Edmonds playwright knows his women

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Bobbie (Manya Vee) is being squeezed into a little more femininity by Mother (Elizabeth Pelham) in Jeff Stilwell’s new dramatic comedy, A Dropped Stitch, opening Sept. 30 at New Space Theatre.

How does he do it? How can a man write so feelingly about a woman’s relationship with her mother?” local actress Manya Vee said with a laugh. “That’s what I keep asking myself.”

Manya Vee is playing Bobbie in Edmonds playwright Jeff Stilwell’s new dramatic comedy, “A Dropped Stitch,” opening Sept. 30 at New Space Theatre in Shoreline. “If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t believe it, but there it is: Their happier moments, their arguments, the mother’s confusion about her daughter’s art. It’s all so real.”
Stilwell’s play, his 16th produced so far, tells the story of a woman who struggles to free herself from her mother’s fears to become the artist she has always dreamed of.  “I like the genre of dramatic comedy,” Stilwell said, “equal parts comedy and tragedy; it’s very liberating. The moments are so poignant with the audience caught between laughter and tears.”
Stilwell has earned a long pedigree of critical salutes for his plays, such as Dale Burrows’ judgments of “Teacup Tipsy”: “a trip and a half in a little more than a hour and a half through an Alice-like wonderland and a half; ground-breaking in ways more than one…” and “One Tile Short”: “an intense dramatic comedy you don’t want to miss. It is an uninterrupted 90-minute power pack with something to say and a super-charged cast of four saying it…”
“He’s an amazing director, too, in what he brings out of us,” Manya Vee said of Stilwell, who also happens to be her spouse. “He never gets angry, he’s always patient, kind, has really clear explanations of what he’s after. And you can feel it, how right it is.”
“A Dropped Stitch” is the second Stilwell play that Manya Vee has acted in, having book-ended his “Mural Mania” for the Edmonds Mural Society’s Annual Gala last spring. “Bobbie is my first leading role,” she said, “so I’m really grateful for all of the support he’s given me, honing my comic timing, teaching me how to cry on cue.”
Elizabeth Pelham, long a favorite of the Northwest stage, is playing Mother. “This is a part that is so close to home, where a mother loves her daughter, is frustrated with her for not taking steps for her own security,” Pelham said. “The Mother is caught up in the remembrance of things that worked for her and, at the same time, there’s this nagging question of whether these are the best steps to take.” “A Dropped Stitch” is the first Stilwell play that Pelham has acted in. “It’s been challenging,” she said. “It’s fun; the relationship is so real.”
“Every art has its focus, of course,” Stilwell said. “The playwright’s is people: their greatness, their foibles, their loves, their hurts.  When I do it right, people are moved and they tell me about it.  And when I do it wrong, well, they tell me about that, too.”
“A Dropped Stitch” runs for nine performances, Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sept. 30-Oct. 16.  Tickets ($20) are available at 425-776-3778.  For more information about the play, to read the script and meet the cast, visit NewClassicsTheatre.org.

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