Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through Jan 27.
The goal of audience participation, one assumes, is to make the audience care—to keep its brains awake, even if the butts attached to them are going all tingly. The danger is that the audience will participate to the detriment of the play.
So it was with the poor woman in the puffy blue shirt who had the misfortune to sit in an aisle seat, and was chosen to play the Soothsayer. Every time she was supposed to declare "Beware the ides of March!" she was overcome with a giggling fit that punctured whatever tension the actors had managed to build.
Not that there was much tension to puncture. Director Gregg Loughridge has turned this Julius Caesar into a confused pastiche. A few of the shticks: a Japanese warrior-dojo theme, quotations from sonnets, unnecessary subtexts (there's no reason for Portia to be pregnant), some Hendrix, some Beatles, martial arts during dialogue, rinky-dink digital projections of lightning and moons and mountains that look like a selection of Trapper Keeper covers, and the aforementioned audience participation. The result is a production that keeps breaking its own spell.
Too bad Loughridge didn't have enough faith in his actors. Both David Quicksall as the noble Caesar-killer Brutus and Hana Lass as the ignoble Caesar-killer Cassius command their roles. Their final scene, in which they kill themselves, for very different reasons, is the best moment in the production. To be fair, that scene is also a pastiche (in the original, Cassius and Brutus die separately), but without any unnecessary bullshit: Two good actors, doing good work, is enough. BRENDAN KILEY
Historic University Theater
Through March 15.
It is hard to get anyone to go with you to see standup and improv in the University District at midnight-thirty on a weekend night; no, it's not hard, it's impossible. A friend who's usually game for theater stuff declined in favor of going to see Blazing Saddles at midnight at the Egyptian; another friend, one who's had a career in improv, declined too, in favor of going to see Blazing Saddles with the first guy. I took the bus, which got from Capitol Hill to the University District so rapidly I had almost an hour to kill, and I spent it getting as drunk as possible.
Which isn't really necessary, it turns out, because there's a bar in the Historic University Theater, and not just in the lobby or something, but in among the seats, so you can drink and drink without missing a thing (although you couldn't get a vodka soda on Saturday night, because the bar was out of club soda, as well as vodka). Dartanion London is the MC. He introduces a standup comedian, the standup comedian comes to the stage and does a couple minutes, and then four actually funny improv actors come out and do actually funny improv based on the subjects that the standup was just discussing. Then someone else comes out and does some standup, followed again by improv. It is different every night, but the standup comedians on this night were Ted Tremper from Chicago and Bengt Washburn from California. Some of the subjects raised: John Wilkes Booth, Jamie Foxx, and the retarded. Tremper said he thinks Hillary Clinton is going to be out of the race soon, and added, "The only thing sad about that is I really want to see her pick up a baby and devour it." Washburn was even funnier. He opened with the guy-eaten-by-a-tiger story. "I thought that was neat," he said. "For the tiger. Looking all those years. Wondering." I took bad notes because I was laughing the whole time. The standout among the improv crew was Amanda Williams—incidentally, the only woman onstage. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE