GONE ARE THE DAYS
Consolidated Works, 500 Boren Ave. N., 206-325-6500. $12-$15. 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Sat., June 21. Playwright Scot Augustson loves wordsthe rest of the title to his latest naughty shadow puppet show is A Ghastly Chronicle of an Epic Journey Through the Remorseless, Unrelenting Landscapes of Hell Itself! Or, Sex After Deathand his words are usually hysterically worth whatever else doesn't pan out so well. His last non-puppet effort, the otherwise treacly Gilgamesh, Iowa, had the absurd buoyancy of the best of Monty Python whenever it let itself go for a guffaw. This new production runs out of steam at the hour mark (there are only 20 minutes left to go), and I'm tiring of the limitations of his silhouette shtick, but it does cement the fact that Augustson has one of the most profanely funny minds in town. Gone sends three living souls to hell. It shouldn't surprise you that one of them is a wet nurse (looking for her young charge, drowned in a lake), because "wet nurse" alone is worth a laugh, and you can be damn sure Augustson repeats itand has her offering the miserable denizens of Hades some comforting suckle. There is also a plaintive wanderer with a pronounced penis and a little girl who has lost her dog (a fact that, lucky for us, takes her to animal hell, where the creatures are very happy about the place's magical allowance for interspecies coupling; one pooch calmly explains that, on Earth, his large dog phallus simply would not have fit his partner's tiny cat vagina). There's no point to any of this, really, and it rambles, however playfully, because of it. But it's all put across by a disarmingly mischievous vocal castSarah Rudinoff and Susanna Burney, in particular, remind you of the best that The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle had to offeran infectious non sequitur spirit, and some terrific, wistfully irreverent melodies by Rick Miller. The 20-foot-by-30-foot round room onto which the poorly drawn figures are projectedthe cast also doubles as bodies for the boisterous voicesis still more of a gimmick to me than anything else (it was home to Augustson's Why?Why?Why? a couple of seasons ago). The pillows and stuffed animals provided as seats seem like a cuter idea than they turn out to be, and it must be stuffy under that tent even under the best circumstances. Use Augustson's fiendishly foul-mouthed language as water and you'll make it through. STEVE WIECKING CLAUDIA KELLY'S 500 HATS
Bathhouse Theatre, 7312 W. Greenlake Dr. N., 206-325-6500. Call for ticket prices. 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 2 p.m. matinees Sun. (also Sat. matinees beginning Sat., June 21).
Ends Sat., July 12.
When you see a woman sporting some classic chapeau, what comes to mind? Elegance, chic, an old-fashioned sense of propriety. Flamboyance, too, but with the sort of self-assurance that doesn't have to try too hard. That confident hat style is not much in evidence in Donna Rae Davidson and Rob Jones' new musical, despite the presence onstage of several dozen role models. The hats hanging everywhere belong to Claudia (Bobbi Kotula), a woman in her extremely late 30s who's even more exasperatingly self-absorbed than usual on her ex-boyfriend's (Mark Sparks) wedding day. Should she crash the wedding? Try to get him back? And what will she wear? With the help of two outrageous stereotypesher guilt-tripping Jewish mother (Joanne Klein, a trouper who almost turns her caricature into a real person) and gay confidante (John W. Bartley, who doesn't)things all work out. There are the makings of a sophisticated little chamber piece here: Davidson's book is solid, if not dazzlingly innovative, her lyrics deftly crafted, and Jones' dance-tune pastiches (waltzes, sambas, soft-shoe numbers) are charming. But the cast buries all this, taking nearly every opportunity to mug, indulge in a funny voice, or implausibly overreact. To re-create the Claudia Kelly experience, take a nice, tart summery sorbet and pile on chocolate sprinkles, Gummi Bears, marshmallow sauce, valentine message hearts, and aerosol nondairy whipped topping past its expiration date. There's good stuff somewhere underneath, but you really have to dig for it. GAVIN BORCHERT CARDENIO
Union Garage Performance Center, 1416 10th Ave., 206-325-6500. $12-$14. Pay-what-you-will every Thurs. 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 6 p.m. Sun. Cast and crew benefit Thurs., June 12. Ends Sat., June 28.
