The Weekly Wire: This Week’s Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 4/7Visual Arts: Splendid IsolationCommodore Perry is nowhere to be seen in the 60-plus images collected in "Fleeting Beauty: Japanese Woodblock Prints," essentially because his U.S. warships put an end to Japan's isolation, and the arts that flourished during that isolation, in 1853. During the prior two centuries of Edo Period seclusion, these ukiyo-e prints grew ever more colorful and technically refined. Yet this exquisite art is remarkably conservative and inward-looking; there's no sense of progress at all, no trace of outside influence or creeping modernity. Perhaps that's why the geishas, courtesans, actors, peasant scenes, cherry blossoms, snow-scapes, and multiple views of Mt. Fuji today seem so iconic and quintessentially Japanese. There's a beautiful stasis to them, a denial of history, an unwavering mirror held up to a nation as it wants to imagine itself—and imagines that reflection will never change. In the famous waves of Hokusai, gardens of Hiroshige, and teahouses of Utamaro, dating from circa 1740–1850, we see an idealized vision of a strict feudal society. (Never mind the cruelty, hunger, and unfairness—leave that to the historians.) The prints have been announced as future gifts from local collectors Mary and Allan Kollar, one of SAAM's best bequests—and exhibitions—in years. (Through July 3.) Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St., 654-3100, seattleartmuseum.org. $5–$7. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLERFRIDAY 4/9Theater: Epic AppealThere are many reasons why the tale of the Trojan War remains timeless. Gargantuan folly, sad to say, never goes out of style. But you only need two incentives for An Iliad, which begins previews tonight. First, the one-man show was co-created (with director Lisa Peterson) by the always-impeccable Denis O'Hare, a Tony-winning performer (as a gay accountant besotted by baseball in Take Me Out) and indispensable Hollywood character actor. (Note his despicable hit-and-run driver in Michael Clayton or impeccably vile Senator Briggs in Milk). Second, when O'Hare's shooting schedule for HBO's True Blood (as the Vampire King of Mississippi) meant he suddenly had to bow out of his own piece, longtime Seattle actor Hans Altwies—a founder of this city's fine New Century Theater Company—took over his role. Or rather, roles: Altwies possesses the leading-man looks for all of Homer's heroes and an appealing ease that should lend itself nicely to drawing an audience into the grand yet intimate act of solo storytelling. O'Hare and Peterson want you to reflect on the modern resonances of ancient Greek vengeance; Altwies is the ideal warrior to wage that battle. (Through May 16.) Seattle Repertory Theater, 155 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 443-2222, seattlerep.org. $12–$30. 7:30 p.m. STEVE WIECKINGFilm: A Tower of VaselineMatthew Barney is back—naked, glistening with Vaseline, eating a Chrysler, scaling the walls of the Guggenheim in a kilt, riding bulls, having sex, and killing gas-station attendants. The numbers aren't chronological in his five-part art-film epic The Cremaster Cycle, and the films—shot between 1995 and 2002—are linked by theme, not narrative. (What's a cremaster? The muscle that raises and lowers the testicles, an organic engine of sexual differentiation.) Tonight through Sunday, Cremaster 3 is a film about architecture; you could call it Barney's The Fountainhead, as architects and Freemasons seek to impose structure upon nature. Entropy is their enemy, and it usually wins. Running Sun.–Tues., Part 2 casts Barney as homicidal/suicidal Gary Gilmore, with a cameo by Norman Mailer as Harry Houdini; it's paired with the almost comic Part 1, which is like a Busby Berkeley movie as chorines march in formation on blue Astroturf in an empty football stadium. Above, in twin Goodyear blimps, elaborately coiffed and composed '50s stewardess figures lounge like models in that old Robert Palmer music video. Part 5 features Ursula Andress amid a clutter of borrowed classical motifs; it's the weakest of the five films, but it's accompanied by the exciting motorcycle-sidecar racing of Part 4 (also Sun.–Thurs.), with Barney as a tap-dancing red-haired satyr. SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St. (McCaw Hall), 448-2186, siff.net. $8-$10. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERTheater: Risk ReductionAnyone who's been a regular at the essential fringe company Washington Ensemble Theatre over the past five years—and if you haven't, what's your excuse?—knows damn well that the words "generated by the ensemble" can be problematic. (Recall 2007's Hedda Gabler, presented as a bad rehearsal experiment.) And yet: WET pushes itself with consistent energy and daring. You want to see what it'll try next, how it'll stir things up. So, absolutely, let's root for the group-generated RoboPop!, which is billed as "an exuberant kaleidoscope" and has something to do with a heroic woman, a battle with a robot, and love's saving grace. And in the department of stirring things up, the show gives co-directing duties to skilled designers Heidi Ganser (whose costumes have been fundamental to several WET successes) and Ben Zamora (a lighting whiz with credits including The Tristan Project, Peter Sellars' visually stunning take on Tristan und Isolde). And here's betting that John Abramson, a canny local actor and director who guided Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui onto our 10-best list back in 2004, is worth a look making his WET performance debut in the cast. (Through May 10.) Washington Ensemble Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E., 325-5105, washingtonensemble.org. $10–$18. 