Glengarry Glen Ross

Capitol Hill Arts Center

Through May 31.The thing about this play--now wait a minute--this play... this play is good. It's a good play. It's a fucking good play. It's about a group of men. Salesmen. Well, some are men. Some are just children pretending to be men.

These men are selling real estate. They're selling land. And the American dream. That's the important thing to remember--these men are selling the fucking American dream. And they're selling themselves too. With the promise of becoming the bigger man who can't get fucked over, they're willing to fuck over some cocksucker and make him believe he asked for it.

John Kobasic, as the past-his-prime Levene, makes you smell his desperation, while John Farrage's Roma has a bravado that fills up the room and threatens to suffocate everyone. And Thomas Ryan and David Klein, well, they are simply great as the confidence men with different levels of confidence.

The director of this play, Aimee Bruneau, has done something great. Something really fucking great. She's assembled--on Ira Parnes' terrific sets--a cast that knows how to act. Really made them pull their fucking tongues out of their asses and--now, wait--and tell a story about men who are "always closing." You'll understand. Once you see this play you'll fucking see. GREGORY ZURA

Project X: Before the Comet Comes

Empty Space Theatre

Through May 31.Project X: Before the Comet Comes is a baffling piece of work. First of all, there's no damn comet. Plotwise, nearly nothing happens--on December 31, 1999, a twin daughter and son sit by their vegetating mother's deathbed. On the other side of the stage, their estranged, apocalyptic-minded father muses in front of six or seven television screens. A family secret, hardly more shocking than the characters' miserable present, emerges. That's about it.

The dearth of action allows the emotional texture of the play to take control. It is, in a word, wretched--the characters inhabit a blasted nightmare landscape of frustration and sorrow that would taste metallic, if the soul had a tongue.

The production, for all its bleakness, featured some phenomenal acting. Piano accompaniment, impressive video production, and an inspired, art-installation-perfect set (including illuminated globe lanterns and a stage coated in feathers) lent Project X an impressive aesthetic. But I felt torn between sniveling and yawning. Was this an awful play populated by great production talent? Or was it a work of stark beauty this particular philistine simply failed to appreciate? Though I lean toward the former, I honestly cannot decide. BRENDAN KILEY

Voyage of the Beagle

The Little Theatre

Through May 31.Uhhh...what? I understood maybe 20 percent of what was going on in Herbert Bergel's Voyage of the Beagle, and I had a synopsis. This synopsis identified the show as "a dreamlike rock opera, based on the story of three Norwegians who go on a seafaring adventure with an old sailor." Great. If a rock opera featuring Norwegian pirates, horny health-care workers, Darwin, and singing sock puppets doesn't work in theory, I don't know what does.

But reality isn't theory.

You know how when you're watching, say, something obscure on the BBC, and it takes a few minutes before you finally get accustomed to the heavy, affected brogues? And until you do, you haven't a notion what the hell anyone's talking about? Right. Well, Voyage of the Beagle is exactly like that--except it never, ever congeals to make anything close to sense. Plus, every affected, accented syllable is sung, and sung less than well.

Written and conceived by the recently much-celebrated Bergel, Voyage is visually clever, energetic, and I suspect there's an original idea lurking in it. But with a cast of non-singers singing a score written either a full octave lower or three octaves higher than any of their non-ranges, all delivered in monotone rhyming verse in Nordic accents, well... uhhh... what? ADRIAN RYAN

TopOff 2

Empty field near 3100 Airport Way S

Monday May 12.Ground zero--and you're there. A dirty bomb explodes---kablam! Terrorists have attacked! Who, oh who, will save the burning El Caminos?

TopOff 2, Seattle's large-scale, federally funded "terror preparedness exercise," got off to a rocky start. Someone blasted an air horn to signal "Go," but 200 would-be wounded extras just stood there looking pensive. Suddenly, a low-riding El Camino began to burn! And then ANOTHER! Whatever dialogue there was got swallowed by vulture news copters and hubbub-packed distance (25 yards from the action, every seat in the house sucked). Soon the fires were crackling like tap-dancing bubble wrap, and still... a lot of pensive standing there. Why wasn't anyone doing anything?

Then the real explosion happened.

I jumped out of my fucking skin. Suddenly, police cars and emergency-response vehicles descended like starving bats on a fat-bug reunion--it was sirens and hollering and poison El Camino smoke, and I just wanted someone to hold me. I wanted to cry.

Staged in a dusty lot near Tully's roaster on Airport Way--a venue that makes Theater Schmeater look swanky--the set was a feat if not a work of art: burnt-out Metro buses and low-riders littered over an ostensibly exploded streetscape accented with chunks of old Kingdome. Rubber-masked cops and rescue workers (played convincingly by rubber-masked cops and rescue workers) triaged fake-blood-dripping victims off to Harborview. But sadly, unfriendly winds caused toxic clouds of billowing car smoke to chase me off before the guys in the cool tinfoil radiation suits showed up. Maybe next year. ADRIAN RYAN