INTERN’S VIEW: ‘Martha, Josie & The Chinese Elvis’ At BLT: Great Time(ing)!

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Photo by Ken Holmes

by Philip Benais

Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis; Directed by John Vreeke: Starring Kelli Mohrbacher, Geni Hawkins, Alexandra Novotny, Gerald B. Browning, Ken Wong and Angelica Duncan. Written by Charlotte Jones.

With a name like Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis, I expected the latest production from Burien Little Theatre to be exactly what we need for the holiday season; offbeat, quirky but ultimately heartwarming and pleasant. What I got was even better than that. In all sincerity, I can say that Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis made my day like no other winter play has or probably will. Between the bold humor, the lovable characters and the delightful performances, this is a play I would recommend to anyone mature enough to deal with a holiday play as unconventional as it is entertaining.

The story follows Josie Botting, a 40 year old ‘counselor’ who is coming to terms with growing older. Joining her are Kelli Mohrbacher as Brenda-Marie, (who plays a daughter that’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic) Martha Clear, the obsessive compulsive maid and Lionel Trills one of her more ‘distinguished’ clients. When everyone figures out that it’s Josie’s birthday, Lionel decides to throw her a party, full of drinks, music and a special guest who turns out to be a Chinese Elvis. Throughout the rest of the play we’re treated to wonderful writing, great music and acting that cinches the deal. Make no mistake, every one of the cast members for this play was spectacular and funny. From Geni Hawkins‘ neurotic Housecleaner to Ken Wong’s affable Timothy Wong to Gerald B. Browning’s sensitive Lionel Trills, everyone is pitch perfect and it contributes to a production that will bust your gut laughing and at times even feel emotional.

Photo by Ken Holmes

The key to the play’s success is the timing. Sure the writing, directing, acting and music are perfect for the subject matter, but what pulls them all together is a brilliant sense of timing. There’s never a stale joke or an action that goes without an audience reaction. Everyone in this cast from Alexandra Novotny to Angelica Duncan is a master of comedic and dramatic timing. The play functions on an internal rhythm that is both wondrous and magical and without it, it wouldn’t have been the same.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this play, but ultimately it doesn’t mean a thing unless I say this; go see this play. Take a friend or a family member and enjoy the wonderful treat that Burien Little Theatre has given us once again. I know I did, and I guarantee you will as well.

Also note that BLT is having a food drive; here’s more info from an email:

BLT will be accepting nonperishable food for those in need before, during and after ANY of its performances of “Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis” on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm ( and at its free reading of “A Christmas Story” on Saturday, December 11, at 2 pm.

Even if you do not stay for the show, please bring some food and help a neighbor of yours get through the Holidays. Someone will be at the theater (at the old Burien Community Center, near the skateboard park) to accept your gift an hour before the performance, during the performance and for at least 30 minutes after the performance. That gives you plenty of time to get to the theater and do something that will make you feel good during the Holidays.

Food drives will not end hunger. But they can help a neighbor in need. BLT has teamed up with Transform Burien to help others in the Burien area. Transform Burien feeds the less fortunate on a weekly basis. Those of us at BLT have watched the need for free food grow over the last few months. Your gift can make other’s lives a little better.

Please do what you can.

Here’s the remaining schedule:

  • December 10 at 8:00 p.m. – Friday
  • December 11 at 8:00 p.m. – Saturday – FREE reading of “A Christmas Story” at 2 p.m.
  • December 12 at 2:00 p.m. – Sunday
  • December 17 at 8:00 p.m. – Friday
  • December 18 at 8:00 p.m. – Saturday
  • December 19 at 2:00 p.m. – Sunday

Buy tickets online here.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Philip Benais is our newest Intern, a 16-year old student at Big Picture High School in SeaTac. He’s an aspiring Writer who loves movies, so we let him write reviews for us.

Read more of his work here.]

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3 Responses to “INTERN’S VIEW: ‘Martha, Josie & The Chinese Elvis’ At BLT: Great Time(ing)!”
  1. Geni Hawkins says:

    There’s one small mistake in this review – by the way, thanks! – Kelli Mohrbacher plays the learning-disabled daughter, Brenda-Marie, not the neurotic housecleaner. The housecleaner, Martha Clear, is played by me.

  2. Philip Benais says:

    Hey Geni,

    Whoops, I apologize for that. I’m glad you liked the review otherwise.

  3. Geni Hawkins says:

    Thanks for making the correction in the article – it’s much appreciated!

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