‘The Odd Couple’ is fresh, funny at Village Theatre

January 24, 2012

Felix Ungar (Chris Ensweiler, front) receives a massage from mismatched roommate Oscar Madison (Charles Leggett) in Village Theatre’s ‘The Odd Couple.’ By John Pai/Village Theatre

Neil Simon is a regular at Village Theatre.

The playwright — gilded in Tony Awards aplenty and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama — often offers rich material to Village Theatre producers. In the past decade, the downtown Issaquah theater presented “Barefoot in the Park” and “Lost in Yonkers” to audiences. The latest Simon offering on stage is “The Odd Couple” — perhaps the most recognizable piece in the playwright’s oeuvre.

“The Odd Couple” — re-imagined on stage and screen more often than Felix Ungar scrapes up crumbs — is a solid choice as the selection for the play in a Village Theatre season defined by musicals.

The play is a charming anachronism, 47 years after “The Odd Couple” debuted on Broadway. The boozing and smoking recall a looser era before political correctness. Still, the dialogue and the mismatched-roommate premise remain universal almost a half-century after Simon introduced audiences to uptight Felix and untidy Oscar Madison.

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‘Anne of Green Gables’ features spitfire in a straw hat

November 16, 2010

Marilla Cuthbert (played by Suzy Hunt) and brother Matthew Cuthbert (played by Dennis Bateman) meet Anne Shirley (Kasey Nusbickel) in a scene from the Village Theatre production of ‘Anne of Green Gables.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Just after the second act opens in “Anne of Green Gables,” a character turns to the title figure and proclaims in exasperation: “Anne, you do beat all.”

The pithy assessment is meant for the character, but the appraisal also applies to Kasey Nusbickel, the actress in the title role of the just-opened Village Theatre musical.

The actress — a spitfire in a straw hat in the initial scenes — portrays Anne as all nerve and verve, from the motor-mouthed orphan in the opening scenes to the whip-smart lady at the conclusion. Nusbickel has enough aplomb and snap to banish any cobwebs from the century-old dialogue lifted from the classic novel.

Costumed in a series of carrot-topped wigs, shapeless frocks and starchy dresses, she steers the storyline through a series of misadventures.

The musical starts as young Anne Shirley daydreams at a train station in Avonlea, the pretty-as-a-postcard setting of the production.

The orphan landed in Avonlea after siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decided to adopt a child to pitch in on the family farm, Green Gables.

Only, the Cuthberts had requested a boy.

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Brian Yorkey returns to direct ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

July 27, 2010

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Issaquah High School alumnus Brian Yorkey returns to Village Theatre in May to direct the blockbuster “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

The rock musical about the last days of Jesus Christ runs in Issaquah from May 11 to July 3, and then opens for a monthlong run in Everett.

Before he headed to Broadway, Yorkey served as associate artistic director for Village Theatre. He started at the theater as a pioneering force in the popular youth education program, KIDSTAGE.

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Issaquah playwright Brian Yorkey wins Pulitzer Prize

April 13, 2010

Brian Yorkey

The musical “Next to Normal” — a daring look into bipolar disorder penned by Issaquah native Brian Yorkey and nurtured at Village Theatre — has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Read more

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‘Next to Normal’ wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

April 12, 2010

UPDATED — 3:20 p.m. April 12, 2010

The musical “Next to Normal” — a daring look into bipolar disorder penned by Issaquah native Brian Yorkey and nurtured at Village Theatre — has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The prize jury lauded the edgy, dysfunctional-family-drama as “a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals.” The jury announced the award Monday.

Yorkey — a former Village Theatre associate artistic director and Issaquah High School alumnus — will share the honor with writing partner Tom Kitt. Yorkey wrote the lyrics; Kitt wrote the music. The duo will share a $10,000 prize.

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Lose yourself in ‘Yonkers’ fine performances

January 26, 2010

Jennifer Lee Taylor (center) and Suzy Hunt enact the climactic confrontation between Aunt Bella and Grandma Kurnitz, as (from left) Mike Dooley, Nick Robinson, Collin Morris and Karen Skrinde, as Uncle Louie, Arty, Jay and Gert, look on in a scene from ‘Lost in Yonkers.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Silently, Arty and Jay Kurnitz wait in their grandmother’s living room. They question why they’ve come so far to see a woman they barely know and they plot their escape.

But leaving isn’t on the agenda.