All rightI walked out of Cardenio. I feel bad, and I've done this only one other time in my whole reviewing history. If you'd like to scold me and tell me how much better the whole thing got after intermission, knock yourself out. I was, admittedly, unhinged by the uncontrollable effect of the unexpected June heat on the sweat box that Union Garage quickly became, but it was the embarrassing inexpertise of the production that finally felled me. Let me make something clear before I cut loose: A Theater Under the Influence, which is staging this "lost" likely collaboration between John Fletcher and William Shakespeare, has my complete admiration. A little theater with a grand ambition, it has committed itself to its artistic mission producing little-known, underseen, or unfairly forgotten workswith a scrupulous devotion that is the equal of any of the larger houses. But this is a big miss from moment one. You know you've been had when the show opens with everybody gathering onstage to strike any one of a number of Shakespearean poses that will, from the stiff look of things, last them the rest of the night. You know what I'm talking aboutan imperious hand on the lapel, an arched brow, a pursed lip, an effete wrist poised at the ready. Nobody bothers to sound human because everybody's dying to say "forsooth." If anybody can actand there were a couple of valiant efforts heredirector Melanie White is determined to keep it from us. The plot involves romantic manipulations and political treachery in the usurped court of Cardenio (Matthew P. Middleton), though there isn't a sign of passion in the pauses; no one seems moved to emotion until it's their turn to speak. The inconsistent shifts from broad melodrama to dark pretense make it uncertain where White thinks she's pitched this: For a night that begins with a blast of Carmina Burana, this sure feels like a farce. S.W. DOUBLE DOWN
Crispin Spaeth Dance Group, Velocity MainSpace Theater, 915 E. Pine St., second floor, 206-325-6500. $12-$16. 8 p.m. Fri., June 13-Sun., June 15.
"Double Down," the new work that lends its title to this evening, looks like it could have been cut from the comics page. Lisa DeFrance's Crayola-colored costumes have the black outline of cartoon characters, and with them in front of an all-white backdrop, our eyeballs vibrate. There are sly references to children's games, as the dancers accelerate in "crack the whip" or line up like dominoes, only to topple one by one. The score, created and compiled by Mark Clem and Pierre Crutchfield, seems to mirror the singsong rhythms of the playground until it resolves itself into a fractured version of "Three Blind Mice." Full of old mime and acting tricks like fake hypnosis, all performed well and lovingly, "Double Down" gives each of its four women (Johanna Hulick, Lila Hurwitz, Jess Klein, and Amy Turner) plenty of moments to play games with each other and with us. In "Supply" from 1998, Spaeth has created a kind of postmodern version of a traditional modern dance. Working with Edvard Grieg's Concerto in A Minor, her choreography responds to the emotional and dynamic changes in the music without necessarily mirroring the rhythm. At one point, Hurwitz enters the stage grandly to a flourish from the piano, but instead of continuing with a series of dramatic swoops and gestures, she churns the air with her arms for a few bars, then leaves the way she came, a momentary evocation of Martha Graham or Doris Humphrey resolving itself in Merce Cunningham. John Dixon seems to alternate between historical periods as well, sometimes the stalwart partner of the 1950s and other times the slippery improviser we often see him as today. The work is sprinkled with other references to dance, tentative social steps, and mundane classroom behavior. As a couple downstage maneuvers carefully through a duet, dancing an odd kind of two-step while lying flat on the floor, the rest of the cast marks time in an upstage corner, bobbing along in tempo, practicing a traveling phrase before they take off to perform it full-out. We can't always tell if we're in a rehearsal or if this is the real thing, but in the end it doesn't seem to make a difference. The game Spaeth plays with our expectations is as skillful as the one she plays with convention. SANDRA KURTZ email@example.com