By Molly Gilmore
Once again, COVID-19 is interrupting the arts in Olympia. Harlequin Productions is postponing its musical mystery Murder for Two, which was to open Jan. 21, till March 11. Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, which was to open in March, has been cancelled.
“Producing work in the middle of a surge like this new wave would be dangerous and next to impossible,” Aaron Lamb, Harlequin’s artistic director, said in a press release. “We have hope that this will pass quickly, and we will be able to produce work on a regular basis moving forward.” The theater reopened in October after being closed since March 2020.
The decision was an easy one, Lamb told OLY ARTS. He has been paying close attention to news from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “It all happened very quickly,” he said, “but when I saw the projections … I knew we would have to do something. … We are all rather embattled at this time, so while new setbacks are exhausting, they’re not unexpected,” he added. “That being said, this is a really clinical decision. The numbers are clear. It’s not safe to do theater. We expect this wave to be very quick and that we should be getting back to normal in March and April, so we’re setting our sights on that horizon.” Many Broadway theaters have postponed productions, but Harlequin appears to be the first western Washington theater to follow suit. As of the time of this publication, neither Olympia Little Theatre, set to open Clue on Jan. 21, nor Tacoma Little Theatre, opening Silent Sky the same day, has announced plans to close.
“I don’t know many theater companies in the region who are planning to close,” Lamb said. “Most are actually still planning to open for the first time. We were one of the earliest to return to live performance. I know many theaters around the country that were operational are planning similar closures. I expect we will see more of this regionally in the coming weeks.”
Murder for Two, starring Katherine Strohmaier and John Lutyens, is part murder mystery and part musical comedy. The actors each play many characters, and both play piano throughout. (Strohmaier of Seattle starred with Lamb in 2016’s The Last Five Years, another musical in which both actors doubled as pianists.)
The show, directed by Corey McDaniel of Seattle, had already been in rehearsal for two weeks. “The set is currently standing on stage,” Lamb said. “Since both actors are available in March, we felt the best option was to postpone. We haven’t done a ton of work on Endgame at this point.”
The rescheduled Murder will run for four weeks instead of five. Audience members with tickets to the first four weeks will be reissued tickets for the new dates and are welcome to contact the box office to request changes. (Email email@example.com or call 360-786-0151.) The box office will contact those who have tickets to the fifth week and to Endgame to offer options including a full refund.
McDaniel starred in Harlequin’s 2018 I Am My Own Wife and has directed several shows for Harlequin, including the December 2020 radio-theater version of A Christmas Carol and fall 2021’s Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical. “What I love most about theater is our opportunity to gather as a community and reflect on what it means to be within the human experience,” he said in a press release.
That’s what Lamb is eager to resume, too. “Our community has been too long without real live theater,” he said in the press release, making reference to the company’s slogan. “We hope that we can get back to it without pause shortly.”
Murder for Two
March 11 – April 2
Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia