The Underneath

Written by Kelleen Conway Blanchard
Directed by Pamala Mijatov

Thurs-Sat at 8pm | Oct. 18 – Nov. 16
Preview Thurs, Oct. 17 | Industry Night Mon, Nov. 4
$20 general, $12 TPS/Seniors/Military, $5 Students.
All Thursdays Pay-What-You-Can.

Something monstrous is bubbling up at the new waterpark. Something icky is making Tina, misunderstood girl genius, uneasy—her little sister Winnie has a piece of tentacle in a jar that hisses, her mom Denise is taking too many pills, and the local Sheriff can’t bake enough crumb cakes to make himself feel better about the body parts washing up on the shore. And just what does the fry cook at Salty’s Sea Palace have in his pants? Welcome to the world of The Underneath, the latest play from the writer of Kittens in a Cage and Hearts Are Monsters. Featuring Daniel Christensen, Meaghan Halverson, Tracy Leigh, John McKenna, Pilar O’Connell, Mandy Price, and James Weidman.

“A show about the evil ocean … begins with humping and gore, which is a good precursor to the rest… Playwright Kelleen Conway Blanchard is drawn to pulp material, injecting it with funny grotesquery and ear-catching details… These moments, where actors have the freedom to just let loose with strings of Blanchard’s perfectly deranged rambling, make the show worth checking out.” —The Stranger

“Through the ingenuity of set designers Bret Fetzer and Susannah Anderson, there’s also clever and almost instantaneous transformation of the small stage into five separate sets… Meaghan Mary Halverson provides a really good portrayal of youth and innocence as sweet Winnie, the nice little girl who is abducted by the slithering monsters. Pilar O’Connell, as her brilliant but emotionally wounded and therefore nasty sister, is equally powerful. She’s cruel, angry and rebellious, yet you can’t help rooting for her. The dread, menace and humor underpinning ‘The Underneath’ work really well.” – Seattle Times

Songs Violet Séverine Blanchard
Stage Manager Kaeline Kine
Production Manager Katie McKellar
Set Designers Bret Fetzer & Susannah Anderson
Lighting Designer Gwyn Skone
Sound Designer Kyle Thompson
Costume Designer Meaghan Darling
Prop Designer Emily Sershon
Make-up Designer Jana Hutchison
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  1. Pingback: On the List | Hilloween, Lit Crawl, The Underneath, Reel Grrls Gala | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  2. In the dark, the grizzly-grizzled voice said “feel free to write a patron review” and I thought, thoughts I, what is that? perhaps I shall.

    And so am aming.

    First word: Gross

    Second words: It tickled my alley because it was much like Rick Moody’s recent book I just finished The Four Fingers of Death, a subject matter which is pulled up from the gobbly-guck of schlop. What is this this? These cheesy horror movies of yon? Plots and themes exploited by cheap thrillers, horror and sci-fy’s alike. From the alien vineland The Underneath drops forth: a nautical poltergeist.

    The metaphor that is (literally) unearthed, is the obliteration of the public realm.

    Let me digress: On the way to the show I stopped a block beyond Twice Sold Tails (a lil’ Graham Green for ma’self) to eat a muffin. The place where once a tiered garden sat disheveled between two boxy apartments, with its cadavers of vegetables past-is now strewn with under construction tarps and yellow-red lines. Sure it had a touch of the derelicts neglect, but weather-worn pieces gave it lived-time, as well as a reprieve from the nondescript formations of Apt. housing, (with it’s lining of moltch, those green spiky bushes nobody likes, its likeness no different from any of the other apartments on the hill or even the country). Sure, my heart was not cut to cheesecloth by this loss, but it saddened me when I thought of the structure that will be replacing it: Anonymous Modernism. (I ate my muffin in the shadow of a tree next to the road) My point being, that it was nice to see a play speak directly about the experience I had afore entering the theater.

