The wheel deal

House of Dames' new production is big, fast fun.

IF DIRECTOR NIKKI Appino should ever decide to abandon the theater, she could make a lot of money coordinating—and subverting—such Dome-sized spectacles as monster-truck rallies, rock concerts, and wrestling matches. If you doubt me, you haven't seen Rain City Rollers.

Rain City Rollers

Sand Point Naval Air Station, ends July 2

Staged in a converted hangar at Sand Point, this spectacle retells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the setting of a 1936 marathon roller derby. The style is roughly that of a 1930s backstage musical, one that's been channeled through the peculiar talents of Appino and her cocollaborators, musician-writer David Russell and actor-musician-writer Kevin Joyce. The end result is as much a deconstruction of popular entertainment as a celebration of it, with the musical numbers a collection of foggy jazzy pieces, the acting part sentimental cornball and part neorealism, and the overall effect a seditious evening that sends shivers down your vertebrae at the same time it puts a smile on your face.

Kevin Joyce as the Promoter (a reincarnated Orpheus) has a role that's tailor-made to him, one that allows both his particular sort of sweet and subtle emotion and his bitter and dark hard-edged salesman. Marjorie Nelson as his resurrected love (they age at different rates, you see) is sweet and sprightly, but with a forbidding gravity that eventually emerges. They're joined by a cast that comprises the strongest group of female performers assembled on a Seattle stage in many a turn 'round the rink

The big question, of course, is whether the outrageous combination of 1930s roller derby thrills and ancient Orpheus myth can justify itself through an elegant and satisfying conclusion, and the answer is—not quite. Indeed, it's hard to say what exactly happens at the end of Rollers; whether the myth is changed by this reincarnation or if it inevitably repeats itself. Instead of resolution, there's an emotional shift that leaves a dangling narrative and a vague feeling of anticlimax. Although the ending is no photo-finish, the play is a thrilling ride.

 
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