This One Is For You, Seattle

As the baby boomers begin forgetting to renew their big regional theater subscriptions, the administrators and theater-makers have been freaking out about bringing in the next generation of theater patrons. Dying subscribership is a cyclical matter, nothing new, really. But how is this playing out currently in the middle of a recession-turning-depression?

A great many producers are playing to the lowest common denominator, to a varying degree of financial success. Shrek the Musical, Young Frankenstein, Beauty and the Beast and High School Musical is the sort of fare currently keeping the suburbanites and high school groups happy on their annual trips to New York City.

The regional theater circuit, however, can’t possibly stoop that low. They seem to be at a loss lately offering awkward seasons ripe with haphazard guesses.

How will they bring in the next generation – or even the now generation? What appeals to this untapped demographic?

Perhaps the folks at New Century Theatre Company have been having this conversation long enough to make some informed choices, and short enough to take some risk. Someone has to grab the reigns soon and it’s people like the core company at NCTC who could get the tired horse of Seattle theater galloping apace again.

When was the last time you saw some theater?

Unless I’m on Capitol Hill I rarely go to the theater and see people who look like me in the house. I’m an average urban dweller in my thirties seeking to be challenged by theater and simultaneously entertained a bit too. I am progressive politically and I don’t make very much money while doing what I mostly love. I look back fondly on what the Capitol Hill and the Fremont neighborhoods used to be. I’d live in Ballard if it weren’t so hard to get to and from. I see “me” everywhere in Seattle – but not in Seattle theater audiences.

But NCTC’s inaugural production of Elmer Rice’s classic The Adding Machine boasts an audience full of “me”. The now generation of theatergoers was out in full force on Saturday night.

The Adding Machine - Photo by Chris Bennion

The Adding Machine - Photo by Chris Bennion

The show is smart and finely crafted. The acting is superb and you get the sense these performers are just tickled to be involved. The opening monologue is a testimony to the breath support of a practiced and well-trained actor. The direction and the design, however, is the reason to see this production. The sound design may very well be the best thing I’ve heard all year. Designer Rob Witmer has a fantastic way of building tension; you’ll want to own the soundtrack. Jennifer Zeyl’s set design is an exercise in antiseptic angles morphing into cold landscapes of symmetry and bursting into warmth, color and fantasy. I contemplated sculpture. The costume design by Pete Rush explores shades of grey and flat textures so thoroughly that when color is introduced you have to reckon with it for a moment or two. Geoff Korf’s lighting design makes you feel. It’s creepy; at one moment I felt so alone even though I was in a room full of people. Black and white and shadow feels so oddly isolating.

The direction is the true gem of this production. There’s something awesomely pure about it. To discuss more would give away much of what is so enjoyable about discovering within the show. John Langs is a visionary and you’ll see why when you go.

Because you have to go!

There are moments when you try something again because you know you’re missing out on something. I had this moment with sausage recently. I never eat it. I always order something else. I had it at Denny’s maybe and it was kind of greasy and overly processed. But then I had this… Bratwurst! It was made with love and craft and, man: sausage can be righteous. I have a whole new relationship going on with cuisine.

The Adding Machine - Photo by Chris Bennion

The Adding Machine - Photo by Chris Bennion

The Adding Machine is like Bratwurst.

You will rediscover something here with theater. Theater can be like this.

Trust me: this one’s for you, Seattle.

Get your tickets HERE.

The Adding Machine
Through December 13th
ACT Theatre’s Falls Theatre Space
700 Union Street
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
Tickets: $25 General, $15 Students, $15 Rush (1/2 hour before showtime)
Tickets: 206-292-7676

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