    Now what the destruction of a neglected garden has to do with the Underneath? Welllll. Besides the Sheriff (who gets made fun of a lot for his baking. I don’t know guysthatbake ever did, but they prove to be a delicious target ((unless you yourself are a guy that lives that Dharam, which I’m not))) these people are about as sympathetic as the characters in Bukowski novels. Denise is someone whose sorrow has not made stronger, but more frail. Tina, is alienated via knowledge but also through the shame cycles. The scene with Tina and Minnie eviscerate any chance of liking Tina, I know the argot vernacular need be indicative of the language of the youth, but for all the laughs “dickmeat” got, Tina the character sold off any possible sympathy just the same as Tina the person has before her a life of crime. (The Captain is heroic, but redemptive characters have a martyr shaped spot on the pyre) I naturally rooted for the monster, I thought at least Minnie might have a chance as some sort of queen hag. AS FOR THOSE BLONDS, wonderful, in fact, too wonderful. The problems with villains is their too wonderful, we rather hear Satan speak than the angels.

    As I went out for for Act I cigarette, what weighed down the drag of my feet, was lamentations. The shows strongest aspect was its idiomatic lyricism, it had the tear-sheened glaze of Lanford Wilson’s poeticism. What makes tired stories and used-up plots speak is the strength of writing, how clearly the depictions out the window can be portrayed. Ol’ Fat Tits is out there now, a child subject to the bullying of other shame cycles. Sensitive men like our Sheriff do not belong in our culture where feelings are ridiculed by fellow characters, audience, and playwright. The blonds (love’em!) are lovable for their curt cruelty, the joke is Darwinian, those who don’t get it, shall be crushed.

    These people suck is what I’m trying to say, their lives are unbuilt before them, in the wake of flying debris and the bones of the past.

    Which brings back around the notion of township and shoty city planning. The character in the piece of The Town, does not get fully rendered as much as town-pieces aught. It’s landmarks get skipped upon with invisible townies pointed at past the audience. This Town (I’ll call it Anywheresville With A Beach) seemed indistinguishable for any other Anywheresville by the bay. Did the spirits first resonant when asphalt was smeared? Is the consequence of a light intrusion the sourness of late capitalism? What did this town feel in the youth of Denise? Was it the America that speaks each night in Our Town? or the confabulation of Modern Boxitecture that is lamented in Modest Mouse lyrics (“The beach that use to be by the beach”)? If I had to guess I’d say the latter, but to the credit of the story we’ll say the former. The 1949 essay by Joseph Hudnut “invisible city” is worth quoting:

    Our vast new cities exhibit no framework of social purpose, no trace of the cement of manners, conventions and moralities, of ecclesiastical and aristocratic tradition, built over centuries by patient change and slow compromise, which gave pattern and beauty to the cities life, or of that dignity of environment which sustained the spiritual force. We are at sea without home or status.

    Lefebvre asks, “…when, how and why did it disappear”

    The play posits paradoxically that obliteration of the Town Square (what Barthes call the “focal point”) is the ultimate loss of identity is countered by the assumption that the town is floundering and without an economic jolt it’s destruction is imminent (Did the Housing collapse affect Anywheresville? What’s it’s Unemployment?) Again I return to rooting for Mother Nature and her purge of Society. If the cure for cancer was trapped in either Tina or Winnie’s head, had the monster not offed them, it would have probably grown out wrongly and be used by Department of Defensive (particularly that Murder Arm with nanotech).

    Who is to blame? The single mother who makes ends meat out of sausage of time? No. Bullies at school, the employees at the restaurant? How are they any different in their perspectives than you and I? The blonds have capitalism on their side. Then who? The Town that’s who to blame. The smartest person in the play knows that, “This town sucks”. If the simulacra is spiritually null, what chance do the inhabitants of this abstract space have (in real life as well)? It’s sad, but I think that the show too, was sad.

    And this answer to this sadness was not answered. (how could it, the destruction of the public realm that I speak of began in the 30’s) But that doesn’t change the need for its representation. If we cannot look to incubators of our own lives as the mental “stuff” that draws our concepts and beliefs, who are we? And why are we what we are or arn’t?

    I myself come form an Anywheresville of Western Colorado and too feel cheated by the suburbs, the outlet malls, and parkinglot fields. What has been twiddled down is the public sphere, and it is why the theater has to contend with the destruction of gardens in favor of the curse of Anywhereitis and the opened and closed paces, where lives are lived.

    (I’d love to say more, like how much I liked the painted set, and the actors performances, but I haven’t had dinner yet)

    Thanks for show.

    ALSO, if anyone see a book Nightmare Town By Hammett running around, it’s mine and finish reading it if you got you nose in it but I’d love it back.


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