Brief Encounters

FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE/ WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF

UW Ethnic Cultural Theatre, 3940 Brooklyn Ave. N.E., 206-325-6500. $10-$15.

7:30 p.m. Thurs.; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. Ends Sun., Feb. 2.

For Colored Girls . . . is now older than Ntozake Shange was when she wrote it. The once-startling title is now clich鬠the stuff of parody (i.e. the recent show For Colored Boys Who Have Considered S-curls When the Hot Comb Was Enuf), so it's impressive that director Tawnya Pettiford-Wates—who was in the show on Broadway—manages to keep it so fresh and sassy. When I hear the words "feminist choreopoem," I run screaming—but the poetry is good and dramatic, Kabby Mitchell III's choreography evocative (except for formless flailings to jazz sax solos), and the rainbow-clad ladies in fine voice. Nikki Browne and Lisa Strum stand out, though nobody falls down on the job. The "sister-woman-sister" stuff is a pious yawn, but when they bitchily imitate no-good men, they're a first-rate hoot. TIM APPELO

TAKING SIDES

ArtsWest Playhouse, 4711 California Ave. S.W., 206-938-0339. $10-$26.

7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; select matinees 3 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Ends Sat., Feb. 8.

ArtsWest Playhouse is the best thing to happen to West Seattle since they rebuilt the bridge, but I'm siding against Ronald Harwood, author of the overrated film The Pianist and this play. It's got a superb director (Empty Space-man Rod Pilloud), a solid lead (John Wray as Hitler's favorite conductor, Wilhelm Furtwangler), and an important, absorbing theme: Given that Furtwangler saved some Jews and wasn't a Nazi (despite his own complex bigotry), was he entitled to simply pursue his art without addressing the current politics? Someone should write about the 1946 interrogation of Furtwangler—but not dull, incoherent simpleton Harwood, who utterly lacks the spontaneity that Furtwangler championed in art. As the anti-Semitic, anti-German U.S. Army interrogator out to nail "the bandleader," John Murray is just OK in a hopelessly crude role. T.A.

JACK AND JILL

Liberty Deli, 2722 Alki Ave. S.W., 206-935-8420. $29 dinner and show; $15 show only.

6:30 p.m. dinner, 7:30 p.m. show Thurs.-Sat. Ends Sat., Feb. 15.

On this, my second trip to the Liberty Deli, I got another helping of hearty, uncomplicated food—"gumbalaya," anyone?—served buffet-style, followed by a few hours of decent entertainment. Jane Martin's Jack and Jill is one of those comedies full of Mars-and-Venus claptrap ("Oh Jack, you're so rational!" "But Jill, you're so flighty!") interspersed with a few genuine attempts to understand men, women, and the doomed relationships they pursue. The show doesn't quite work, probably because everything seems a bit under-rehearsed, the script visits and revisits all its compelling ideas before intermission, and co-stars Adam Twiss and Kady Douglas lack chemistry. But somehow I didn't mind so much—maybe because I got to sit on a barstool and eat a massive hunk of carrot cake. CHRIS JENSEN

DRIVING MISS DAISY

Village Theatre, 303 Front St. N., 425-392-2202. $26-$42.

8 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; 7 p.m. select Sun.; 2 p.m. matinees Sun. and select Sat. Ends Sun., Feb. 23.

Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama presents a difficult and, in some ways, unwelcome task: revisiting a quiet, unsurprising play that's already undergone a faithful and successful transition to film. Let's just say that the Village Theatre doesn't discover anything new in it. Still, the production is just as solid as it ought to be, particularly since the two lead performances (by Marianne Owen and Timothy McCuen Piggee) are nearly pitch perfect, the set is handsome, and director Jeff Steitzer takes no interpretive risks whatsoever. More than a few audience members were obsessed during the show with how this part was different from the movie, and how Jessica Tandy said that line a little differently—that's what you get for staging a play that's basically identical to a movie that the entire world has seen about a gajillion times. C.J.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE

SecondStory Repertory, Redmond Town Center, 425-881-6777. $14-$18.

8:15 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Sat., Feb. 15.

It was never Tennessee Williams' most subtle piece—the glass breaks, see, because it's fragile, just like crippled Laura!--which might explain why The Glass Menagerie gets so consistently botched. I'm always glad, then, to find that someone can pull off at least half of a good Menagerie, which happens here. This production manages a decent first act, thanks to startlingly good performances by George Mount (as Tom) and Shellie Shulkin (whose Amanda seems way too cartoonish at first, but stay with her—she's an inspired creation). As for the second act . . . hoo, boy. We're stuck with a painfully flat Jim-and-Laura combo—and a different show altogether. C.J.

