Chinese. Fucking. Elvis. Need I Say More?

Apparently, I do.

Today, I braved rain, floods and landslides (oh, my) in order to go see Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis at Burien Little Theatre.  If you live in the Seattle area, you have three more chances to see this show, and if you miss it, you will be reduced to a pathetic wreck of a human being, weeping with remorse until the day you die.  I mean, c’mon, how often do you get to see a show about a demotivated dominatrix, an obsessive-compulsive housecleaner, a cross-dressing drycleaner, a wanna-be ice dancing daughter, and an allegedly dead woman?  Not to mention, Chinese Elvis!

Maggie and Eric truly find some fucked-up shit to put on, but man, is it ever good.

This is one of those moments I cursed myself for not bringing the camera.  There were some strikingly artistic, truly beautiful and haunting moments in this play.  When soon-to-be-former dominatrix Josie Botting is standing at the top of the stairs, watching her daughter try to walk in her stilettos on the hapless Chinese Elvis, everything about her screamed noir.  It was a moment worthy of film.  And it wasn’t the only one.

Alas, I haven’t got a picture of it, but courtesy of Ken Holmes and Phillip Benais, you can have a taste:

Thank you, Burien Bloggers!

You can read about how outstanding the play is at the link, there, and every kind word is true.  Myself, I want to give a few particular shout-outs to the cast.  Gerald B. Browning, who plays Lionel Trills, had the hard job of making a balding transvestite sub drycleaner come across as the most admirable man in the universe – and he does.  Loved him.  Geni Hawkins, who plays the very repressed housecleaner, does the best Irish accent outside of Ireland, and let me just say she makes you root for good girls wanting to go bad.  Kelli Mohrbacher had a hard job playing Brenda Marie Botting, the “simple” twin, but she made you want to run her straight out for a pair of ice skates and a sequined costume (you’ll understand why, should you see the show).  Angelica Duncan, who is long-lost twin Louise Botting, played a difficult character to perfection (and I shall say no more, least I spoil your fun when you see it).  They were all outstanding.  They all got and deserved center stage.  Which makes me feel guilty singling out the next two for special treatment.

But Alexandra Novotny… holy damn.  I mean, honestly, she runs through the shadings of an extremely complex character flawlessly, and her expression was so fucking perfect.  Some people can act without saying a word, without even moving more than a few muscles in a face.  She is one.  She left me breathless.  And no, it didn’t have anything to do with that cocktail dress toward the end there, although it was an excellent costuming choice.  War paint, indeed!

I felt like bowing to her when I left.  Seriously did.

And yet, she very nearly got overshadowed by Ken Wong, who is the Chinese Elvis that Lionel hires for a birthday party that turns bizarre.  People, we are talking about an American who managed a Cockney-Chinese accent even while singing just like Elvis.  Everything – his timing, his delivery, his expressions, his movements – everything was perfect.  I mean, look at his face up there.  Does that not look like a hapless, rookie Chinese Elvis who’s been having a horrible night of it, and is now wondering just how to fuck he’s gotten into this mess and wishes someone would come rescue him from it?

He even delivers a line as corny as “Elvis has left the building” in a way that was funny, fresh, and brought the fucking house down.

And in case you see the play and wonder: no, he’s not lip-syncing.  That’s really him, singing Cockney-Chinese Elvis and sounding eerily like the King.

They couldn’t have found a more perfect cast for this show.  ‘Twas a delight, worth risking life and limb and missing the weekly phone call with my best friend for.  If you get a chance, go.  Just go.  You’ve got all next weekend for it.

Do not end up spending the rest of your life moaning about missing it.

Chinese. Fucking. Elvis. Need I Say More?

Local Theatre Rules

You know what I did on Halloween – went to the theatre and found Jesus.

Okay, so the actor playing a god also played a drug dealer, which made it even funnier.  But the most memorable moment of his performance was when he passed through the audience handing out communion wafers and saying “Body of me,” very graciously.  That moment very nearly topped FDR rolling out onstage, and a gentleman dressed as some sort of ram-horned demigod thingy.

One should expect that kind of weirdness when seeing a musical called Reefer Madness.

I didn’t even want to go.  But my best friend abandoned me for a Samhain ritual, and I’d promised my intrepid companion I’d let him test my camera’s handheld twilight mode in such settings (performed beautifully, but to avoid any royalty difficulties with the guild, I shall refrain from posting the results).  I ended up having far more fun than expected, as I always do when seeing plays Burien Little Theatre puts on.  I should know enough to trust Eric and Maggie’s judgment by now.  They always pick shows that delight in surprising ways, and there’s always something quirky about them.

Upshot: I had a wonderful time, and I should have gone earlier so I could give my local readers the opportunity to enjoy.  I won’t be so remiss again.  In fact, I had Maggie email over some details about the next show, and if you’re in the Seattle area, you’ll definitely want to make plans to attend.  Come on.  It’s Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis.  If someone tries to drag you to some sappy Christmas special put on by the local godbotherers, tell them you’re busy and go to this one instead.

It’s got a retiring dominatrix.  What more could you ask?  But wait, there’s more!  Here’s what Maggie has to say:

*  The play is quirky, the characters outlandish, and yet it’s a redemptive show.  By the end of the show, through convoluted and unconventional means, a dysfunctional family comes back together, and the characters all find themselves and love.  It’s far from saccharin, but it really does have a holiday ending.  
* Also the “Chinese” Elvis, who’s really Vietnamese, does an amazing and hilarious Elvis impersonation.  
* And we have nationally known director John Vreeke directing the show.  Among the places he has directed:  Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC, the Kennedy Center and Seattle venues such as Book-It Repertory Theatre. 
* Plus we are doing the West Coast premiere of the show.  So far, the show has only been done on the East Coast.

And a personal message:

This really is a holiday show.  For those who are looking for entertainment beyond yet another rendition of “A Christmas Carol,” this is both unconventional and ultimately heartwarming.  It’s also funny and fantastical.  When watching rehearsals, I find myself laughing and crying, sometimes both at the same time.

If you can resist this, you’ve got no sense of adventure.  Or you’ve got kids under the age of 13, can’t find a sitter, and have decided they’re a little too young for retiring dominatrixes.

You can find dates and times here.  If any of you locals want to get a group together, let me know – we could easily make an evening of it.

So what if you’re not from round here?  Feeling left out?  You shouldn’t – nearly every city has its own local theatre, and at least a few of them are bound to have their own Maggies and Erics – dedicated people who do their utmost to find fascinating shows just for you, if only you’d get your culture-deprived arse down there.

So go.  You’ll have a wonderful time.

Local Theatre Rules