“I don’t think you ever get used to it…”
On November 1st in the cozy side studio of 12 Ave Arts on Capitol Hill, writer Scotto Moore and director Katie McKellar delivered an emotional powerhouse in “Sings the Hits,” a minimally cast play about an up-and-coming radio host chasing down a story amidst sexual harassment, assault accusations, and a romance lost to time.
So intimate as to be nearly voyeuristic, the audience feels a part of the action as they watch radio host Amanda Bixby, played by Anastasia Higham, struggle to navigate the legalese of interviewing a high-profile rock star while avoiding the looming sexual advances of her friend’s studio producer David (a fantastically sleazy performance by Gavin Douglas). From the first line, Amanda is likable and relatable, and the scene when she describes David’s advances is beyond familiar for any woman watching. The story that unfolds is an unflinching indictment of male privilege in the music industry and the deep wounds it leaves in those that suffer from the harassment and assault that is far too common and far too easily overlooked. The conversations that occur are ones that so many have had in everyday life; the excuses, the minimizing. One line that stood out to me beyond any other, and is still rattling around in my head hours later, is, “Don’t grade consent on a curve.” If that doesn’t capture 21st century rape culture, I don’t know what does.
Singer/songwriter Tae Phoenix perfectly captures the mixture of confidence and self-consciousness the modern public have come to expect in the wildly famous. Her character, Melanie Wheeler, is exactly how you’ve always dreamed your favorite singer would be in person, tough but compassionate, deeply proud of their art and even more deeply touched that you love it so much. Without giving her story away, I will say that it’s one we all know, one we’ve seen splashed across tabloids and award-winning newspapers, sprouting from Twitter threads and worming into every woman’s life. Additionally, her powerful voice swept me up until I felt like I was at a bona fide concert.
Rosaletta Curry’s Grace and Annie Yim’s Carolyn add a new depth to the play with a stunning yet subtle semi-romance that would give Jane Austen a run for her money. An honest devotion to the them of love and fighting for oneself above all else gives this new play the wings to soar.
At times, the actors felt too far away from each other to be seen at once from the snug seats, but the rest of the time Higham’s proximity and direct communication to the audience brought a personal, intimate touch that made one feel as much a player in the story as a viewer. The set served, as in many smaller productions, to create nine rooms for the price of one, the lighting design providing smooth transitions through time jumps and scene changes.
This production moved me to tears, and I encourage everyone of every age, gender, and life experience to come and take part in this story.
Sings the Hits by Scotto More. Theater Twenty-Two, Twelfth Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave Seattle WA 98122. Sat 2:00; Tues, Wed 8:00 til Nov. 18. Tickets: http://www.theatre22.org/sing-the-hits/. Info: http://www.theatre22.org or (206)-257-2203.