Hanging by a fringe

We came, we watched, we wrote reviews.

We went, we saw, we survived. Hey, if you saw 40 performances at the Seattle Fringe Festival—and, by the way, could actually recommend 12 of them—you'd be feeling pretty damn proud, too. As expected, the good stuff was like a breath of fresh air on a mountain of . . . well, anyway, we were happy to find some gems, though the bad experiences were enough to test even the saintliest patience. As one particularly defeated Fringe patron was overheard to sigh, "If it keeps up like this, I am not doing this next year. . . ." Here's hoping you catch some winners.

Seattle Fringe Festival

multiple venues, Capitol Hill ends March 18

* = critic's pick

Among the Ruins

Defibrillator Productions hit upon an engaging approach to its adaptation of 10 Franz Kafka short stories, weaving precise physical theater in among Kafka's words to visually express the meaning of the stories. The plight of jackals in one scene is as beautiful as it is disturbing, and the use of a film projector to convey the "hunger artist" in another is both ingenious and effective. In many of the stories, however, the physical embodiment is too literal, skirting along the surface of Kafka's meaning without ever penetrating it.—Molly Rhodes

Chamber Theater, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Fri 3/16 at 10; Sun 3/18 at noon.

Another Jackass Tries a One-Man Show

Mark Boeker's solo piece does not deliver on the promise of the jaded, smoking clown he impersonates in his publicity photos. His material can be caustic, in a juvenile, manic way, but the red-nosed fool ultimately proves to be a disappointing softie at heart (spouting rhymed couplets about the need to love yourself, no less). Boeker still really only has the germ of an idea for a show, and he doesn't seem at all ready to perform even that; his thoughts on relationships and growing older come off like nervous party conversation. Although something is beating deep in here, neither Boeker nor director Mark Fullerton have yet found that heart.—Steve Wiecking

Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E Pike: Fri 3/16 at 6; Sun 3/18 at 6:15.

The Best for You

Writer-director Jessa WhiteWolf's play charts the turbulent friendship of two young women and the turn it takes when one of them comes out of the closet. The dialogue veers between clunky exposition ("I just had a baby, and the father disappeared two days after I told him!") and awful sentimental exchanges (Jamina: "You are hopeless." Allison: "Hopelessly in love!"). Most memorable is poor, wordless Aaron Voorhees, who is used—quite literally—as a warm body whenever a male is needed and forced at one point to perform a humiliating striptease. Clothed or not, he looks absolutely mortified throughout. He's right.—S.W.

Union Garage 2, 1418 10th: Sat 3/17 at 3:30; Sun 3/18 at 3.

*Black Codes

Heavily inspired by mentors David Mamet and William H. Macy, Vancouver, B.C., playwright Kris Elgstrand weaves together three dark comedy vignettes. His tight, crisp plays deftly walk the line between the absurd and the searing, probing deep, for instance, into what kind of bread was used to beat a store clerk or what kind of cleaning products you would use if faced with your dead mother bleeding on the floor. The cast is uniformly engaging, though you wish more would follow Elgstrand (in the role of the bread-beater) and allow themselves to push the boundaries of their characters.—M.R.

Union Garage 2, 1418 10th: Thu 3/15 at 9:15; Sat 3/17 at noon.

The Bride's Tales

The Bride's Tales views nuptial traditions (stag parties, wedding photos, gift giving) through the lens of butoh dance. And while the troupe Dappin' Butoh doesn't display the physical or spiritual intensity of the Japanese artists who invented the form, they manage to muster a few startling images—for instance, a bride slowly spinning on a pedestal as a group of men beneath her transforms into a roiling mass of lesser primates. Toward the end of this evening-length piece, the group's energy flags, so we're glad when a trio of taiko drummers arrives to pound some life into the final scene.—Lynn McFeely

Broadway Performance Hall, Broadway and E Pine: Thu 3/15 at 10; Sat 3/17 at 8.

