Greasy Heat, Laffy Holes
Experimental Boxing, Standup Comedy, and an Overlong First Act
Greasy Demon Heat Balboa
The Villainaires Academy at Villville
Through Dec 22.
You could do worse for yourself at an evening of "experimental theater" in a chilly loft apartment. Greasy Demon Heat Balboa is a mishmash of theatrical detritus with a (loose) boxing theme, plus film footage of Michael Jackson, white men in whiteface, singing (were those snippets from Don Giovanni?), smashing of crockery, slicing of lemons, bursting of condoms filled with fake blood, and a little (mercifully little) screaming.
The spectacle is nominally about Juliana, of Born Without a Face fame, who came into the world with 40 percent of her facial bones missing. (In the show, her head is described as a closed fist with one eyeball hanging out like a tetherball.) Then it's nominally about Mike Tyson, then Don King, then smoking crack with strangers. But it's mostly always about them, the performers, who are more like hosts entertaining at a party where they call the shots. When not onstage, the Villainaires (including members of the Dead Science and Implied Violence) lounge around the perimeter, drinking whiskey, smoking cigars (and other sundries), chuckling knowingly, and getting their ya-yas out in front of an always-slightly-uncomfortable audience. Which is the point. Bring a bottle—or your travel-sized bong—and a friend. The night I attended, the audience was stupidly well behaved. Greasy Demon Heat Balboa is begging you to relax, enjoy, and behave otherwise. BRENDAN KILEY
Bud, Not Buddy
Book-It Repertory Theatre at Center House Theatre
Through Dec 23.
One thing I can never understand about Book-It's original adaptations is why they go on so long. I assume Book-It doesn't intend the play to substitute for reading the book—you're supposed to contrast the production you see with the text you remember, or become so intrigued by the performance that you seek out the book itself. The loss of a few plot points here and there, in other words, wouldn't be a big sacrifice. Especially not when you're adapting a children's novel.
The charming Bud, Not Buddy follows the eponymous orphan (a 10-year-old black boy in Flint, Michigan) through a hard-knock Depression-era search for his father and a place to lay his "peanut head." Earl Alexander, the adult actor playing Bud, may have a too-regular cranium, but otherwise he's absolutely perfect, with the kind of brightened but never-mimed emotion that turns oversize clowns into heroes. He should be in every Seattle Children's Theatre performance from now until eternity. The ensemble, put to work as ragged orphans and suave jazz musicians and everything in between, isn't nearly so disciplined. But there are standouts: Brandon Boyd Simmons, precisely stylized in the roles of a fellow orphan and a jazz mentor, and Demene Hall, who can't scat worth crap but who instantly warms the space with her gentle naturalism.
Director Mark Jared Zufelt's production presses its acting luck, however, with an overlong first act. Worse, the scenic design consists of a few crates and a huge clutter of Depression-era signs rendered in awful pale-taupe reproductions. It's intriguing to see blackface-inspired advertising next to bland Esso signs and government propaganda, but that sort of random pedagogy belongs in the hallway, not onstage, where it intercepts our attention and does nothing to set the scene. ANNIE WAGNER
People's Republic of Komedy at Capitol Hill Arts Center
Live comedy is the best. First of all, you can get drunk. Second of all, you can get druuuuunk! Third of all, you can see people fuck up, and then recover. Or fuck up, and then bomb. Both are the best! Fifth of all, Seattle is full of funny joke tellers. Sixth of all, Seattle's funny joke tellers are so funny, they're starting to open for professional funny joke tellers like Todd Barry. Seventh of all, I am so drunk right now!
Every week, in CHAC's dim, mazy lower level, local boozers and laff enthusiasts gather for Laff Hole—the showcase produced by the People's Republic of Komedy. The Republicans—Dan Carroll, Scott Moran, Kevin Hyder, and Emmett Montgomery—all estimable comedians, are emerging, more importantly, as comedy promoters: as the visible anchor for a nascent Seattle scene.
A year or so ago, when I first stumbled down the ramp into the Hole, the crowd was sparse and suspicious, the show innovative but clumsy. A few weeks ago, I saw people turned away at the door for headliner Hari Kondabolu. The momentum is palpable—it's exciting—and the comics are keeping up: getting tighter, funnier, more polished all the time.
Montgomery discusses the fierceness of the unicorn ("it's a giant horse with a sword on its head"), and somehow makes scary clowns (yaaawn) funny again: "There's clowns that put on makeup to look like clowns so they can go to the birthday party, and then there's clowns that wear makeup to look like people so they can go to the liquor store." And even though I've heard Carroll's abort-all-ugly-fetuses screed ("You guys may have noticed by now, I'm gorgeous—you're welcome") literally fives of times, it's still really fucking funny. Always.
So get thee to Laff Hole. Get in on the ground floor of something. And get drunk. LINDY WEST