Opening Nights: The North Arcade and Adventures in Mating

The North Arcade Market Theater, 1428 Post Alley, www.unexpectedproductions.org. $17–$19.99. 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Aug. 19. I didn't know what to expect from Unexpected Productions' new musical based on the beloved Pike Place Market. Written by Donna Rae Davidson and Rob Jones as an homage to the Market's 100th anniversary, Arcade follows the lives of many of the Market's workers, from the whimsical craft makers and their free-spirited children to the stern but caring Market Master. All of these characters are based on actual people Davidson knew personally; in the program, she says that "The North Arcade is a payback for all the love, support, and nurturing I have received from my adopted family here on the north end of the Pike Place Market." And it shows. All of the actors have the chance to play many different characters; whether they're poking fun at annoying tourists or re-creating a rainstorm, everyone involved is plainly having a ball. High points include Joanne Klein's commanding performance of "I Am the Market Master," Hugh Hastings' seemingly random but perfectly timed Shakespearean quotes, and Shana Pennington-Baird's cabaret-style delivery of "I Want a Man...Duh!" Jones' infectious songs are played by a pit band, equipped with a large arsenal of instruments from a trombone to a ukulele, who are reminiscent of the street performers who line the Market daily. Beyond The North Arcade's delightfully campy exterior, the show is a surprisingly enjoyable learning experience—informative and insightful, peppered with history and an occasional inside scoop on Market politics. Over the past century, the Market has secured a reputation as a friendly place, welcome to all. Everyone in Arcade shares this idea and presents it with, as one of Jones' songs says, "a charm you can't deny." DYLAN SLADKY Adventures in Mating Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit Ave., www.schmeater.org. $12–$15. 8 p.m. Fri.–Sat. Ends Aug. 25. Joseph Scrimshaw's hilarious take on theater and romance blends scripted comedy and improv into a unique nightly performance in which the audience is the deciding factor on a date going progressively, horribly wrong. The play is built like a flowchart of love, with the audience inflicting its whim on Jeffrey and Miranda's dysfunctional blind date at pivotal moments.Will it be red or white wine? Seduction or conversation? Kiss...or kill? The choice is up to you, and with 60 possible scene combinations, you're guaranteed a never-before-seen piece of theater. Can the OCD career girl actually hook a mate? Will the frenetic loverboy eventually score? And who gets the waiter? The fourth wall is demolished early on by the very funny Mr. Waiter (Ian Schempp), who deftly stops time and nattily guides the audience through each decision. Votes are cast with cheers and stomps, making the show a raucous occasion, with the onstage action accordingly bent to the will of the loudest. The audience is granted extra powers, too: One randomly selected person can put the kibosh on a scene if it drags on, forcing a change of action. Another is provided with the script (all 15 pounds of it) and acts as "safety net" to rein in the actors if they wander too far from the text. Still another performs the duties of elections official for the intermission ballot count. While all possible scenes are actually written out, the show is by necessity loose. The actors crack up, there's a non-sequitur talent show, even a clown interlude. The script could be tweaked some, but the cast, directed by Joy Fairfield, deftly navigates the evening's pratfalls and catcalls with skill and wit. It's a perfect evening for the Schmee's intimate stage. The madcap action, combined with the bar's strong drinks, energizes the atmosphere and inspires ever more hilarity onstage. Torturing two people has never been so much fun. NEIL CORCORAN

 
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