Theater Review Revue
A World of Misfits
Through Dec 20.
Oh, this is just delightful. Just the best. The Pajama Men—Albuquerque duo Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez, barefoot, clad in pajamas—make my very favorite kind of comedy:
It's conceptual and weird ("You have any siblings?" "Yeah, I got one. Half brother. Half sister"), silly and creepy ("Some people say beauty's only skin deep. But if that's true, you must be made totally out of skin"), lowbrow and highbrow and smart and dirty and sometimes sweet—all whipped up into a froth somewhere between sketch and improv.
I hesitate to quote anything, because you should experience it as it happens. The pair (accompanied by a handsome and kind-faced musician with a tiny mandolin thing who has got to be the most-getting-laidest dude of all time) whip from scene to scene, as newscasters, as knights-errant, as awkward teens, as gigantic thumbs—characters that begin infinite distances apart, eventually and naturally crossing paths in the surreal wilderness of the Pajama Men. Also, it's fucking funny. Like all the best performers, they take absurdly simple concepts—for instance, categorizing things as gross, not gross, or not not gross—and spin them into fully realized scenes. Scenes that will kill you. "Many things are gross. Take for example, garbage juice. Gross." See? You're dead now. Sorry. I mean, you're welcome. I mean, thank you, Pajama Men. LINDY WEST
Eclectic Theater Company at Odd Duck Studio
Through Dec 20.
Ibsen's Ghosts is a play that is enhanced rather than weakened by the poverty of a production. This is not because the riches of the play's language are exposed by the lack of a brilliant set or flashy costumes (with the exception of the wonderful ghost speech by Mrs. Alving, the language in the play is very plain and direct), but because the essence of a ghost becomes apparent. A ghost's existence is frailer than a puff of smoke. It comes as close to nothingness as is humanly possible. So when the stage is small and nearly empty, and the characters are wearing clothes that do not catch the eye, we get a sense of this next-to-nothingness. In Eclectic Theater Company's production, the frailty of the space, Odd Duck Studio, corresponds with the ghost that haunts the home and family of Ibsen's most scandalous play. The main and best performance is by Lee Morris, who plays Manders, Mrs. Alving's spiritual adviser. Indeed, Morris's Manders is the only character who seems substantial. He has a quickness and even loudness of speech that makes him as heavy as the living. As for the rest (Mrs. Alving, her son Oswald, her carpenter Engstrand, and her maid Regina), they seem on the verge of fading into the void, of vanishing like a puff smoke. The result is a performance that's almost, almost precious and delicate. CHARLES MUDEDE
Next Stage at Richard Hugo House
Through Dec 21.
It sounds like the beginning of a joke (a closeted homosexual, an emotionally stunted photographer, and a draft-dodging puppeteer race for the Canadian border), but this play, which examines the cultural landscape of the 1960s, refuses to be simplified with a punch line. Island of Misfits is the third-ever production by Next Stage, a new theater company in residence at Hugo House. Written by the company's associate artistic director (Amy Boyce Holtcamp) and directed by its founder (Mark Jared Zufelt), the play could stand to shed a scene or five, rein in some tangents, and sustain more consistency in tone. That said, Misfits is original and, despite its structural flaws, satisfying. The title, a reference to the Island of Misfit Toys from the 1964 Christmas TV special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, refers also to the play's characters—outsiders within a society that rejects them. The set, painted blue and white, mirrors the winter land of the original stop-motion animation, paralleling the real world of the characters with that of their puppets. Even the villains, a menacing Grinch-like policeman (Aaron Allhouse is perfect in this role) and fumbling KKK members who hand out Twinkies, are reminiscent of the puppets in the TV show. With everything from drugged-out renditions of children's Christmas stories to poetry by Langston Hughes, this play is fully loaded. KAIA CHESSEN
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through Jan 3.
When the curtain rises at the opening of this Depression-era comedy, people in the audience drop their jaws—the set is that amazing. Designed by Michael Ganio, it's a living room and kitchen for wacky middle-class family the Sycamores. There are recessed bay windows, a large table, cozy couches, all manner of things on the walls, a set of stairs going to the second floor, and another heading down to a basement where the grandfather of the family is experimenting with fireworks. The set is so dense that it occupies the eyes for the entire performance, which concerns the marriage of a regular girl to a wealthy man (raw social climbing) and is directed at those whose laughter is easily triggered by exaggerated walking and excited talking. Leaving the theater, I hear this from a man walking with, I presume, his wife: "Who was your favorite character?" The wife: "The actress." Yes, this is very true. The actress, played by Suzy Hunt, is a drunk and is the best character. Why? Because nothing in the world is funnier than a drunk, washed-up actress. Nothing. CHARLES MUDEDE