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Saturday, March 22, 2014


Seymour (Joshua Carter) and the Audrey II (puppeteer: Eric Esteb, voice: Ekello Harrid Jr.) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Tracy Martin
       Comedy is comedy, but black comedy grins while it sinks its teeth into the mind and hits that ticklish spot where humor and horror pulse in unison, side-by-side. As I sat in the audience watching Little Shop of Horrors consume a willing audience in the intimacy of ACT's Falls Theater, I couldn't quit looking at the colorful and ever growing Audrey II, the carnivorous plant at the center of this story. 
       Seymour (Joshua Carter), is an awkward young flower shop employee with a crush on fellow employee, beautiful Audrey (Jessica Skerritt). He finds his "nice guy" limits tested in this hilariously twisted morality tale. It's all about his relationship with the bloodthirsty plant, who turns out to be a nightmarish version of a genie in a bottle, only this time it's a flower pot. Made of bright, plush fabric and as pretty as a child's stuffed toy, Audrey II fascinated most of us, I suspect. Against that soft and seemingly huggable exterior, its pink "lips" and shark-like teeth, set in a blood red mouth, contrasted obscenely.
Seymour (Joshua Carter) and Orin Scrivello, DDS (David Anthony Lewis) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Mark Kitaoka
       If you thought no version of A Little Shop of Horrors could compare with the 1986 hit movie by the same name—with Steve Martin, John Candy, Bill Murray, and Ellen Greeneyou will be delighted to be wrong. The acting, singing, and physical comedy in this show, the fourth killer collaboration between ACTA Contemporary Theater and The 5th Avenue is as good as it gets. In fact, I much prefer Jessica Skerritt as the female protagonist, Audrey, over Greene. Even while we laughed at her funny lines, Skerritt's excellent acting abilities turned what could be a stereotypical "dumb blonde" into a character who could be any woman ever trapped in an abusive, even dangerous, relationship because of low self-esteem and the need for what passes as "love." Super talented David Anthony Lewis played her bully of a boyfriend, the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. He insults and humiliates her in his exaggerated and comedic way, but the undercurrents aren't funny at all.

Seymour (Joshua Carter) and Audrey (Jessica Skerritt) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Mark Kitaoka

        There is simply no way I can give this show anything but a totally positive review. As I watched it, I shook my head over its perfection. I loved Jeff Steitzer as the grumbling flower shop owner, Mushnik, and Joshua Carter made Seymour very memorable. With Skerritt's singing and acting, you will wonder how the city of Seattle can be lucky enough to hang on to her. To the young belles of Skid Row, Ronnette (Nicole Rashida Prothro), Chiffon (Alexandria Henderson) and Crystal (Naomi Morgan) I offer two thumbs up. They were great. Last but not least, Ekello J. Harrid, Jr, as the voice of Audrey II, and Eric Esteb as the Audrey II puppeteer, deserve plenty of applause. Orchestra, lighting, costumes, makeup, all of it contributed to a huge success.

The trio (l-r) Ronette (Nicole Rashida Prothro), and Crystal (Naomi Morgan), Chiffon (Alexandria Henderson) with Seymour (Joshua Carter) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Tracy Martin
       Brilliantly directed by Bill Berry, this production of A Little Shop of Horrors has a sharp edge on its sense of fun. Like the Grimm's fairy tales that left children of earlier generations wide-eyed under the covers at night, it is spellbinding entertainment that pokes at our deepest fears: loneliness, emotional and physical pain, loss of control, and a gruesome death. We can laugh at the antics of the characters, their outlandish behavior, and how they fall prey to their own weaknesses, but underneath lies the greatest fear of all, the fear that perhaps each of us really does have our price, in spite of our denial. 
       I don't mean to sound too serious. I laughed again and again, and I didn't dwell too long on thoughts of morality. Believe me, when caught up in the fun of one evening's hilarious fantasy, you will at least rent out your soul for a couple of hours if you don't sell it outright. 
       The show runs through June 15, 2014, but you'd better order tickets soon. I hear they are disappearing as quickly as Audrey II's appetizers. 

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