The Poncho Artistic Picks of the Fringe (selected by a panel of artists) will appear at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Fri-Sun, this weekend only; call 342-9172 for information, 325-6500 for tickets.

BlackJack
Lucky Fortune Productions

Penises, both cut and uncut, dangle willy-nilly in this overwrought and improbable amalgamation of Arsenic and Old Lace and Reservoir Dogs. For serious penis fans only. TAMARA PARIS

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Burt (Or When I Was Five I Killed Myself)
Elastic Productions

The best ensemble acting I've seen in the festival. Greg Lyle-Newton and Jason Hedden were particularly good and Susanna Burney was her usual fine self. In Burt, a boy (Brian Culver) is sent to a home for disturbed kids after he does something awful to his little friend Jessica (Jennifer Pratt). Teddi Yaeger's play, based on a novel by Howard Buten, is designed to make us wonder what Burt's terrible deed was. Burt is helped by one doctor (Howard Stegack, who also plays a wonderfully annoying little girl) and hindered by another. Though this Good Shrink vs. Bad Shrink dichotomy is simplistic and the "revelation of childhood sexual trauma" is hackneyed, the excellent acting and directing make this show very, very worth seeing. REBECCA BROWN

Color Works! An Original Adaptation of Georg Kaiser's Gas I & II
Black Canvas Productions, Inc.

The simplicity of this show's preachy, cardboard-cutout script provides Black Canvas with the chance to scribble all over it with funny faces, drumming, costume changes, juggling, and props. The wise, anticonsumerist appeal of the central prophetic character (who tells the masses that "color" cannot be manufactured or bought) is too true in the face of our technologically morphing mass-culture economy to be ignored or to fail to move us. As is, the adaptation is neither a period reconstruction nor a direct contemporary commentary. But despite some dragging in "II," this curious and heartfelt revival is finally compelling simply for its very existence. GRANT COGSWELL

functional dementia
bent

Seven dancers perform five different scenes that, according to the reviewer's cheat sheet, are "an abstract exploration of mental illness." Whatever. But there's not a weak performer, not one weak scene in the bunch. "The Magnificent Adventures of Five Fleas" is hilarious and disturbing. Cast members dressed in white hospital patient shifts mime running to exhaustion. Trying to get away from inner voices or abusive shrinks? Running toward some revelation? The next four scenes suggest the horrors and transcendence of madness, loneliness, creativity. There's also a big orange fish-head costume and a Teletubby-esque group grope, as well as moments of sweet, sad beauty. RB

52-Pickup
theatre simple

At first, I thought this show might be a little schticky. Fifty-two scenes of a relationship are written on a pack of cards and then tossed willy-nilly. Llysa Holland and Andrew Litzky pick them up, one by one, and play the scenes in that order. But within moments, these two actors have created a bond so intimate that the audience actually cares about these hapless, bumbling lovers. During a couple of scenes, if I closed my eyes, I could almost believe I was listening to a recording from my own life. Yikes! Perfect show for anybody who's ever been destroyed by love. TP

It's Not You... It's Me
Daring City Productions

This musical explores the crazy, wacky, topsy-turvy world of contemporary "dating." One big number harks back to when things "were simpler, in the '50s." For those who were alive then, this might be appropriate, but why anyone under 50 responds to this stuff beats me. Some of these people can really sing, though. GC

Objects for the Emancipated Consumer
Liminal

This production, a kind of installation with live actors, combines performance, dance, and interactive murder-mystery theater to create an intriguing and adventurous exploration of the language of consumer research, film noir, airport protocol, and Internet chat rooms. The technology, while not inappropriate, was less compelling than the live action. Strolling through the piece, one was never certain just who were performers and who were audience members, the whole experience calling attention to how observation or waiting in public is itself a performance. The actors were superb; this could have been so embarrassingly actorly and instead was honest, funny, and poetic. GC

Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk
The Burglars of Hamm

Luckily, the director who bought the manuscript of this Swedish play at a yard sale knows that it's really old and hard to understand. I mean really, really hard. So he gives everybody headsets to help us with the parts that don't make sense. Like the general and the bullfighter in the bordello scene: If he hadn't whispered in my ear, I never would have gotten the deep symbolism. Or known that the guy who plays the dancing cat is sleeping with the girl from the dream sequence who is desperate to get cast in a sitcom, though judging from her performance, she's got a snowball's chance in Hell. This production was totally awesome, but how come the only thing I can pull up on the Internet about this playwright, Lars Mattsun, is a web page about some electronics university in Belgium? TP

Run Between the Raindrops
Tower Room Players

My date and I left after 15 minutes, maybe 10. We just wanted them to stop. It was like a really bad toothpaste commercial, only against domestic abuse. GC

Up In Your Grill

This sketch comedy team manages the unprecedented: a skit about Starbucks that is actually funny. Riffing on malt liquor, child abuse, junior-high erections, the Holocaust, and handicapped celebrities, its members do it all with a skewed humor and honesty that somehow manages to keep from curdling into a bitter aftertaste. Lots of the "jokes" don't actually have any meaning but simply are random, poetic additions that arise from the sheer energy of invention and the excitement of performing live. The whole troupe is strong but Mike Daisey is the irresistible star. GC

See Theater Calendar for more reviews.