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Chabon's novel inspires night of Book-It theater and dinner

Their current production is so long that Book-It Theatre created an infographic to guide their visitors through more than five hours of performance with dinner break. The extra-long evening came about when they decided to tackle Michael Chabon’s "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." The abridged stage version by Jeff Schwager is the only dramatic adaptation allowed so far by the author, and Book-It received permission for a one-time outing of this adventure. When the current run ends on July 13, that’s it, said director Myra Platt.

“This is our only shot to do this book,” said Platt, who also is co-artistic director of the company. “We attempted to get the rights to Chabon’s book almost a decade ago. When it finally came about, it happened very quickly. We knew it was going to be big and we had to hit the ground running. We discussed creating two-evening event like ‘Cider House Rules.’ But it is really hard for people to come to theater twice in week.”

As the writer and the director read through the 636-page novel, they discussed how to cut the story into a three-act play, “but it became a really long three-act play,” Platt said. “We either had to make it shorter or longer. In my gut, I knew it would be more interesting and fun to come to an event with a dinner break.”

With their performance space located directly under the food court of the Seattle Center's Armory, Platt didn’t have to worry about audiences needing to wander far to find their dinner or lacking in choices. “I eat up there all the time. I love Pie, especially their broccoli cheddar pie. And Skillet has this mean Caesar salad,” she said. “On opening night, I followed my friends, who went to Blue Water. The restaurants all have been really supportive and great to work with.”

Back on stage, Platt said the show has undergone several tweaks since opening night on June 8. “Like all our world premiere productions, Jane (Jones, co-artistic director) and I keep checking on the show as it grows before an audience. It’s up and open and it’s there, but it continues to grow,” she said.

Although never a comic book aficionado, Platt loves the story’s central theme of a writer and an artist collaborating to tell a story. In Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, two Jewish cousins, the American writer Sam Clay and the refugee artist Joe Kavalier, become key figures in the Golden Age of comics as the events of World War II unfold. “My avenue of entry into the piece was to follow the progression of artwork from the time that Sammy comes up with the story to where Joe draws it,” said Platt. “Clearly we knew we had to keep some of the representation of the comic books created.”

Platt invited local artist David Lasky (“The Carter Family”) to “teach us comic book 101. We spent two weeks on what it takes to create a comic book and visual art during workshop rehearsals of the play. My father was a working artist and I’m a visual artist, so that was the angle that I took with the piece. To try to represent that type of thinking on stage. Working on this made me appreciate the artistry that goes into a comic book.”

Platt also praised writer Schwager’s ability to make the necessary cuts to move characters from “point A to B. The novel is so freaking layered. Jeff and I went back and forth and back and forth, especially over the part about getting the golem out of Prague and how that affected Joe’s journey from Prague. There’s this magic realism element that we knew that we wanted a taste of.”

Halfway through the run, Platt is still immersed in the world that they created out of Chabon’s book. “I’m spent but what a glorious opportunity this has been for all of us, so it’s happily spent. We’re so blessed with this cast, musicians, and crew,” she said.

Performances of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” take place at The Center Theatre, 305 Harrision St, at the Seattle Center. The restaurants Skillet, Pie, and Blue Water Taco upstairs in the Armory’s Food Court have prepared special quick dishes (around $10 each) to accommodate the 40-minute dinner break. More information can be found at the Book-It website.

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