a unanimous double gold.

Barnard Griffin 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $40: Rob Griffin is one of Washington’s top winemakers, and it shows on this reserve-level red. Aromas of black pepper, dark fruit and cola give way to rich, dark fruit flavors backed by cocoa powder and lively acidity. A gold medal winner. Poet’s Leap 2014 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20: A classic Riesling from a top Walla Walla Valley producer reveals aromas and

Mike Dunne, wine columnist for the Sacramento Bee in California, evaluates Chardonnays at the 31st annual San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Photo by Andy Perdue

Camaraderie Cellars 2013 Dionysus Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $40: Owner/winemaker Don Corson works in relative obscurity on the northern Olympic Peninsula. This superb Cab provides aromas and flavors of boysenberry, black tea and black cherry, all backed by stout tannins. This earned a unanimous double gold medal. King Estate 2014 Pinot Gris, Oregon, $18: One of the Oregon wine industry’s leading properties uses certified organic farming methods to produce one of the nation’s best examples of Pinot Gris. It’s rather showy with its nose of jasmine, lavender and orchard fruit, and the flavors match. Mouthwatering acidity makes this particularly bright, bone-dry and food friendly — and worthy of its double gold medal. College Cellars 2014 Anderson Vineyard Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, $20: Produced by the students and professors at Walla Walla Community College, this gold medal winner offers aromas and flavors of strawberry jam, mocha and oak spice, all backed by bright acidity and approachable tannins.

Marchesi Vineyards & Winery 2013 Cereja Uvvagio Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $34: Franco Marchesi, a Hood River, Ore., winemaker, grew up in Italy’s Piemonte region but he used Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah to create a beautifully balanced new blend that offers baking notes of cinnamon bark and clove with creamy flavors of plum, black currant and black cherry. Mercer Estates 2013 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $24: WSU grad Jessica Munnell mined many gold medals last year, and she opens up 2015 by winning best of class with this rich Merlot that’s filled with black currant jam, black cherry, pleasing tannins and

good acidity. Avennia 2013 Boushey Vineyard Arnaut Syrah, Yakima Valley, $50: Chris Peterson burnishes his reputation as one of Woodinville’s cult producers with a delicious and complex Syrah from one of Washington’s famous vineyards. This gold medal winner is bright, minty and a bit hedonistic with its theme of Marionberry, black cherry, plum and espresso. Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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‘CRIMES’ CONTINUED FROM PG. 1 and Van Meter felt the kitchen was a natural fit. “The kitchen is the heart of the home,” Van Meter said. “It’s where secrets come out. At every party people will end up in the kitchen and that’s where the conversation happens.” So it is with “Crimes,” where the Magrath sisters, annoying cousin Chick Boyle (Angela DiMarco), flawed southern gentleman Doc Porter (Orion Bradshaw) and Babe’s lawyer Barnette Lloyd (Robert Bergin) go through the ins and outs of love lost, careers derailed and family (including pets) coming to a gruesome end. Beth Henley’s play premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1979, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1981. A film adaptation starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek hit the box office in late 1986. Van Meter said her own southern background helped her direct the play, which is steeped in the tradition of the South. She lived in New Orleans for several years and has family in Atlanta, providing her a little bit of background on the Southern Gothic genre. “Henley sets all her plays in the South,” Van Meter said. “I think there is an attraction to the heightened, genteel language. This has been one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on.” She is the first local female solo director at Village Theatre’s Mainstage in more than 15 years. She previously co-directed “Mary Poppins” and “Les Misérables” alongside Steve Tomkins. Showtimes run at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and select Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. All performances are in the Francis Gaudette Theatre at 303 Front Street N. in Issaquah. The play will move to Everett from March 4 to March 27.

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Magrath Family Values By Daniel Nash Family: They can rob you of your food, your youth or even the spotlight (especially if they become notorious husband-shooters). They can make you mad as hell. But family is also where the heart lays — and you can never abandon your heart. It’s the lesson that sits at the core of Village Theatre’s “Crimes of the Heart,” directed by Kathryn Van Meter. But it also speaks to the production itself, which stays true to the dual nature of sisterly love and rivalry, even as it assaults the audience with accents as thick as the Mississippi air in summer. There are times when “Crimes” seems to want to smother you in its regional charm, like a faded Southern belle chanting “bless your heart” as she picks apart your outfit. But charm works; that’s what makes it charming. The story sees the three Magrath sisters reunite at their grandparents’ home in 1974 Hazlehurst, Mississippi, after the youngest, Babe (Sydney Andrews), has been released on bail in

the shooting of her abusive husband. At the opening of the show, Andrews plays Babe as the Stepford sister — prim, perfect and always ready to fix a pitcher of sweet lemonade. By contrast, middle sister Meg (Brenda Joyner) plays the rebellious and spoiled wild child, while Lenny (Rhonda J. Soikowski) is the frazzled and self-denying elder, forced unexpectedly into the role of family matriarch after a stroke puts their grandfather in the hospital. These early characterizations are highly archetypical, even twodimensional. They’re thrown at the audience with such low subtlety and high bombast through the first hour that they threaten to persist through the next two. But the first-time Village actresses bring depth to their characters with each twist and turn of Beth Henley’s stageplay. Age plays a strong role in the progress of the sisters throughout the show and it’s only appropriate that the story opens on Lenny’s 30th birthday. Soikowski exhibits a premature “grandma mania” as she frets and worries over everyone but herself, an


attitude that lightens only as she learns to slow down and feel her oats. Joyner takes the reverse path — an obliviously selfish and immature hedonist who slowly learns to act her age. As parts of the show’s B- and C-plots, Lenny’s and Meg’s arcs are nips and tucks compared to Andrews’ highly dynamic character journey. Each act sees Babe take another hit to her freedom and mental health, causing her to regress further and further away from eerily precocious and puttogether housewife toward the part of defenseless and scared child. These individual characters’ stories are satisfactorily compelling on their own, coaxing you into investing yourself in their outcomes. But it would be a mistake to expect them to pay dividends: None of the plot points neatly resolve themselves in a clear payoff. Instead, “Crimes” shows its strength in the way the Magrath sisters play off each other and grow as a family greater than its individual parts.

‘VANISHING POINTS’ AT SAMMAMISH CITY HALL Donald Fels’s father was a WWII pilot. It wasn’t something the younger Fels knew about for most of his own life. But his dad and other pilots with the United States Army Air Force’s Air Transport Command had been tasked with one of the most important missions of the Burma Campaign: To resupply the forces of Chiang Kaishek and the USAAF in the Chinese war effort against Imperial Japan. Fels, an artist based out of North Bend, learned about his father’s mission in 2008, while working in

Southern India. He was particularly fascinated by the pilots’ rescue signal should they go down: A mirror with a pinhole in the center, which allowed downed men to triangulate light to signal airplanes flying overhead, despite being themselves out of view. Fels’s exhibit “Vanishing Points,” on display in Sammamish City Hall through April 14, examines the disappearances of small things in both The Hump campaign and the work of South Indian billboard artists. The phrase takes on multiple meanings, referring to

both what’s depicted and the manner in which Fels abstracts his subjects over multiple paintings, Sammamish Arts Commissioner Barbara Jirsa said. “He’s a tremendous public artist,” Jirsa said of Fels. “He’s really a thinker and a wonderful artist in residence because he pushes people to think differently.”

-Daniel Nash



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theEastside Scene - FEBRUARY 2016  


theEastside Scene - FEBRUARY 2016