What unfolds onstage in the next two and a half hours is nothing short of dramatic perfection and well-timed comedic relief, provided by a talented cast who embrace the irony of one of Neil Simon’s best-known plays — “Lost in Yonkers.”

Typically, reviewers find time to take light notes in the margins of their program during a play, but “Lost in Yonkers” proved so captivating that it didn’t happen this time.

Comfortable suspense — if there is such a thing — kept everyone in the audience waiting for the next character to unravel.

As the son’s broken father, Eddie, played by Bradford Farwell, tries to heal himself and the family bank account after his wife’s death, the boys are faced with the realities of adulthood.

The touching coming-of-age story is marked by realism, not simplicity or comfort. Rather, the two boys — Jay, played by Collin Morris, and Arty, played by Nick Robinson — learn no matter how simple they may seem, familial relationships are messy, complex and laden with history. Read more

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Tony Award winner adjusts to new normal

January 19, 2010

Tony Award winner Brian Yorkey (left) directs Suzy Hunt as she portrays Grandma Kurnitz, a main character in ‘Lost in Yonkers’ at Village Theatre. Village Theatre photo

Brian Yorkey returns to direct ‘Lost in Yonkers’

Everybody knew the odds — the cast, the producers, the director, the composer and, especially, the writer and lyricist.

Bookies and bloggers predicted a sweep. The feel-good “Billy Eliot” seemed poised for glory, not “Next to Normal” — a musical built around electro-shock therapy, raw emotions and even rawer nerves.

Everybody knew the odds at the Tony Awards last June — but nobody envisioned the upset to come, especially not the writer and lyricist, Issaquah native Brian Yorkey.

Nobody expected the odds to be so miscalculated, yet Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt toppled “Billy Eliot” to win the Tony for Best Original Score. The other nominees included songwriting titans Sir Elton John and Dolly Parton.

Yorkey, a Village Theatre alumnus stunned about the unexpected win, accepted the award from the presenter, comedian Will Ferrell, and mentioned the Issaquah playhouse during the national broadcast.

“We kind of went into it sort of expecting that ‘Billy Eliot’ would sweep, and that’s a great show, they deserve it, and just to be here is amazing,” Yorkey recalled in early January. “Then, to add on the win was kind of unbelievable. It was a little bit out of body. It didn’t sink in for a few days, I don’t think — if it has at all.”

Next came the dizzying sequence of congratulations, interviews and countless thank-yous from the humble Yorkey, who recalled, “all the clichés apply.” “Next to Normal” won another pair of Tony statuettes, for best orchestrations and best actress in a musical. Read more

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‘Lost in Yonkers’ readying for Village Theatre debut

January 19, 2010

Collin Morris, Nick Robinson and Jennifer Lee Taylor (from left) appear as Jay, Arty and Bella in the Village Theatre production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Neil Simon play ‘Lost in Yonkers.’By Jay Koh /Village Theatre

The skeletons hidden in the closet rattle loose in “Lost in Yonkers,” as the Neil Simon dramedy plumbs deep into the emotional trauma buried by the Kurnitz clan, a family led by a ruthless grandmother.

Enter Jay and Arty, teenage boys, the youngest family members and the latest to be thrust into the emotional maelstrom at Grandma Kurnitz’s apartment. “Lost in Yonkers” unfolds above a candy store where the stern grandmother is the proprietor, but the setting is saccharine only in the literal sense.

Village Theatre alumnus Brian Yorkey will direct the ensemble cast when the theater revives the period piece Jan. 20. The tale recounts the tense times after serious Jay and wisecracking Arty move in with Grandma Kurnitz. The boys arrive at the apartment after their mother dies and their father takes work out of town to pay back a bad debt.

Jay and Arty also share the apartment with dim-witted Aunt Bella. The scarred Kurnitz brood also includes Uncle Louie, a small-time thug.

“Lost in Yonkers” shares DNA with “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound” — other semi-autobiographical works in the Simon canon.

“He really, I think, dug deep for this one,” Yorkey said. “It’s one of his best, and the chance to work with a cast of some of Seattle’s best actors on a play this meaty, you can’t pass that up.” Read more

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Program makes theater membership affordable

May 19, 2009

As a young professional, it can be hard to savor the finer things in life when your budget is a shoestring, but Village Theatre can help you combat the lack of art in your life with a sweet deal. Read more

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Village Theatre announces its 30th anniversary season

April 13, 2009

Village Theatre announced its 2009-10 Mainstage schedule, its 30th anniversary season. It boasts a collection of shows never before produced for the Village Theatre Mainstage.

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