The Weekly Wire: This Week's Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 1/16

Stage: Coin Toss

American Buffalo was, two years after its 1975 Chicago debut, David Mamet's first play to reach Broadway. (He was then all of 30 years old.) Acclaimed by critics, it's been revived ever since. Ostensibly a two-act drama about the planning of a coin theft, it's as much a parsing of English language—Mamet's arch refinement of criminal diction, an elocution lesson for a vernacular that doesn't really exist. Or rather, one that the playwright coined: Mamet-speak™. It is the idiom of three petty thieves who wax grandiloquent without bothering to check dictionary meanings. Half of what they say is risibly wrong, but their point is always clear. Crime, business, getting ahead, conning and conniving—it's all the same to them. They may be on the bottom of the Ford/Carter malaise decade, but they have a vital, profane striving to them. Or to put it in Mamet-speak™: Small-timers talk big. Hans Altwies plays the ringleader Teach; Charles Leggett and Zachary Simonson play his not-bright acolytes. Wilson Milam directs. (Opens tonight; runs through Feb. 3.) Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 443-2222, seattlerep.org. $12–$80. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Literary: Sonic Rune

Somewhere at the crowded intersection of literature, music, and beat poetry exists Three Songs, a performance/reading by Rae Diamond, who describes herself as a writer, astrologer, artist, musician, and "former hardcore punk" who once caught rides on freight trains. Part of The Furnace's reading series, Three Songs is meant to explore a musician's experience with sound, hearing, and the sonic "mysteries" conveyed through the spoken word. Sounds meta? That's because it is: Vocalist Jessika Kenney will join Diamond to provide oral punctuation, chords, and various sound effects. In one audio snippet I previewed, the two artists ask, "Is there a sense of balance any more real than our sense of hearing?" Their performance may or may not answer that question. And if you miss it, don't worry—you can hear the broadcast at hollowearthradio.org. Hollow Earth Performance Space, 2018A E. Union St., 905-1250. Free. 6 p.m. JEVA LANGE

THURSDAY 1/17

Dance: Finely Sliced

Contemporary dance training has branched out from the old-school models of modern versus ballet class, but there aren't too many performers who get ready for a show by learning how to butcher a lamb. Carrie Ahern has certainly spent her time in the dance studio, but for Borrowed Prey, her new work investigating "our relationship to the animals most of us consume," she actually apprenticed herself to a meat-cutter. In our food-obsessed culture, with its emphasis on knowing the people who produce what we eat, Ahern steps behind the counter in a real butcher shop, turning muscle into meat. (Performances run Thurs.–Sun. through Jan. 27.) Rain Shadow Meats, 1531 Melrose Ave., carrieahern.com. $20–$25. 8 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ

Comedy: A Versatile Veteran

While he may be best known for wacky TV sketch-comedy characters, David Alan Grier's three-decade career in showbiz is considerably broader and deeper than his '90s work on In Living Color. From there you'll remember his fey film critic Antoine Merriweather and failed bluesman Calhoun Tubbs. But before and since his association with the Wayans brothers, the Yale-trained actor has worked extensively in theater, film, stand-up comedy, and even print. (He wrote an outward-looking memoir, Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth, in 2009.) Grier is a gifted mimic of figures including Ray Charles, Al Sharpton, and Colin Powell; and if he does a Barack Obama impersonation, we're hoping to see it. Earlier this year, he played Sportin' Life in a Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess—yes, he can sing, too. And, since it's David Mamet week in the Wire, it's worth noting that Grier earned a Tony nomination starring in the playwright's Race three years ago. From soundstage to Broadway, he'll have plenty of backstage stories to tell. (Through Sat.) Parlor Live Comedy Club, 700 Bellevue Way N.E., 425-289-7000, parlorlive.com. $20–$30. 7:30 p.m. DANA SITAR

Dance: Her Aim Is True

Catherine Cabeen is a truly beautiful dancer, but her intellectual curiosity has as much influence on her choreography as her kinetic sensibilities. In Fire!, she takes inspiration from the work of the late French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, whose voluptuous images of monumental women, both seductive and slightly disturbing, are as multilayered as Cabeen herself. The title is a joke as well as a description—the final comment on her dance for last year's Northwest New Works, titled Ready Aim . . . —but also an art-historical reference to Saint Phalle's use of firearms in her collages. (Through Sun.) On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., 217-9888, ontheboards.org. $20. 8 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ

MONDAY 1/21

Books: Behind Every Dark Cloud . . .

Fyodor Dostoyevsky claimed that, if instructed not to think of a polar bear, "You will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute." English journalist Oliver Burkeman (of The Guardian), a longtime skeptic of "the power of optimism," believes the same to be true about positive thinking: If you spend every minute worrying about being happy, you will paradoxically focus on the negative. Counterintuitive as it may be, Burkeman fleshes out his theory in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (Farrar Straus Giroux, $25), exploring the various ways people have "followed the negative path to happiness." In doing so, Burkeman explores the teachings of Stoics, Buddhists, former presidents, and long-dead philosophers. He also celebrates the Day of the Dead in Mexico and visits Kibera, the Nairobi super-slum where suffering is an everyday reality. Here in the states, he attends a motivational seminar led by that eternal optimist, George W. Bush. Happiness, Burkeman finds, lies somewhere between those two extremes. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m. JEVA LANGE

Film: Always Be Closing

Pegged to the Rep's production of American Buffalo (see above), this 1992 adaptation of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross boasts a stellar cast—most notably Al Pacino as hotshot salesman Ricky Roma (he who just took Jack Lemmon's role, as tired old Shelley Levene, in a poorly received Broadway revival). Not that you need reminding, but Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey also star in the movie. But it is worth remembering that the endlessly quotable play, about desperate salesmen hawking dubious real estate, debuted all the way back in the Reagan era, 1984, when it earned a Pulitzer. Glengarry was then seen as a withering indictment of capitalism, one that portrayed the corrosive cost of selling upon the soul. You're either on the leaderboard, making it—or, in Baldwin's words, "Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired." For all its testosterone posturing and extravagant insults, Glengarry sides with the second- and third-placers. There's more compassion than meanness to it. Mamet was, after all, the son of a labor lawyer. Only times have changed. He's now a rich right-winger whose latest play, The Anarchist, was a Broadway disaster that closed in a few weeks. As a writer, Mamet is now struggling for vigor and relevance—not unlike poor old Shelley Levene. (He's Roma no more.) In a cruel twist of fate for this supply-sider, the theatrical market has finally turned against him. SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, siff.net. $6–$11. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

 
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