5th Avenue Theatre
Through Dec 28.
The weirdest thing about the 5th Avenue Theatre's current production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is that it's directed by Allison Narver. On my way to the theater, I ran into someone who lived in Seattle during the early 1990s, and he was floored by this information. People who lived here and saw fringe theater then still talk about the semilegendary world premieres Annex Theatre produced at the time, when Narver was artistic director; or about how they felt when, after that gig, she went off to get her MFA in directing from Yale University; or about how they felt when she returned in the late '90s to head Empty Space, where she directed the world premieres of Lauren Weedman's Bust, Chris Jeffries's Vera Wilde, and lots of other things. She is a fringe survivor. Which is why, again, it's really fucking weird for her to be directing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Needless to say, this isn't its world premiere. A 1950s musical film that went on to become an early-1980s Broadway musical, it is the story of a lumberjack who lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1850s along with his six brothers. His name is Adam and his brothers are—following the alphabet—Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank, and Gideon. They sing and dance about chopping down trees. One day, Adam ventures into town and decides he's going to get himself a bride and bring her back to the cabin where he lives with his brothers. She consents. She teaches his barbarian brothers how to comport themselves in the presence of a lady. They all decide they want brides, too, so they go to town and get some. They get married. The end.
The play is really that simple. In most musicals, there are at least subplots, minor intrigues, strange dream sequences—there is none of that here. There is just song after song after song, and truth be told, I enjoyed the thing. If Narver was at all embarrassed about directing the musical, she channeled it into making this production entertaining and fast. Once it started, I stopped thinking about Narver and focused instead on the choreography by Patti Colombo, who seems to be the real brain behind the production. For we're-in-a-musical dancing, it's genuinely impressive/compelling: weightless, funny, aerobic, full of women being launched over men's heads and men doing flips through the air. And hands-free cartwheels. And coordinated handsprings. Oh, and here come more guys flipping, this time with axes in their hands. Can you ever get tired of watching people fly through the air? CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
Through Jan 10.
Yesterday, the snow blew sideways; by morning, everything was white. What happens when it snows in this city? People shut themselves in, afraid of the cold and the wet. The traffic all but ceases, streets shut down, cyclists retire their helmets. It evokes the same feeling as that scene in a western when danger is afoot—all tumbleweeds and playa. It's a city without people. Where have they gone and what is brewing in their absence?
Last weekend, even the art was missing.
Saturday, December 13, was supposed to mark the premiere of an unusual piece entitled REMEMBER ME (Klaus Nomi bathroom), a "three-minute, one-person performance" by Seattle School set to take place in the women's bathroom of The Hideout, an art bar on Capitol Hill. The title itself connotes absence, as do the elements at play: bathrooms and the flushing of one's bodily fluids, and Klaus Nomi, the German countertenor (famous as much for his oversize vinyl bow ties as his falsetto) who was an early casualty of the AIDS pandemic of 1980s New York. But there was another absence.
REMEMBER ME didn't open. The bathroom, minus its usual gilded mirrors and a few shoved-aside boxes, was vacant and functional. The cause of the cancellation: technical difficulties with the lighting (an incompatible dimmer unit). The installation was 95 percent complete, according to artist Korby Sears of Seattle School, when they realized their snag. "Maybe losing opening night was perfect for the piece," said Sears, commenting on the difficulties that have slowed the project since its conception. "It adds to its legacy." On the new opening night—Saturday, December 20—we can expect to see, for three minutes, something more than just plumbing and mirrors, assuming other setbacks don't send it retreating once again out of sight, like a city from its snow. KAIA CHESSEN
Through Jan 20.
The plot: An unpopular American president makes a surprise visit to the capital city of a country stuck in a war he initiated for reasons that have yet to be justified. Gathered in a room that is as staged as anything you would see in a play is the press and two leaders. As the unpopular American president prepares to speak, a man in the audience (an Iraqi) stands and hurls a shoe at his head. The American president ducks. The shoe flies over his head. The man in the audience quickly grabs a second shoe and hurls it, powerfully, at the unpopular president. The president ducks again.
This shoe-hurling is a form of theater. Trying to shoot the president with a gun is a real action; trying to hit the president with your shoe is a performance. The first action wants to assassinate a person; the second action wants to assassinate a person's dignity. And because George W. Bush is no longer in power, the assassination of his life has less political value than the assassination of his dignity. This is the theater of shame. Not your life, sir, but your humiliation—that's the target of this very short performance, even shorter than the one in the bathroom of the Hideout. And what could shame a man more than ducking from a pair of another man's flying shoes? We can see why it had to be shoes and not a belt or gloves or hat. Shoes are closer to hell and its bad smells, and with every step the soles have contact with all that is disgusting—mud, shit, spit.
Secret agents enter the set through back doors. The shoe thrower then shouts: "This is a farewell kiss, dog!" and the performance is over. The whole world applauds. CHARLES MUDEDE