Opening Nights: Gender-Bending in the Park and at Julia’s

Plus: role-modeling coolness and down-home values.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORSRuns Thurs.–Sun. through Aug. 15. Free. See greenstage.org for dates, times, and locations.Most theater companies aspiring to Shakespearean drama know that a goodly portion of the modern audience a) doesn't understand what the hell the characters are saying half the time and b) still harbors resentment against the Bard from having been force-fed Romeo and Juliet at puberty.Thus, many an ingenious device has been concocted to woo an audience with plenty of misgivings about "wherefore"s.Greenstage takes a tip from the original Shakespearean productions and has the boys play girls—then has the girls play boys, too. And they pull it off magnificently.Befuddled wife Adriana (six-foot plus Patrick Bentley) out-prisses Perez Hilton in her corset and bonnet, andthe twin Antipholi (Courtney Bohl and Jessica Stepka) bellow deep in their nonexistent beer guts with manly vigor through their various outrages of mistaken identity. But my favorite chick-with-a-dick is Michael Blum as the "Courtezan" (think Danny DeVito in a Marie Antoinette getup, and you're only halfway to how indecently funny Blum is in a skirt).Whether hops, face-flops, or assault with a deadly baguette, director Ryan Higgins tries everything to get a giggle out of the audience. This play almost justifies the ache in your rear from sitting on the ground for two hours in Discovery Park's pristine wilderness (sans chairs, cushioning, etc.) Almost. JENNA NAND THE EDWARDS TWINS

Julia's, 300 Broadway E., theedwardstwins.com. $20. 8:30 p.m. Sun.–Wed. Ends Sept. 3.Identical twins Eddie and Anthony Edwards claim to have mastered over 100 celebrity impersonations between them. Eddie is slimmer with a higher-pitched voice, so he channels the ladies (Barbra Streisand, Cher) and Anthony does the men (Elton John, Billy Joel). The traveling duo currently has a gig performing at Julia's four times a week until September. Their hour-plus show is entertaining as hell—but they've gotten a weak response from the city so far.Julia's had more empty than filled tables on a recent Friday night. It felt wrong for a diva like Streisand to emerge to a pitter-patter of applause. Undeterred, Eddie—who bore an uncanny resemblance to her, complete with the trademark bulbous nose—serenaded us with "The Way We Were." Anthony followed as Elton, decked out in a sequined red jacket and funky sunglasses.The small and inhibited crowd finally let loose and began catcalling during the night's third and final impersonation: Eddie as Cher. It proved to be the show highlight: S/he emerged with a wild mane of jet-black hair and a Brazilian-cut leotard exposing his ass cheeks. Edwards looked like Cher in drag—which works great, because really, that's what Cher looks like, too. Sonny (Anthony) even came back from the grave to do his part in a spot-on rendition of "I Got You Babe."The brothers, whose repertoire includes Neil Diamond, Tina Turner, and even Kermit the Frog, will change the show's celebrity lineup every few weeks. But people just aren't responding the way they'd hoped. "I don't get why people aren't coming," Eddie confessed after the show.Maybe it's because Seattle, unlike Los Angeles or Las Vegas, where the brothers have previously reigned, isn't known for its obsession with celebrity culture. If you aren't a diehard Barbra fan, then you probably aren't interested in seeing a knock-off of her sing "Woman in Love." And there probably aren't enough people here who do want to see that four times a week, anyway. It's a shame, really, because anybody who does Cher as well—or arguably better—than Cher deserves some major credit. ERIKA HOBART HOW TO BE COOL

Open Circle Theater, 2222 Second Ave., 323-7412, ursamajortheatre.org. $10–$12. 7 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Ends Aug. 8.Eugene Wright seems to be the archetype of everything that isn't cool. Even if we couldn't tell from his style (much like a Mormon missionary), his love life (limited to an unrealized crush on a schoolteacher), or his name (Eugene!), he tells us point blank: He has no aspirations toward coolness. But of course cool is all relative, and there's a striking contrast between Eugene (played by Evan Whitfield)—confident in his nerdy knowledge of everything—and Miss Taylor (Anna Richardson)—the once-popular girl turned obedience-loving teacher.She invites him to give a lecture on peer pressure, and what follows is less a drama than a soapbox, mostly devoid of action but full of moralizing. Where Miss Taylor teaches the value of following rules, Eugene, a guest speaker for the class, encourages freethinking and civil disobedience. She stayed in their hometown, he's been roaming the country. He's well-versed in pop culture, politics, and technology, and if he'd only lose the glasses, the tie, and the Brylcreem, it would be clear that Eugene is in fact pretty cool.John Longenbaugh's script takes place in 1962, allowing him to exalt the world-famous coolness of Elvis and JFK, as well as future technologies like portable music players. Beyond the nostalgic references, though, Eugene's message is a timeless one, expressed in any number of contemporary Disney specials; Longenbaugh (a former columnist and reviewer for this paper) has just done it more articulately than, say, High School Musical. Whitfield is charming as an impassioned dweeb, even if we suspect a suave man lurking beneath the surface. Once he and Richardson get past an awkward improvisational opening—it's tough to energize an audience of 12—they hit their stride, giving consistent, cool performances. BRENT ARONOWITZ SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN HOMECOMINGTaproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., 781-9707, taproottheatre.org. $10–$33. 7:30 p.m. Wed.–Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat. Ends Aug. 8.Being a jaded 20-something Seattleite, I couldn't get over my suspicion of the simple, honest joy and love that this fictional musical family professes for each other and Jesus. I kept waiting for the proverbial manure to hit the fan and reveal the sordid depths of their dysfunction. Oh, they tease, they hint—with mysterious bumps backstage from an invisible set of 3-year-old terrors, a slick-haired, high-waisted Baptist preacher (Kevin Brady) with frustrated Broadway ambitions who cries at the drop of a fan behind his cross-shaped pulpit, an unmusical sister (Jenny Cross) signing through her family's virtuoso bluegrass/gospel performances—but no cigar. The Sanders family (modeled on the Carter Family) maintain their wholesomeness through a series of religious country songs and heartwarming character sketches. I tip my hat to the legit-sounding Southern accents (which I've heard heartlessly butchered on Seattle stages for years) and the flawless, rafter-shaking musical performances by this talented group (who each play at least one instrument, sing their hearts out, and still manage to project emotions at one another onstage). Heavy on entertainment and light on drama, this play is a pleasant breather from the typical psychological carnage of contemporary theater. JENNA NAND

 
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