Theater Reviews

May Theater Roundup: Aida, Love Never Dies, and Familiar

Two very different operatic takes on romance come to Seattle, while Familiar stages a comic interrogation of immigration.

By Stefan Milne May 9, 2018

Aida 3 pixwpm

Leah Crocetto in the title role of Aida. 

Image: Philip Newton


This comedy-drama written by actor-playwright Dana Gurira (Black Panther, Walking Dead) parses big rich themes—economics, assimilation versus integration, the reverberations of colonialism and its religious corollaries—with a sitcom sensibility. At one point two women are literally held from a fight by their waistbands, scampering in place like cartoon characters. The story involves a family gathering for a daughter’s wedding in Minnesota—a setup that’s its own narrative genre. Here though the parents, played by Harvy Blanks and Perri Gaffney, emigrated from Zimbabwe years before and are now established as a professor and a lawyer. Conflicts accrue quickly, generational and sororal and cultural, and the play explores the fascinating ties between Zimbabwe and Minnesotan Lutheranism (if you catch the play there's a very helpful essay in the program) through sharply drawn characters. Whether the play’s broad comic surfaces obscure or reveal those depths likely depends on how incisive you find ABC's Thursday-night lineup. Seattle Repertory Theater, $17–$89. 


Giuseppe Verdi’s 1871 lovelorn colossus gets equally colossal treatment at the Seattle Opera, but it’s tempered by moments of remarkable nuance, also. The sets by street artist RETNA recast the opera’s Egyptian setting with graffiti freedom. The opening night trio who comprise the central love triangle—Leah Crocetto, Brian Jagde, and Milijana Nikolic—hit Verdi’s notes, both in grandeur and in subtlety (though Nikolic’s voice was sometimes lost in quiet moments). And the production as a whole—with over 150 performers and 200 costumes, sweeping dance and choral arrangements, and the opera’s frighteningly relevant nationalist fervor itself—delivers. McCaw Hall,  $25–$299. 

Love Never Dies

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his beloved Phantom of the Opera leaps forward a decade and finds the Phantom running a Coney Island amusement park called Phantasma. When his beloved Christine comes to town with her husband and son, things veer into expected overdrive. The sets, rotating constantly across the stage, kicking Coney carnival opulence into gaudy surrealism. (One set, accompanying the title song, turns the whole stage into a resplendent, color-shifting peacock.) The performers, in deftly choreographed dance pieces and in song, shine. The real faults here live in Webber’s writing itself. The songs, while good, don’t hook like the original's, and the plot strains credulity—needlessly recasting its predecessor's ambiguities. Anyway, the story itself is about a brilliant male artist with a tendency to break into a woman’s room via her balcony. Do we really need such predatory yearning glorified in soaring show tunes at the moment—or, for that matter, ever? Paramount Theater, $50–$125.

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