A Rehearsal of Dark Room
Crispin Spaeth Dance Group at Western Bridge
Opens Feb 17.

While Seahawks fans piled into the stadium two miles north, Crispin Spaeth led me through the Crash. Pause. Rewind. exhibit at Western Bridge to a medium-sized room with no windows. She introduced me to five dancers, handed me an infrared monocle, and turned out the lights so I could be the first outside observer of Dark Room. Still in rehearsals, Room's dancers will perform in pitch-black while an audience of 20 watches them through the night-vision monocles.

Why? "The 'original why' was about feeling misled and confused and images of the war being fought at night," Spaeth said. "It was much scarier. I envisioned cars speeding past each other in the dark. Now it's more intimate and gentle."

And kind of creepy. Watching the grainy-green bodies falling and crawling through the room feels like hunting, especially since the quarry cannot view the viewers. The partner moments are tender and lovely, with the blind, vulnerable dancers finding and losing each other in the dark—but seeing them through the constricted lens gives the scene a patina of peep-show scuzziness. Looking through the infrared monocle is like watching a fuzzy television screen, and the dancers seem far removed in space and time. Pull the monocle away and you're alone in the black, unseeing and unseen, hearing them panting, brushing against the floor and each other, just feet or inches away. The aural and visual contradiction is unsettling.

Dark Room sounds like it could be gimmicky, but the rough draft I saw, the proposed infrared lighting (which will allow effects impossible with regular light), and Spaeth's groping curiosity suggest a technological experiment that will produce unique and substantial results. BRENDAN KILEY

The Onion Twins
BetterBiscuitDance at Richard Hugo House
Through Jan 29.

This dance opera is based on a Swedish fairytale, and as long as it mimics the heavy simplicity of children's stories, it's lovely. Early on, choreographer Alex Martin establishes stylized, almost telegraphic gestures for each character, often portrayed by four or five dancers, and the superb ensemble (Martin, plus Gabriel Bruya, Monica Gilliam, Linnea Simmons, and Ricki Mason, who is particularly charismatic) makes the conceit work seamlessly. The queen is represented by 10 antler-fingers placed haughtily on the crown of the head. Villagers are little elbows, bent forward toward the audience and prone to fits of unrest. There's also a prince, a dragon, and a gnarled crone who dispenses fertility treatments in the marketplace. Meanwhile, Rebecca Brown's libretto (sung by a wonderful soprano, Megan Hook, and an overbearing baritone named Craig Garretson) loops and loops like something out of Gertrude Stein, with some luscious description (Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" came to mind) to relieve the repetition.

But there is no director to persuade all the elements of the production to hang together, and things eventually get out of hand. We want to watch the dancers, so it's irritating when the singers, brightly lit and costumed in gray rags, hog the center of the stage. Vanessa DeWolf's narration is saggy and overly emphatic—I much preferred Rebecca Brown's toneless voiceover at a workshop performance the summer before last. The second act is hectic and cluttered with abrupt changes in tone, redundant paper dolls, and other needless stage business that suffocates the story's absurdly happy end. ANNIE WAGNER

As Bees in Honey Drown
ArtsWest
Through Feb 4.

Evan Wyler (Andrew McIntyre) is a writer. Specifically, Evan Wyler wrote a novel that delivered him to New York City and fame's doorstep. The opening moments of Bees find him at his first magazine photo shoot, where a pervy photographer tells him to "lose the shirt." But Evan Wyler, being a writer, has ideas: "I was thinking more in the genre of, like, a pullover V-neck and a button-down shirt and, you know, kind of leaning on a stack of Proust." How naïve.

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He loses the shirt, of course, as well as his innocence, and, eventually, $15,000 at the hands of charming griftess Alexa Vere de Vere (Heather Hawkins).

Every character in this play is a cliché: struggling writer, struggling painter, small-town girl corrupted by big city, small-town boy corrupted by big city, and gays and gays and gays. It's also about 10 years behind the times—anyone who watches VH1 already knows every angle of the fame-fucks-you-up storyline. What saves As Bees in Honey Drown from being a snooze-fest is Hawkins's splendid performance as Vere de Vere. She turns this babbling loony—a potential pillar of irritating—into a funny and irresistible pleasure, and offers acute insight into the pathos of self-construction: "We're the creative people, even if our best creations turn out to be ourselves." Shirts off to her. LINDY WEST