*Burt (Or When I was Five I Killed Myself)

Teddi Yaeger's superb adaptation of Howard Buten's book—about a boy thrown into a mental institution for what he did to a classmate—creates the perfect mix of horror, humor, and insight. Director Susanna Wilson elegantly weaves the action across the stage, bleeding a tight-knit cast in and out of deftly drawn scenes and characters, topped off by Brian Culver's Burt. Culver draws you in as he repels you, just as creepy as he is endearing in his attempts to deal with being suddenly thrust from a child's imagination out into the much less simple adult world.—M.R.

Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E Pike: Sat 3/17 at noon; Sun 3/18 at 4:15.

Christmas Brotherhood

For a play that dwells on sex—Singing into dildos! Dissecting the movie line "lick my pussy!" Writing love letters like "I'll send out my penis like a torpedo!"—this production is mind-numbingly unsexy. A brief display of nudity is more pedestrian than provocative. By the time the horny bisexual housewife (Jessica Davis) decides to leave her lesbian corporate bitch partner (Oneda Harris) for said partner's half-brother (Ian Stone), you wonder why playwright-director George Savage Jr. thinks you should be attracted to or care about any of them.—M.R.

Odd Duck Studio, 1214 10th: Thu 3/15 at 9:30; Sat 3/17 at 1:45.

COLORworks!

Author-director Ken Barrett's adaptation of Georg Kaiser's expressionist Gas Trilogy proves that a copy can be no better than the original. In Barrett's update, Everyman character Solorbital Energy fails to convince workers at the color factory to exchange their hollow jobs for life in a pastoral commune where color is free. This grim and humorless proletarian street theater browbeats us with didactic squawks and hollers, as the actors crouch behind cardboard cutout props and mince about the minimal set. As Kaiser's gasworks makes the poison gas used in WWI, "color" masks an atomic weapon. The final explosion that destroys us all is a welcome relief.—Gianni Truzzi

Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th: Fri 3/16 at 6.

The Epic of Yerffej

You'll see many things at this "percussive opera"—battlefield deaths, magic acts, scenes from Hair and Dr. Strangelove— but the only memorable part of the evening is what you'll hear: bongos, timpani, gongs, and the distinctive sound of bottles breaking over human heads. Strip away the incoherent storyline about a mythical warrior-drummer, Yerffej the Destroyer, and you'll occasionally find skilled percussionists peddling a simple message.—Eric Hsu

Broadway Performance Hall, Broadway and E Pine: Thu 3/15 at 6; Fri 3/16 at 8; Sat 3/17 at 4; Sun 3/18 at 4.

*Fallen Women Follies

Much is made of the surfeit of nudity in the fringe fest, but the nekkidness of the female sex workers and "other fallen women" putting on this show is smart, sexy, and completely ungratuitous. The cabaret-style show intersperses biting, funny monologues about the politics of sex work with acts in which the same women strut their stuff while continuing to implode the myths and expectations of their chosen professions. A racy butch/femme switcheroo striptease entrances, then a woman gives it up about what her hilarious and very pointed fantasies about her clients are; gorgeous, athletic erotic trapeze and gymnastics are graceful and fully impressive. See this show if you can get in—as a sports-type commentator laconically intones of three women writhing onstage in filmy red tops and G-strings, "That's great and/or terrific."—Bethany Jean Clement

Freehold, 1529 10th, 2nd floor: Sat 3/17 at 8:30.

Functional Dementia

Six performers from the Portland dance/theatre troupe bent take us on a tour of mental illness. In overlapping scenes, they examine everything from compulsive tics to disembodied voices—complete with a "meds break," in which two performers circulate through the audience, handing out Tic Tacs in paper cups. The subject matter is handled with grace and humor, as the horrible (patients running and running, not getting anywhere) coexists with the absurd (three women balancing stacks of pill bottles on their heads). The troupe's aesthetic seems so obviously theatrical, however, it's puzzling that they bother at all with dancing, which is not their strong suit.—L.M.

Freehold, 1529 10th, 2nd floor: Thu 3/15 at 9; Sun 3/18 at noon.

Giants Have Us In Their Books

Obie Award-winning playwright Jose Rivera's series of short one-acts about people affected by otherworldly forces does not get the attention and deliberation it deserves in this production. With such magically absurd situations as flowers blooming from a young girl's face and a winged creature impregnating a high schooler, Rivera's plays are allegories on the themes of beauty and personal freedom in the world. Soiled Soil's group of immature actors ignores the provocative nature of the pieces and opts instead for loud wackiness. If you're looking for the subtlety these plays require, you'd be more likely to find it in a circus.—Gregory Zura

Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit: Thu 3/15 at 6.

*Is This Your Duck?

Magic and Comedy 101, capably and good-naturedly performed by Ian Fraser and Christopher Bange. Really very silly and also somehow sweet, their show doesn't pretend to be anything more than what it is: cheery physical comedy and uncomplicated vaudevillian ridiculousness. Kids and lighthearted adults will completely embrace it. Fraser and Bange have real audience rapport; the delight they take in performing carries them past whatever doesn't work. The packaging—oversized coats, ridiculous moustaches, goofy accents, disappearing cards and coins—is familiar, but what's inside is genuine. In the midst of all the Fringe pretense, that's the real sleight of hand.—S.W.

Seattle Public Theatre, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Thu 3/15 at 8; Sun 3/18 at 3:30.

Kazoo! 6

Writer Brian "Winlar" Wennerlind's popular sketch comedy troupe is back for another round, with mixed results. His relationship songs, written with Gordon Todd, are as howlingly irreverent as ever ("Nothing can come between us/'Cause you've got that nicotine penis") and there isn't a bad comic idea in the lot. But the production is unpolished—it hasn't orchestrated its manic rhythms. Precisely funny material is almost undermined by scattershot performances and no visible sign of direction. You'll still get a laugh: A hospital soap opera, performed with typos intact ("Doctor, am I gonig to die?"), is faultlessly executed and leaves you on the floor.—S.W.

Broadway Performance Hall, Broadway and E Pine: Fri 3/16 at 10; Sat 3/17 at 6; Sun 3/18 at 2.

Lilac Winter

It looks like a normal cubicle day for the harried mother, the pent-up spinster, and the mama's boy accountant—except for their gas masks. We soon learn that this is a shared nightmare for five office workers, who exchange and mingle their dreams. Are you you, or are you your job? It's a question that writer-director Catherine Johnston seems unable to answer, probably because it never occurs to her that someone could like their work. Thoughtful, active performances and amusing dialogue that nobly try to rise above the clich頣haracter types don't redeem the smug premise that insults the drones it purports to champion.—G.T.

Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit: Fri 3/16 at 8:15; Sat 3/17 at 8; Sun 3/18 at 2:15.

*Lost Eden . . . An Evening With Orson Welles

The life of director-actor Orson Welles seems tailor-made for a one-person show. Not only did this fascinating character compile an eventful, erratic career, but the man was simply in love with the sound of his own voice. Marcus Wolland deftly impersonates Welles in this vignette from the height of his public career—as he was still enjoying the success of Citizen Kane while awaiting the release of his true masterpiece, 1942's The Magnificent Ambersons. In a Rio de Janeiro hotel room, Welles recounts his theatrical life to date, punctuated by calls to and from Hollywood, where Ambersons was undergoing its disastrous studio-ordered re-editing.—James Bush

Seattle Public Theatre, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Thu 3/15 at 6; Fri 3/16 at 9:15; Sat 3/17 at 9:30; Sun 3/18 at 1:30.

Lost in Lust, I Found Myself in Love and Silent Letters

While fairly well acted, these two productions are both overly clever and overly long, and neither contains promised nudity, a grave disappointment to any fringegoer. In the four one-act scenes of Lost—and then again in the horrifying surprise of another entire unbilled play, Silent Letters—actors explore the semantics of love and sex in relationships. No clich頩s left undisturbed in wordplay that quickly becomes relentless. In the fourth act of Lost, one player voices the question on everyone's lips: "Could you refrain from wisecracks for just two minutes?" The second play features an attractive young couple but is so protracted that by the nonsensical end you just want some anesthesia. On the upside, Theater Schmeater has a full bar.—B.J.C.

Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit: Thu 3/15 at 7:30; Fri 3/16 at 6; Sun 3/18 at noon.

*Madrugada

Brazilian theatre artist Juliana Jardim's show about a tiring prostitute is an interesting study of the intimate. Using improvisation to draw the audience into the action and a type of miming style to draw broad secondary characters, Jardim presents Madrugada's day of regret with a solid playfulness in the confining Seattle Public Theatre. Her ability to balance an academic theatricality with a natural presence is undeniable. While the unoriginal story keeps the play from speaking its obvious feminist intentions with any real volume, you'd be hard-pressed to find fault with Jardim's dedication to the performance.—G.Z.

Seattle Public Theatre, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Thu 3/15 at 9:30; Fri 3/16 at 6 and 11:15.

*Me and the SLA

Even if you tried to devise some way to take your eyes off Mona Mansour, it wouldn't work. The Los Angeles actress-writer is never less than captivating as she dances, mugs, jokes, and poses her way through memories of the tale of kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst and how it engaged her 7-year-old mind. This seemingly silly subject matter allows her to make some serious observations about the nature of notoriety, the news media, and the harmless obsessions of childhood (and of adulthood, for that matter).—J.B.

Union Garage 1, 1418 10th: Fri 3/16 at 9:30; Sat 3/17 at 6:45; Sun 3/18 at 5.

metamorphosis

It's not always easy to focus on a performance, especially when it's on the plaza in front of Broadway Performance Hall. Which is why Low Crawlers High Flying's show leaves you with a set of images rather than a long unfolding event: Alan Sutherland, wrapped in white plastic and rice powder, inching forward after screeching like a crow, meeting a trio of women in black trash bags. Later, they arch backwards and the waning light plays on their faces, making them look like the Three Graces risen from the dead.—Sandra Kurtz

Broadway Performance Hall bricks, Broadway and E Pine: Fri 3/16 at 7:30.

*"MORE" All in the Timing

ReAct's production of David Ives' short plays is the very definition of great ensemble work. A series of plays focused on the art of language and the role it plays in creating perception, Ives' pieces are clever and funny. But without this cast's incredible timing, the play could easily have gone bad. "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread" stands out with its satire on the postmodern composer and perfectly demonstrates the group's mastery.—G.Z.

Broadway Performance Hall, Broadway and E Pine: Thu 3/15 at 8; Fri 3/16 at 6; Sat 3/17 at 2; Sun 3/18 at noon.

Mother Load

Mama mia! In just over an hour, writers-actors Louise Carnachan and Camille Wooden switch off, playing divorced mothers and bewildered daughters in two late-'50s households. As if to emphasize the weight and shame of divorce in addition to the burden of motherhood, these two women load and unload groceries, pass the Potato Buds, and explain the birds and the bees with increasing impatience. It's light and familiar, a sort of rallying cry for those women who endured the isolation and the stigma of raising a child alone in the age of Donna Reed, but it's not nearly clipped enough or, for that matter, freshly starched and conceived.—Emily Baillargeon Russin

Seattle Public Theatre, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Sat 3/17 at 3:15.

Move

A young married couple buys a new home and, whoa!, there's something creepy in the way the young man (an earnest Jake Barker) embraces his wife (eerie, eerie Heather Brown) when they've had their first look around after the movers leave. To get to the bottom of this bizarre deadlock, playwright Jason Stratton has these two hurl hateful and antagonistic things back and forth until the lights fade about three minutes later, only to have the whole scene start over again, ࠬa Groundhog Day. Once we get to the real reason it's not such a good idea they live together anywhere, let alone a house, we're on about take six (out of eight, if you can hang on) and we've become unwilling housemates. Call those movers back and get therapy!--E.B.R.

Seattle Public Theatre, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Sat 3/17 at 8:30; Sun 3/18 at 7.

My Tree

"I don't want to be weird," William Burke says during his performance. "I just want everybody to know what I'm thinking." He achieves too much of the former and not enough of the latter in his bizarrely obtuse one-man show. Playing four different members of an eccentric family without displaying the ability to embody even one of them (you only know he's changed character when he lowers his voice or pulls his hair), Burke keeps secret whatever it is his show is supposed to say. Director Jake Hooker, who must have been occupied elsewhere, is obviously fine with that.—S.W.

Union Garage 1, 1418 10th: Fri 3/16 at 8; Sat 3/17 at 5:15; Sun 3/18 at noon.

Now, Stand Up

In this abstract tale of two artsy grads who return to their native Montana and shack up, Mark (Kyle Waterman) spends as much time on the floor as on his feet. He's tumbling to the ground during a rage; he's sliding down to his knees to (maybe) ask Holly (Jennifer Thomas) to marry him; he's flailing with his rubbery arms and throwing his six-foot-plus frame to the stage dramatically, sometimes while angrily reciting Shakespeare. Apparently he wants two things: a drink and to write a play. Holly wants to sing and maybe start a family. But they've slept past last call. How they did this is anyone's guess, but at least it's not hard to figure out what the title means.—Richard A. Martin

Union Garage 1, 1418 10th: Thu 3/15 at 7:45; Sat 3/17 at 10:15.

Nymph

It's a bit like juggling a handful of balls, keeping balance between all the elements in a performance art work. So much of this Degenerate Art Ensemble piece keeps you on the edge of your seat that it seems unkind to wish for more, but the stylish square hoopskirts and shimmering musical cacophony make Haruko Nishimura's movement seem unfocused in comparison. If she would match the gibbering intensity of Joshua Kohl—lurching through the space, destroying his book—she would be terrifying indeed. Until then, she's just mildly disturbing.—S.K.

Chamber Theater, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Thu 3/15 at 6; Sat 3/17 at noon.

*Objects for the Emancipated Consumer

Liminal, a performance ensemble based in Portland, presents an audience-interactive spy drama that methodically unfurls like a cross between film noir, Phillip K. Dick, and something vaguely Brechtian. You wander the floor watching actors play, replay, and overlap simultaneous scenes from a mystery that is probably never meant to be solved (the characters speak as if in an enigmatic Bergman film). Arch, definitely, and resolutely weird, there's no reason that something this potentially insufferable should work as well as it does. But the whole thing has a sense of humor much looser than its framework would suggest, and the intriguing actors are allowed to convey a wink in all the deadly gravity. You may be put off, but you will not be bored.—S.W.

Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th: Thu 3/15 at 9:45; Sat 3/17 at 2.

Of Mankind

A well-meaning but misguided retelling of the German occupation of Paris and a concentration camp revolt as seen through the eyes of a separated Jewish couple. This play is an example of the worst kind of adaptation of true events for the stage—instead of drama we get a history lesson and instead of a story we get a sermon. It's hard enough sitting through the endless parade of scene changes without the actors moralizing to the audience about the connections among the Holocaust, the atomic bombing of Japan, and U.S. policy toward Native Americans.—E.H.

Chamber Theater, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Fri 3/16 at 6; Sat 3/17 at 6:30.

*Resa Fantastisk Mystisk

When director Todd Merrill—of L.A. company the Burglars of Hamm—introduces this long-lost play by Swedish goose-herder Lars Mattsun (author of The Toothless Otter), he explains the headphones given you this way: "I just want to make sure you get it." While the actors prance through the Freudian symbolism of Mattsun's "fruit period," Merrill gives dramaturgy through your earpiece, telling you more than you really needed to know about fin de siecl頓weden and backstage feuds. But by this time you've already gotten it and can laugh out loud at this rollicking, deadpan send-up of over- earnest theater. It's a refreshing antidote to preening theatrical vanity.—G.T.

Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th: Thu 3/15 at 7:45; Sat 3/17 at noon.

*Run Between the Raindrops

Louise Clark's tale of a woman trapped in an abusive marriage is a refreshing alternative to the plodding melodramas seen on Lifetime television. Instead of the familiar, long-suffering victim, the heroine of this play is a chameleonlike figure with Melvillian locutions, a law degree, and a knack for ranking on Connecticut. The play loses steam toward the end but never settles for a reductive or predictable conclusion. Throw in solid direction, a haunting set piece, and respectable performances from Clark and Nathaniel the Parrot, and you get a fringe festival rarity: a serious play that doesn't take itself too seriously.—E.H.

Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E Pine: Thu 3/15 at 7:30; Sat 3/17 at 8; Sun 3/18 at noon.

See Me Naked

It's easy to see why solo performer Maria Glanz is such a popular Fringe attraction: She's smart, and she actually bothers to follow a thought through to its natural conclusion. Outside of the dire Festival context, however, her new piece is disappointingly unoriginal, as she ponders revealing her flesh to the audience while musing on the meaning of being au naturel. Glanz is far from the first to use this format to explore body image—God knows she won't be the last—and her self-conscious delivery cloaks the work in artifice that plays against letting it all hang out. She doesn't truly earn the undeniable impact of her final exposure.—S.W.

Chamber Theater, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Thu 3/15 at 7:30; Sun 3/18 at 1:30.

Seven Deadly Sins

The writers and composers of Musical Theater, Ink. take on Lust, Greed, Anger, Sloth, Envy, Gluttony, and Pride in seven short musicals. The acting is decidedly broad, you won't come out humming anything, and the scenes don't have all the right voices for the right songs—everyone's on key but only a select few are really putting a number across. When the show is loose, it's fairly cute, but none of its "serious" moments work at all (someone should have thought twice about that homeless American Indian motif). Still, it should be of interest to Broadway buffs.—S.W.

Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th: Fri 3/16 at 7:40; Sat 3/17 at 3:30; Sun 3/18 at 5:40.

Simmer to Boil

The quirky, fumbling sweetness of Emily Fishkind's play comes shining through when the hardened Louisa (Jennifer Perreault) meets the dynamic Freecia (Frances Hearn) and has to decide whether to leave her listless relationship with Jackie (Tim Barr) to pursue her passions. Unfortunately, Freecia doesn't show up until after 40 minutes of this listless relationship, which is made up of a lot of yelling and exasperated arm-waving that amounts more to a dull tedium than dramatic tension. The forced boiling of Perreault and Barr can't hold a candle to Hearn's simmering love of life.—M.R.

Odd Duck Studio, 1214 10th: Sat 3/17 at 6:45.

The Snakehandler

Performer Wally Bivins presents two compelling characters in this one-man show: the eponymous Rev. Dewey Delmar Love and the unnamed man whose life he changes forever. As the reverend, Bivins calls upon us to embrace faith with a kind of twisted, charismatic poetry: "Imagination is a pre-exquisite for a state of grace," he cries. Sometimes his sermon almost overheats and the audience is moved to laughter instead of rapture. But the second character—the narrator—appears just in time to cool things down and evoke a more thoughtful mood.—L.M.

Seattle Public Theatre, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Sat 3/17 at 1:45; Sun 3/18 at noon.

