An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein: Short Dirty Plays
Shel Silverstein is a celebrated children's author, but his adult material is where he really shines. He wrote "A Boy Named Sue" for Johnny Cash and his Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book is a caustic classic, a children's book for parents who are brave enough to admit that they might experience a brief moment of happiness and relief if their children ran away from home.
Like it says on the tin, that edge and sass and sexuality—that adultness—is what An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein is all about. It's a collection of 10 short plays about the darker side of parenthood (in "The Best Daddy," a dad tries to give his daughter a dead horse for her birthday), sexuality (in "Buy One, Get One Free," two prostitutes struggle to drum up business in rhyme), and everything else (in "Smile," a righteously angry woman tells the inventor of the smiley face: "You know what you remind me of? A fucking Nazi war criminal").
What is it about Theater Schmeater and its fantastic anthologies? Its Twilight Zone adaptations were legendarily entertaining, and everyone involved in An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein—from the cast to set designer Michael Mowery—recaptures the spirit of those old performances. (In a tribute to the playwright, Mowery has decorated the wings of the stage with tall, precarious-looking stacks of books and every inch of the floor is covered with pages.) Combined with Silverstein's hilarious, occasionally shocking scripts, this amounts to the most fun you'll probably have in a Seattle theater in a good long while.
It's hard to choose just one cast member to praise. Their comic timing is roundly impeccable and nobody performs lazy caricature—they portray these freaks, drunks, and deviants with care and fastidiousness. But Lisa Viertel is especially mesmerizing, first as a woman assailed by a pervert on a street corner; then as a wife terrorizing her husband with a game that requires him to choose between her, their daughter, and his mother; and finally as a creepy laundress cataloging all the questionable stains on her customer's dirty clothing. It's so rare to find a cast and crew doing their best work on really exceptional material. If you don't go to see Shel Silverstein, you'll kick yourself when it's gone.