Drowned and Letters From Sylvia to Jack
Live Girls!
620 Alaskan Way #203, 568-1985 ext. 3.
$10. Through June 1.

Numbness comes in many forms, and two one-act plays presented by Live Girls!--a theater company dedicated to "new and under-produced" works by women (so goes the mission statement)--demonstrated this both consciously and unconsciously.

Both one-acts portrayed spirits that have been beaten down. Laden with images of water and blood, Drowned began with a birth-by-death, and proceeded to tell the story of a woman who was invisible to herself as well as those around her. Soaked with booze and barbs, Letters From Sylvia to Jack clawed at the romantic myth of the alcoholic, literary lovers.

As the tiny audience filed out for intermission after Drowned, my bewildered companion begged, "Can you tell me what the hell that was about?" I told him I thought it was the story of a woman who, through expectation and disappointment, had become so numb to her own life that death had finally given it meaning.

"Well, while you were seeing that," he replied, "I was watching cartoons in my head, seeing balloons and clowns hammering each other." That's pretty numb.

As for Letters From Sylvia to Jack, there was nothing new in this play; we've all either lived it or seen it before. Mix ego and self-doubt with booze and quasi-high-minded glib remarks, and you get some of the ugliest fights known to man. And the most pathetic.

Sylvia verbally pounded Jack, and thus herself, into misery. I thought of the boy I made cry more than a decade ago, and how he'd said hours later as we lay in bed, "There, you've broken me. Are you happy now?" I knew in my heart that what was playing out onstage was the same scene staged by my grandmother and her hapless husband--who, like Jack and that boy in my bed, must have been frustrated by his inadequacies, asking his tormentor, "How can you love someone who isn't smart enough to make you stop risking your life?"

At the end of Sylvia, I was left with a feeling of, "Yeah, so?" and unless you've lived it, you're probably going to be as confused as my theater companion was. Alex Samuels is cliché as Jack, the simultaneously bored and enraptured intellectual, until it becomes apparent that he's the only party truly in love. Women use themselves as weapons of self-defense in both works--a brutal sight, if you can recognize it. KATHLEEN WILSON


Pine Nuts
Outcast Productions at the Union Garage, 1418 10th Ave, 325-6500.
$10. Through May 25.

This is production number three for ambitious Outcast Productions, whose entire raison d'être is to provide founder/playwright Dan Dembiczak with an excuse for writing off his enormous collection of shoes. (Five scenes, five different pairs of shoes? Come on, Imelda!)

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Pine Nuts pokes fun at the sartorial and attitudinal vagaries that comprise the carnival of weirdness known as Capitol Hill. For example, the hilarious first scene is set in the unmistakable red glare of the Cha Cha Lounge--moody land of ironic brown leather where the excessively inked roam free. A snotty alterna-grrrl and a blasé rocker boi piss their polyester toreadors when they find that they've been unknowingly insulting The Stranger's music editor du jour. That kinda stuff.

If you don't live/hang on "the Hill," if you've never been coifed at Rudy's, or you think Typing Explosion is a suicide bombing run on an Israeli steno pool, WHOOSH! It's all gonna go RIGHT over your head. If, however, you're a resident fag/struggling rockstar wannabe/general weirdo, I can guarantee that you'll fully appreciate this piece. Still, you might even laugh your ass off once or twice. I did. ADRIAN RYAN


Texts for Nothing
Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St, 443-2222.
$15-$44. Through May 26.

Famed vaudevillian Bill Irwin tumbles down a hillside into a pile of moist dirt. From there he attempts to retain some shred of dignity while growing wetter and dirtier, his efforts to climb back up failing miserably and comically. The contortions of Irwin's body are fascinating; ordinarily I chafe when an actor refers to his body as his "instrument," but Irwin's truly is, and an exquisitely expressive one at that. Then he begins to speak, and the performance splits in two.

It's always questionable to turn a prose piece by a playwright into a play; if it worked as a play, don't you think the author would have written it as one? Samuel Beckett, in particular, had a rigorous notion of what distinguishes churnings of thought from the urge to speak. Texts for Nothing was meant to happen in your head as you read; though Beckett himself contributed ideas to a previous staging, it's not theater so much as a literary recitation. Irwin's reading is sensitive and fluid, often funny or resonant, but more than anything the text functions as an excuse (or pretext, if you will) for a marvelous physical meditation on Beckett's consciousness. Through the spasms, twitches, and gyrations of his flesh, Irwin evokes the constant tension between the craving for rest and the necessity for action.

Yet I found it almost impossible to listen to Irwin at the same time as I watched him. Taking in the words required a fundamentally different kind of reception than taking in Irwin's movements. Each had its pleasures; but for my taste, the body--the theatrical event, as opposed to the literary reflection--won out. BRET FETZER

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