21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com
Intiman Theatre
Through Nov 22.

For those who don't remember, Mike Daisey is a former Seattleite and Amazon minion who enlisted in the dot-com army, went AWOL just before the bust, and wrote a solo show about the experience. 21 Dog Years has toured from New York to Edinburgh, winning glowing reviews from the New York Times to Neal Pollack, who wrote: "Daisey has done us a service by revealing the dorky, scary truth about Amazon.com before it's too late."

Yes, he did, but the tech-stock shell game fell apart years ago, and a few of Daisey's comic insights have passed their expiration date. The cult of Bezos, throwing wads of money at every bad e-commerce concept--veni, vidi, lost our shirts.

But don't let that keep you from enjoying 21 Dog Years. Because Amazon was a metaphor for late-'90s Seattle--unbridled optimism, more spin than substance--local audiences may be trapped into identifying too closely with specific personalities and landmarks of a bygone era. We shouldn't. The lion's share of Daisey's story is more universal than it first appears. A comic chronicler of the working stiff, Daisey knows that customer service is always gasoline on the flames of misanthropy and that half of every "development" job is figuring out what that job actually is.

Solo performers, like tech stocks, are always a risky investment, but Daisey is smart, a humdinger of a comedian, and an artist worth following. The smart money's on Mike. BRENDAN KILEY

Huis Clos
Steeplechase Productions at Liberty Deli
Through Nov 22.

Set in a room in hell, Huis Clos (No Exit) begins after three recently dead people arrive to serve their eternal sentence. Hell, however, is not what they expected. Hell is simply their having to endure each other. Worse still, it is also being unable to live without these others that each must endure. Though you can't live with them, you can't live without them; that is hell. It's an old existential trick, but Steeplechase Productions manages to add something rather unexpected. Apparently, Jean-Paul Sartre's play has never been translated, only interpreted, and Steeplechase's version is a direct translation of the actual play by Tom Ansart (owner of Liberty Deli) and his French cousin Viviane Ansart.

However, nothing can change the fact that Sartre's play is not really a work of art but an attempt to dramatize a philosophical theory. So, for a performance of the play to be successful, it must communicate, as clearly as possible, the theory rather than express the poetry. In this respect, Steeplechase's production of Huis Clos is a success. The philosophical theory--"hell is other people"--is opened up, set into motion, and fulfilled. The three actors (Adam Toothaker, Andrea Haddad, Samara Lerman) all adequately facilitate the process of transmitting the necessary information. By the play's end, the content of the once-fashionable existential philosophy is apparent to all. One last thing: The music that accompanies the new translation is pleasantly mysterious. CHARLES MUDEDE

sCarrie: The Musical
Ghost Light Theatricals at Rendezvous
Through Dec 13.

What can be said about this show that can't be divined from the poster? It's lowbrow, high-queer entertainment, with all of the elements for a rip-roaring good time--scenery-chomping divas, hilarious costumes, clever special effects--dutifully checked off the list. So why was the whole thing such a snooze?

Some of the guilt rests squarely on the shoulders of playwright Ryan Landry. His dialogue vacillates so wildly between vulgarities and inanities that I was surprised to learn that there was a script at all. Landry has also turned the stage into a veritable shooting gallery of easy targets by inexplicably shoehorning in a sadistic lesbian nun and a choirboy-molesting priest. I'm sorry to hear about your childhood issues, Ryan, but don't take them out on poor Carrie, she's got enough problems of her own. The heaviest burden rests with a director and a cast having such a good time camping it up that they neglect to make the bits tight, the timing right, or the songs on key. It's not too late for these Seattle stars to survive their prom. They just need to let the audience have at least some of the fun. TAMARA PARIS

The Syringa Tree
ACT Theatre
Through Nov 23.

Pamela Gien first performed her semi-autobiographical one-woman show The Syringa Tree at ACT Theatre in 1999 to great acclaim. I've been told Gien's performance was as powerful and emotionally rich as the rightfully acclaimed script, and therein may lie the problem for ACT's new production. Two actresses--Gin Hammond and Eva Kaminsky--will perform on alternate nights for this remount. While I don't know anything about Kaminsky, Hammond executed the piece with technical skill. Each of the multiple characters was easily recognizable, a half-dozen different and distinct South African accents rolled out of her mouth, and she sustained the energy of a two-hour performance admirably--yet from beginning to end, the characters and their relationships had no weight, no authority, no real presence; she seemed to be imitating a performance, not creating one herself. It's as if director Larry Moss (who directed Gien in the original production) had imposed, wholesale, Gien's performance upon her. I didn't see Gien, so this is speculation; but Hammond doesn't claim ownership of the material, and until she does, her performance--and the show--will fall flat. BRET FETZER