Arts & Culture

Family is the common thread in Harlequin Productions’ season

In its 26th season, Harlequin Productions is keeping things all in the family.

The theater company, run by Scot and Linda Whitney, is offering its usual mix of diverse shows, with offerings by Noel Coward, William Shakespeare and Rachel Corrie, the Olympia college student who died in Palestine in 2003 when she was run over by an armored bulldozer.

“If there’s a theme, it’s around marriage and family relationships,” Linda Whitney said in an interview last week.

In most of the shows, the connection is pretty obvious.

Even “The Stardust Christmas Enchantment,” the latest in the company’s series of holiday musical confections, is anchored by Louie (Christian Doyle) and wife Joy (Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe), recurring characters who run the Stardust Club.

But “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” opening Jan. 19, might not seem to have much to do with family. The show is based on Corrie’s diaries and emails she wrote while in Palestine, where she worked to create a sister-city relationship between Olympia and Rafah and to support Palestinians whose homes were being demolished.

“A throughline in the narrative is her relationship to her parents, which was very strong and very loving and generous,” Whitney said.

The one-woman show — which will star Kira Wadman, last seen in Harlequin’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” — has generated controversy since its debut in 2005. Whitney sees it not as a political statement, but as a portrait of someone who wanted to make a difference.

“The show is about a young woman and her dedication to the well-being of the world and other lives and cultures,” she added. “Rachel was very compassionate and very willing to explore. It’s a really good time to look at this kind of personality.”

“Theater has no obligation to give a complete picture. Its only duty is to be honest,” Michael Billington wrote in a 2005 review for London newspaper The Guardian. “And what you get here is a stunning account of one woman’s passionate response to a particular situation.”

Harlequin Productions 2017 season

What: Harlequin’s 26th season began last month with the opening of “The Stardust Christmas Enchantment,” the theater’s 21st holiday musical about a swinging nightclub.

When: Evening shows at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.

Tickets: For plays: $34, $31 for seniors and military, $20 for students and youths. For musicals: $41, $37 for seniors and military, $25 for students and youths. For “Stardust”: $48, $44 for seniors and military, $25 for students and youths. Discounted rush tickets are available a half hour prior to curtain, and pay-what-you-can shows happen on the first Wednesday after opening weekend.

Season tickets: $150-$199 for the full seven-show package, $127-$214 for flex passes that allow you to choose available seats for four, six or all seven productions.

Information: 360-786-0151,

The shows

“The Stardust Christmas Enchantment”: Through Dec. 31. Harlequin puts a twist on its tradition of original holiday musicals with a show that includes stage magic.

“My Name is Rachel Corrie”: Jan. 19-Feb. 11. Corrie, a student at The Evergreen State College who traveled to the Gaza Strip to bring attention to events there, died after she was run over by an armored bulldozer. This one-woman show, based on her writings, illuminates the life that has since been overshadowed by her death.

“The Understudy”: March 2-25. In Theresa Rebeck’s 2009 comedy, a Broadway stage manager finds herself compelled to work with her former fiance, who skipped town just weeks before the wedding.

“Present Laughter”: May 4-27. Harlequin’s first-ever Noel Coward play is about an actor having a mid-life crisis and the multiple women in his life.

“First Date”: June 22-July 23. The 2012 musical comedy — about that first date and more — was a success in Seattle and had a brief Broadway run.

“August: Osage County”: Aug. 24-Sept. 16. The darkly comic 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner follows the tribulations of a family reunited by its patriarch’s disappearance.

“Cymbeline”: Oct. 5-28. This season’s Shakespeare selection is a romantic adventure about a princess whose father banishes her husband and whose loyalty and innocence are tested.