In a tiny apartment, a nervous young man makes breakfast for his tyrant. The tyrant—a balding chef wearing a purple dressing gown and yellow-tinted aviator glasses—strides into the room, inspects his plate of toast, and barks, "THIS BUTTER IS NOT PROPERLY SPREAD!" The young man cowers. "Say that I'm tender," the chef commands. "You're less violent than last year?" the young man offers. "That's not what I mean!" the chef snarls.
So begins a day in the life of Fabulous Prizes, a delightfully demented and claustrophobic new script by local playwright Neil Ferron. Fabulous Prizes, now playing at the 619 Western Building, is psychological horror with some high-stakes vaudeville. Julius, the chef, opened a restaurant with his wife almost 30 years ago. But their big night, with its food critics and Michelin inspectors, was a disaster: Julius caught his wife in passionate embrace with an employee and killed her with a kitchen knife.
Julius reenacts this scene over and over, making his son wear a wig and pretend to be his own mother getting mounted from behind. ("I refuse to gut you like the slutty fish you are!" the chef bellows.) These reenactments are the son's "training"—preparation for the day when he will have a kitchen (and a knife) of his own. I don't need to tell you that fortunes change.
The four actors, directed by Caitlin Sullivan, own this show and play their roles in perfect four-part harmony. Nathan Sorseth, last seen in WET's Titus, plays the tyrannical chef with a restrained menace that threatens to spill into violence at any moment. The son, Quinn Franzen, walks the line between quivering sycophant and cocky heir apparent, especially when he's showing off to impress the bullied apartment manager (Anthony Darnell), whose greatest wish in life is to buy a Red Bull cocktail for a woman who keeps walking past his window. The Satori Group has produced ambitious shows with a few rough edges in the past two years, but this is its best work yet.
Another tyrant—this one a queen—meets trouble in Titan Arum by local dance company Salt Horse. Performed in the newly restored Washington Hall (a 1908 building with a blood-red brick facade), Titan Arum is an extravagant reverie for six dancers and five live musicians, including Seattle avant-garde treasure Stuart Dempster. The piece has the iconography and weight of an undiscovered mythology. Co-choreographer Corrie Befort appears on a balcony as a gold-faced queen, her enormous dress stretching down to the main floor below. Her collaborator Beth Graczyk enters topless, wearing a tiger's head, violently thrusting her hands and spine from left to right. Black creatures scuttle around and menace a woman (also Graczyk) sitting in a pew. A story-high glacier of stiff white fabric glows from within while Dempster plays a long, guttural note on his trombone that sounds like a roomful of Buddhist monks growling om.
When it was over, the audience looked dazed, like it had just been woken up from a long, rich, and vaguely disturbing dream.
This article has been updated since its original publication.