Global SeXXX-ism: un-wrapped
The Conciliation Project at Northwest Actors Studio
Through Jan 14.
Lord, spare us from awful art like Global SeXXX-ism: un-wrapped. The baroquely indulgent title is enough to curdle the stomach; the show itself is so bad, it almost defies description. And get this: The Conciliation Project got a $13,000 grant from the city's Neighborhood Matching Fund program to mount productions for local schools, which will only confirm the youngsters' suspicions that theater, like, totally blows.
Unlike finger-wagging parables by Baraka or Brecht, SeXXX-ism doesn't bother with characters or stories. Instead, this "ritual play" cuts straight to the politics with cartoonish clichés that insult our intelligence. If this is theater's response to social ills, it truly is a dead art form.
Exhibit A: Actors put signs around their necks that read "co-dependency," "addiction," or "abuse" and stumble around the stage, embodying addiction or co-dependency. Blech. B: The strip-club tableau, wherein three men attach long, inflatable phalli to their pants and hoot at a couple of automaton-woman pole dancers, who chant about their inner numbness and "calloused" vaginas.
For all its aspirations toward provocative political theater, SeXXX-ism spoon-feeds us ideas that haven't been radical in fifty years: "Misogyny is bad. Racism is destructive. Life would be better if we understood each other." Well, la de fucking da. What other pearls of wisdom have you got for us? Brush your teeth? Don't drink and drive?
SeXXX-ism's only controversial positions are its conservative ones: Tourism is always exploitation, sex workers are vacant robots. And where are the homos in this "examination" of race and gender? One token girly-boy, who liked to play with hair as a child, hardly counts.
The play's real tragedy is its waste—of the city's money, of the audience's time, and of its actors' genuine enthusiasm. Shameful. BRENDAN KILEY
Seattle Shakespeare Company at Center House Theatre
Through Jan 29.
This "chamber" version of The Tragedy of Richard III may be minimalist with respect to script and scenery, but Gregg Loughridge's production certainly isn't thematically restrained. The action kicks off with a miniseries-style video summation of Shakespeare's preceding Henry plays: "Previously on... THE WAR OF THE ROSES." (For the record, the segment is brisk, funny, and useful for keeping all those doomed characters straight.) Acts one through four are rendered in a business idiom, complete with PowerPoint presentations and laser pointers, which defines Richard (Todd Jefferson Moore) as a kind of Bill Gates on evil juice and makes the women out to be even more mushy and alien and clairvoyant than Shakespeare wrote them. Everything wraps up at the end with a raucous political debate between Richard and the Breton invader Richmond, played by Connor Toms as a Southern preacher man with a belly full of righteous conviction. It sounds like a mess—and it is—but the individual components are enjoyable.
The director's notes at the beginning indicate that this production was inspired by a production with a weak actor in the role of Richard. I don't know how Todd Jefferson Moore feels about this implicit slight, but he certainly isn't your typical scheming cripple. His performance is passable; it's just hard to find a nerdy capitalist fascinating, no matter how many heirs he dispatches. The best performance is Lori Larsen's Queen Margaret. Wild and witchy, her speeches knock the business conceit flat with their chilling oracular blast. ANNIE WAGNER
Lady Sings the Brews
Through Jan 28.
For a drag show, Lady Sings the Brews plays it pretty straight. The new solo performance by acid-tongued chanteuse and all-around swell gal Sylvia O'Stayformore follows your traditional cabaret formula: song, joke, banter with audience, repeat. And I don't mean to be dismissive; it works great. The darling of this show—the ambiguous "brews" of the title—isn't beer, but coffee, our city's most famous vice. Framed by just the faintest skeleton of a little-girl/big-dreams plot, O'Stayformore (backed by a rock-solid jazz trio) meanders from one coffee-related tune to the next in her soft, sarcastic croon.
But the real charm of Lady Sings the Brews is in the details. O'Stayformore has done her best to transform Re-bar into an authentic roadside diner, complete with free coffee (served by band members dressed as waitresses and short-order cooks) and a bake sale (with macaroons!) manned by a hottie in a paper hat. The set is minimal but just right, and the costumes tap the heretofore-undiscovered fashion potential of Hot Dog on a Stick uniforms. It's all terrifically cute.
O'Stayformore, with her platinum hair and cat-eye glasses, has a great comic presence—a quiet, deadpan concoction of class and sass. But the show focuses more on the songs than the Sylvia. It's serious, almost old-timey, in its fidelity to the music. I found myself wishing for a few more rough edges, a bit more silly plot, even just one more wink or aside. But these are small complaints. Snag your free coffee, augment it at the bar, enjoy the show, and conga line like you've never conga lined before. It's called fun. LINDY WEST