Crispin Spaeth Dance Group
Through June 15.In blackjack, when you decide to "double down," it means you are doubling your bet and getting only one more card from the dealer. Once you do this, you unavoidably render yourself vulnerable; you take a significant risk, and place your hopes into a single moment. Choreographer Crispin Spaeth understands this risk, this inexplicable faith in brief defining moments. In Double Down, her latest work of modern dance, there are hints of impetuous optimism, acute hesitation, and the continuous push/pull of personal gambles. Through a flurry of resolute movements, Spaeth's dancers convey the little perils and struggles involved with deciding what you want, and how you're going to get it. As in blackjack, this work looks at the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes scary moments when one decides to leap forward and put it all on the line.
Double Down feels at times reminiscent of Merce Cunningham's works, in that Spaeth is not particularly concerned with obvious narrative, and she's not afraid of illogical movement. The entire work comprises almost separate clusters of dancing, beautiful to watch as a whole, but with very distinct mood swings and levels of playfulness or gravitas. From the first moment, we're drawn in by silent, controlled movement followed by bursts of urgency; and while there is intricate athleticism (dancers Johanna Hulick, Lila Hurwitz, Jess Klein, and Amy Turner all display strong technique and precision), there are also traces of ballet's lilting grace. The combination of these elements is a quirky pleasure to watch and follow, and the more you watch, the more you engage in the dancers' discussion. That this discussion is without words makes it feel all the more compelling and intimate. MIN LIAO
Gone Are the Days: A Ghastly Chronicle of an Epic Journey Through the Remorseless, Unrelenting Landscapes of Hell Itself!, or, Sex After Death
Through June 21.As much as I love theater, I have long lamented the medium's inability to offer a good artistic answer to movies. An analogy: After the advent of photography, painting responded. Pushing its textural and imaginative boundaries, painting played with the eye in a way pictures couldn't. Impressionism, expressionism, and unidentifiable splatters on canvas gave a gleeful middle finger to photography's visually literalist shackles.
If theater is like painting, most plays are stuck in da Vinci territory--but productions like Gone Are the Days give me hope. With a brilliantly inventive set and some of Seattle's best theatrical minds, this bizarre musical braids great talent and great ideas into a weirdly glorious comic hairdo.
Trapped in a billowing beach ball of fabric, Gone's audience reclines on piles of pillows like an arty harem, watching the action in every direction. Live silhouettes, slides, and high-school-style overhead projectors perform a visual salad one must see to understand. Spectators gyrate on their pillows, slack-jawed, following the hallucinatory musical as shadows flicker across the silken cave.
A trip to hell and back, Gone follows a little girl, a Dante knockoff, and a wet nurse as each tumbles into the inferno on different adventures. On the way, they encounter interspecies sex, giant weasels, skeletal badminton players, and filthy, lame limericks.
Some of Seattle's finest make appearances, from Go There diva Sarah Rudinoff to Annex Theatre's artistic director, Bret Fetzer, and several noteworthy others. The play isn't seamless, hanging too loose in parts, and several jokes are tinny groaners. It seems like several brilliant people spent too little time on too big a project, giving us a really stellar work in progress.
Gone, despite its rough edges, carries a bright promise, pushing performance in an inventive new direction. If local theater-makers take the hint, we may be in for some radical, wonderful surprises. BRENDAN KILEY
The Habit at Re-bar
Through June 28.If the local sketch comedy troupe the Habit were, for instance, as funny as Saturday Night Live, then its all-girl offshoot, The Habette, would be MAD TV. No... Almost Live!. Comparatively speaking.
It may not seem fair to compare this brand-spankin'-new troupe of sketch-comedy broads to their seasoned and popular progenitor, the completely-balled Habit, but you have to, because, well, that's how they're billed. It's the concept. And I don't think I'm surprising anyone by saying that the concept hasn't quite gelled yet.
It sucks when small technical things put a dent in a show. The Habette's sound-work includes ironically loungey grunge covers played loudly--loudly enough for the audience to enjoy the ironically loungey grunge covers, but not the show struggling along beneath it. The swallowing of some key moments is exacerbated by the drag: At least 50 percent of the time the girls are playing guys (the material is recycled Habit sketches mostly, newly breasted and unified through an "office work" theme), wearing ties and making manly, manly pussy and butt jokes in very unpracticed baritones. Confronted with unfeminine vocal registers struggling beneath "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Bacharach-style, my reaction was leaning more toward "What?" than "Ha, ha!"
But I'd be a jerk if I didn't point out that The Habette offers a modicum of amusement. These actresses (not to play favorites, but I think Shanan Kelley is cool) boast both comedic talent and well-above-average booty-dancing skills. They just haven't worked out their chemistry. Or their baritones. ADRIAN RYAN