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.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I am humbled by your review. Thank you for braving the monsoon to see the show! We are such a blessed cast and honored to be able to do this show. Thank you for appreciating it. Happy Holidays!Alexandra Novotny

  2. Zoe says

    Dana, you are Dana?Thank you for the passionate, funny and enjoyable to read, review of Martha, Josie! I've seen this transforming play twice and plan to go again before it closes Sunday. I so agree with you about the talent of these 6 smart actors, who with total commitment inhabit the roles of these characters whom I have learned to love. I wonder if they will be sad to leave them behind when the play closes?I have a deep love of theater and fascination with the process of bringing to life words on a page. I would like to add this addendum to your review, if I may. The person that we don't see, the one who initially has the creative vision and imagination and who collaborates with the actors and technicians to develop the script so you can I can experience the loveliness of the production – the director – is sometimes overlooked. This is easy to do, because a good director gets out of the way of the actors when the play is launched. But someone has to choose the cast, rehearse with them, envision the sets and the sound, inspire the costumes and work toward a harmonious completion of the work. The Martha, Josie director, John Vreeke, I think, worked very well with the team. I can't imagine what went on his mind when he first read the play. That he did all of above collaboratively is evident by the finished product, the lovely Martha, Josie and the Chinese ElvisMaybe you will return to see Martha, Josie again – and bring friends? I will attend Saturday night with yet another group of friends, who I am SURE will love this magical little play as much as I do (we do)and my other friends have.Cheers!

  3. Anonymous says

    Dana and Zoe, thank you both so very much! It means the world to us to have our work appreciated in this manner. And Zoe, you are absolutely right about the director's role in this. John Vreeke deserves enormous kudos for bringing his vision to the stage. And Maggie and Eric deserve credit for having the courage to try something completely new and different for a holiday show.We are so happy people are enjoying this show! We have worked very hard, and had a great deal of fun working together, and it's wonderful to be able to give people a good evening's entertainment.Geni Hawkins ("Martha Clear")