Spare Change

Spare Change is an engaging and smart—but a bit lengthy—look at materialism, sexism, and the dreadful world of advertising. The businesspeople are perfectly terrifying and self-centered, and a punk kid of one of the corporate monsters runs off to live with the homeless, enjoining appropriately, "Fuck you!" An interoffice erotic interlude involving yellow rubber gloves and the titillating snapping of pencils in two is a weird and wonderful high point; the acting here is quite good, the writing clever. The homeless form a chorus, but their commentary is none too cogent and often seems unnecessarily drawn out. The production as a whole suffers from perhaps an overly ambitious scope; there's just a little too much going on here for a little too long.—B.J.C.

Chamber Theater, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Sat 3/17 at 8:30.

The Tape

It's quite difficult to find a reason, other than self-indulgence, why Chris Cound wrote this one-man play. Nearing the completion of a seven-year sentence, murderer Warren wants to rebuild his relationship with his estranged brother by making a tape explaining his side of the story. Cound presents a collection of pointless anecdotes and strained moments of emotion that anyone who's watched syndicated cable TV shows has seen a million times before. And the "surprise" ending is from so far out of nowhere that it surprised no one in the least.—G.Z.

Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E Pike: Fri 3/16 at 9; Sat 3/17 at 9:30; Sun 3/18 at 1:30.

This Is Your Life

It's not surprising that the best skits in Some Kind of Cult's romp from toddlerdom through spinsterhood come in the teenage and twentysomething years. Skits about rambling old people and midlife financial crises amuse, and those that do not are mercifully short. Yet it's comedic insights like Philosophy Man (what's a 29-year-old burger flipper to do with a college degree?) that bring the plights of the audience and the performers together for the most hilarious punch.—M.R.

Union Garage 2, 1418 10th: Fri 3/16 at 9; Sat 3/17 at 9:30.

*Up In Your Grill

Well-performed off-the-wall sketch comedy presented without the assistance of costumes, expensive visual aids, or any skits reminiscent of Saturday Night Live. Val Bush, Mike Daisey, Jean-Michele Gregory, and Cory Nealy set an energetic tone from the start, firing through bits that demonstrate that toughest of sketch comedy accomplishments, originality. Political correctness alert: There is one fairly tasteless skit, but you can't help appreciating the pseudo-altruistic "explanation" given for its inclusion.—J.B.

Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E Pike: Thu 3/15 at 10:45; Sat 3/17 at 10:45.

The Virgin Slut Actuality

The last time I saw performers walk on stage with a dusting of glitter on their hair and faces was at my son's preschool talent show. But The Virgin Slut Actuality (devised by Nicole Poirier and Mara Siciliano and performed by nine dancers) would never fly at Kay's Kiddie Korner. It's a series of short dances and monologues dealing with sex and women's bodies, with no shortage of faked masturbation, pseudo-sexy bump-and-grinding, and gymnastic tongue-wiggling. Despite its "adult" subject matter, however, it remains kids' stuff: earnest, self-conscious, and delivered without a trace of irony or wit.—L.M.

Chamber Theater, 915 E Pine, 4th floor: Thu 3/15 at 10:30; Sat 3/17 at 5.

*Welcome To Flavor Country

Writer/director team Tommy Smith and Stan Schmidt scored during last year's Fringe Fest with Law of Scale, and they're still rolling with this wacky satire about whether or not to rebel, and coinci- dentally, whether or not to smoke. Royal (show-stealer Conor Duffy) and Bunting (Judah Stevenson) are security guards dressed in hideous orange jumpsuits and edgily pondering their fate. They're employed in a research facility where human experiments, a crazed male nurse (Joel Israel), and spooky Muzak swirl together into a violent and metaphysically troubling haze. The buildup here is exquisite, enough so that the overly twisted climax detracts only slightly from the overall mastery of the performances, writing, and timing. Oh yeah, and the costumes—everybody's in weird bodysuits!--R.A.M.

Union Garage 2, 1418 10th: Thu 3/15 at 7:45; Sat 3/17 at 6:30.

 
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