Active Pets Productions,
Seattle, WA

A garage-punk musical about four gents at their local draft center, 4-F chronicles the brief adventures of a hairy LSD casualty, a fake homo, two would-be warriors, and their Army examiners. With the legacy of Hair and "Alice's Restaurant," why do we need another musical examination of Vietnam-era draft dodging? 4-F never gives us a good reason, but is charmingly sincere nevertheless--even if it fails to teach us anything about the draft that our pop-cultural canon hasn't already covered. The cast and band are capable, but the script lacks the insight and humor to justify its journey into well-traveled territory. BRENDAN KILEY

The Book of Liz
Repertory Actors Theatre,
Seattle, WA

Enthusiasm is admirable, but without comic timing, it comes to nothing. The Book of Liz, written by the very funny Amy and David Sedaris, follows Sister Elizabeth Donderstock, a heavy-sweating member of reclusive religious order the Squeamish, as she flees from a lack of appreciation and rises in the ranks of a franchise restaurant called Plymouth Crock. This production doesn't have a grasp of the material's quirky comic sensibility, despite earnest efforts. BRET FETZER

Cat Fight!
Lacey Langston,
Brooklyn, NY

A postmortem bitch-slap between film-queen rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, expressed through dramatically interpreted counterpoint monologues (Joan tells her side; Bette retorts; repeat) delivered via Barbie dolls. Indeed. I'm still not sure how the Barbie dolls fit in (I'm fairly sure that Ms. Langston was acting out moments of intrigue between the stars and not regressing into childhood, but I can't guarantee anything--it's fringe, you know). But this little production is saucy, amusing, educational (every fag should know the history of these two backstabbing bitches), and well worth the 45 minutes it takes to sit through the crazy damn thing. ADRIAN RYAN

David's Balls
Grove Goddess Productions,
New York, NY

The incestuous lives of actors in a theater company get skewered in this one-woman show, written by Lisa Beth Kovetz and acted by Margot Avery. Though actors are an easy target, the script has some amusing bite; unfortunately, while Avery capably distinguishes her three different characters, she doesn't have the snap that would make the bitchiness sting. More problematically, after we've seen a sequence of conversations from one character's point of view, we then see it again from another's perspective--which adds a few witticisms but no new information. BRET FETZER

The Fog Machine
Shunpike Arts Collective,
Seattle, WA

A 50-minute musical infomercial on how to "activate your life," The Fog Machine is either an unfunny satire by three normal guys or an unintentionally funny conversion attempt by three dolts. Apparently, "there are ass men, there are breast men, and there are idea men"; the Crusades, the Magna Carta, and the clock were "the three great perversions"; and René Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton were somehow inferior to Margaret Mead and Ben Franklin. I still have no idea what the hell they were talking about and can't shake the notion that the show was written on a dare. BRENDAN KILEY

Macha Monkey Productions,
Seattle, WA

GameGirl is a "video game as metaphor for life" deal, featuring the water-cooler banterings, escapist fantasies, and funky dance moves of three bored, disgruntled, video-game-obsessed office gals. The application of this video-game/life metaphor was not entirely successful. But the aforementioned banterings are funny, the fantasies are action-packed (lots of faux kung fu), and the dancing is downright funky, due entirely to the efforts of Jennifer Pratt, Desiree Prewitt, and Alycia Delmore--three eminently watchable fringe actresses who play postmodern urban malaise with lighthearted charm. ADRIAN RYAN

L.A. Nasty
The Habit,
Santa Monica, CA

Awww, these poor little Seattle actors abandoned us for a concrete Sodom of big tits and empty promises and now they want to come back and whine about how lousy L.A. is? Screw 'em, I'd say--if they weren't so damn funny. Old Habit hands Ryan Dobosh and Mark Siano have slapped together a gleefully self-deprecating two-person tour through the SoCal Inferno. L.A. Nasty is rough-hewn and sometimes stumbles, but its funny bits are as fresh and pure as L.A. isn't--comedy gems and harrowing tales of life on the sunny side. BRENDAN KILEY

A Man, a Magic, a Music
Movin' Melvin Brown,
Austin, TX

Movin' Melvin Brown mixes autobiography, an overview of black music from the 1950s on, and a bit of evangelism into a curious but entertaining concoction. The performance includes classic R&B hits like "Johnny B. Goode," "In the Midnight Hour," and "I Feel Good," all well suited to Brown's raw, impassioned voice. The recorded accompaniment initially lends a high-end karaoke feel to the show, but Brown's exuberance and talent soon overcome that. The story of his life ranges from nightclubs to the Army to a marriage gone sour to a male strip revue, all told with wry humor and earnest aphorisms. And he tap dances. All in all, pretty damn charming. BRET FETZER

Seattle Neutrino Project
Seattle Neutrino Project,
Seattle, WA
A group of about 10 actors and three camerapersons milk a theme from the audience. (The night I went, it was "vanity.") Then they all scamper outside and start filming three distinct short films based on said theme, while other cast members distract you with moderately clever banter and beer. In no time at all, the spankin'-new, improvised mini-movies are edited, mixed, and finally shown to the anticipation-wracked audience--to everyone's delight or dismay, depending. Challenging, clever, fun, and the night I went, dirty, dirty, dirty! (Improv has a glorious way of going right for the crotch, bless it.) ADRIAN RYAN

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