7:30 p.m. STEVE WIECKINGFilm: Vanishing ActBunny Lake Is Missing, an odd little thriller directed by Otto Preminger in 1965, at first seems to be a smart yet routine missing-child flick. A young American mother (Carol Lynley) arrives in London with her 4-year-old daughter (named Bunny), and the kid promptly disappears. Fishy. And even fishier, even in the mid-'60s, is that there's no father—making Lynley the figure of scorn and suspicion. Laurence Olivier delivers a wonderful, underseen performance as a police inspector full of blank smiles; he assumes a mask of practiced civility while looking for a girl that no one can actually remember seeing. Does Bunny really exist? Is the mother mad? Like Olivier's cop, Preminger conceals his feelings about his characters, letting his camera show us their true nature. (Also, watch for wicked Noel Coward in a supporting role.) It's the kickoff to a four-week series at the GI called Biff! Bang! Pow!: Swingin' Flicks of the Sixties. The following weeks bring Antonioni's Blow-Up, The Knack...and How to Get It, Lord Love a Duck, and the late-night hippie pictures Riot on Sunset Strip and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. (Retro-influenced music is also part of the retrospective: Tomorrow, the Moonspinners play after the 7 p.m. show.) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grandillusioncinema.org. $5–$7. 7 and 9 p.m. BRIAN MILLERSATURDAY 4/10Stage: Suave, Not SoftInviting Mark Siano to entertain guests in the Pampas Room initially seems akin to asking a kid to sit at the adults' table. The man is best known for his cornball '80s-inspired shows at Re-bar and Chop Suey, including The Soft Rock Kid. But he comes off more like Dean Martin than Lionel Richie as the host of Shaken Not Stirred. The new variety show—with four-course meal—features Siano and a cast including comic actor David Swidler, singer Joanna Hardie, and burlesque dancer Agent Rhinestone. Admittedly it's expensive. But it's also three hours of sleek entertainment, the highlight being a hilarious tune bemoaning the effects of technology on dating, "Leave Your Phone Alone." You'd be wise to heed his advice, lest you want your date to jab you with her elbow mid-song. El Gaucho, 2505 First Ave., 728-1337, elgaucho.com. $100–$225 (21 and over). 7 p.m. (Repeats April 24 and May 8.) ERIKA HOBARTComedy: Revenge of the NerdFew would've predicted, back in the late-'90s heyday of MTV's Singled Out, that quippy young host Chris Hardwick would extend his career into the new millennium. But the Web boom has allowed the L.A. comic to let his geek flag fly—as a contributing writer at Wired, the host of Web Soup on Comcast's G4 channel, and creator of nerdist.com. And he still does stand-up. "Since last year, there's been a growing number of nerds in the audience," he says. "They're overtaking the rednecks in the comedy clubs. And I love it—they're the people I understand better. I'm performing for a pack that I'm a member of." Which means he's free to make associative leaps from Dr. Who to 286 processors to Hogwarts to download speeds. The gadget-obsessed comedian understands that some in the audience may be checking e-mail during his performance. But, he warns, "I might grab their phone and text something really offensive." Mike Phirman, his collaborator in the comedy/musical duo Hard 'n' Phirm, will help open tonight's show. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, showboxonline.com. $20–$23 (all ages). 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLERMONDAY 4/12Baseball: Quant AppealIn their home-field season opener, the Mariners are a so-so team (85–77 last year), with a not-cheap roster led by hitting maestro Ichiro Suzuki and newly acquired lefty flamethrower Cliff Lee. Facing the M's in three games (through Wed.) are the Oakland Athletics, a lagging rival in the AL West (75–87 last season) with an even blander lineup. On the field, the A's most recognizable name may be journeyman centerfielder Coco Crisp. In the clubhouse, however, the A's have a real star: general manager Billy Beane, the smart, penny-pinching hero of Moneyball, the 2003 bestseller by Michael Lewis. In fact, Beane is so esteemed that Brad Pitt has been trying for years to play him in a much-delayed movie adaptation. By contrast, no one wants to make a movie about Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik—a perfectly capable, pleasant, doughy executive who unfortunately lacks Beane's good looks and quant appeal. But if Moneyball ever gets made and there's a short scene for Zduriencik, we'd cast David Koechner. Safeco Field, 1250 First Ave. S., 346-4001, seattlemariners.com. $8–$70. 3:40 p.m. T. BOND

 
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