MONSTER

Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit, 206-325-6500. $12-$15.

8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 2 p.m. matinees select Sun. Ends Sat., Feb. 22.

In playwright Neal Bell's sanguine and surprisingly elegant Frankenstein adaptation, the scabrous torso of monster M.J. Sieber appears to be held together with stitches and his face is marbled with surgical incisions. Sieber's portrayal of the revivified corpse somehow overcomes all the cinematic clich鳠that have only ever served to undermine the seriousness of Mary Shelley's original vision. Director Rob West, too, ably demonstrates that the terrifying thing about Dr. Frankenstein's improbable creation is not that he looks and behaves so much like a monster, but that he looks and behaves like a human. A few of the play's supporting actors subscribe to the school of thought that emotional seriousness is best demonstrated by shouting a lot, but Brandon Whitehead's vain and ambitious Dr. Frankenstein is spectacular and, in a subtle way, almost sickening. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

THE OUTSIDERS

Seattle Children's Theatre, Seattle Center, 206-441-3322. $12-$26.

7 p.m. Fri.; 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Ends Fri., Feb. 14.

S.E. Hinton's teen angst novel from the late '60s is adapted by Christopher Sergel and directed by Linda Hartzell for this sleek, updated staging that shows hardly any of the classic's age but all of its soul: The production begins with a plaintive voice-over announcing that "S.E. Hinton was only 16 years old when she wrote The Outsiders," then kicks into the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" and a sharp tableau in which a fence lowers from the ceiling to divide the at-risk gang the Greasers from well-to-do enemies the Soc(ial)s. Not everyone in the cast can pull off the teen posturing—some are ignoring it altogether—but those who do evoke the guarded compassion and makeshift-family ties of troubled youth (Mark Kuntz is a fine, swaggering Dallas). It's engaging, thoughtful entertainment for young adults. STEVE WIECKING

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Theatre Off Jackson, 497 Seventh Ave. S., 206-325-6500. $19-$22.

7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 4 p.m. Sun. Ends Sat., March 1.

You know why, too, if like everyone else you had to read Maya Angelou's earthy and triumphant memoir back in high school. Book-It's production has some good reasons for revisiting the tale: In a fine cast, Reginald Andre Jackson and, in particular, Steven Taylor give layered, versatile turns in multiple roles, and director/adapter Myra Platt creates the rich, affecting flavor of Angelou's Southern milieu using very little in the way of ornamentation—she says a lot with very little. But some of the evening's energy dissipates round about Act II, and it doesn't build to the quiet majesty of its final moment—in part because its well-worded rhythms become monotonous, but also because its two charismatic leads (Lanise Antoine Shelley and Demene Hall as, respectively, the younger and older Maya) are giving full-bodied but unfocused performances. S.W.

NEVER SWIM ALONE

Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E. Pike, 206-632-9800. $8-$10 ($15 paired with Scooter Thomas . . . ).

10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Sat., Feb. 8.

Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor's black, expressionistic comedy slyly satirizes the debilitating dynamics of American male competition by pitting two corporate businessman (Aaron Blakely, Eric Mordhorst) against each other in a bizarre, cold-blooded 13-round bout on a beach. Refereed by a lithe, mysterious young woman from the duo's past (Katie McKee), the match—which includes a schmoozing contest—has the men dueling with both verbal and, ultimately, more conventional weaponry. Though director Jeff Meyers fudges the force of the climactic revelation by letting McKee melt a smidge too much, he's mounted a crisp, funny, articulate production. The trio of actors is top-notch, especially Blakely, whose insincere sincerity captures the cloaked, self-loathing brutality that MacIvor suggests reaches far beyond the corporate game. S.W.

SCOOTER THOMAS MAKES IT TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD

Northwest Actors Studio, 1100 E. Pike, 206-632-9800. $8-$10 ($15 paired with Never Swim Alone).

8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Sat., Feb. 8.

"What I'm really trying to tell you about is what happened between us . . . ," says Dennis (Timothy Glynn) to the audience near the beginning of Peter Parnell's clich餠reminiscence of two childhood friends. He needn't have bothered: The sometimes sweet story is so familiar that after 10 minutes you could write the next 80 yourself. Thirtysomething Dennis' best buddy, Scooter (Jacob Chase), has died, spurring a misty-eyed recollection of how they used to drink, smoke, and get laid (and, yes, they do cut their hands to become blood brothers). Director Marcus Wolland comes down with a case of the cutes—it's never much fun watching grown actors play mischievous little kids—and while Glynn has some emotional honesty, neither he nor a superficial Chase seems experienced enough to convince you they've ever drunk, smoked, or gotten laid. S.W.

 
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