The Pick List: The Week’s Recommended Events

Friday, April 18

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Some Broadway classics age better than others. Death of a Salesman or A Streetcar Named Desire are stamped with a very particular kind of postwar milieu, yet to me this coruscating campus drama survives the jump to our present century. Writing in 1962, Edward Albee gave scant mention to the outside world. His relentless focus is on the raging marriage of George and Martha, who use the younger couple Nick and Honey as surrogates and punching bags for the rage they can’t keep to themselves. Their forays and furies are strategic; even getting the right amount of drunk involves a degree of calculation. The expression of marital spite requires a certain amount of disinhibition—served on the rocks, of course—without getting sloppy about it, because that would simply invite counterattack. Do George and Martha (here played by R. Hamilton Wright and Pamela Reed) hate each other? Should they be together? Should they really be raising a son (never seen in the play)? Those questions fade in the face of the overpowering need George and Martha feel. It’s not codependency in our modern sense, but a more primal kind of attachment. Arguing is like sex to them. They don’t belong together, but you can’t imagine them apart. Aaron Blakely and Amy Hill play the younger faculty duo. Braden Abraham directs. (Previews begin tonight; opens Wednesday; runs through May 18.) Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 443-2222, seattlerep.org. $15–$80. 7:30 p.m.

Chelsea Handler

Her name was briefly floated as a replacement for David Letterman, in part because Handler is soon to step away from her own late-night chat show on E!. So what does she do next? Besides stand-up, where she has a proven knack for mocking celebrities ever so slightly further up the Hollywood food chain than she, Handler has profitably extended her louche brand into humor books. Her latest, Uganda Be Kidding Me, relates various family and travel misadventures, including a safari in Botswana. In part she’s playing the ugly American abroad, stomping and drinking her way through foreign customs she doesn’t care to understand. She’s exaggerating her selfishness and cluelessness for comic effect, but there’s always a trace of satire to her boorishness. This is what showbiz has made me, she’s saying; look how awful I am. The scorn seeps into her interviews (as recently with Piers Morgan) and dealings with other celebrities, which gives Handler the rap for being a bitch. She’s no Leno-style sycophant, that’s for certain. Of visitors to her own show, she’s said, “Sometimes people are really stupid.” Yet after six years, her Chelsea Lately has unquestionably given her more comic power and reach. And, as she once told Conan O’Brien, it’s been a way to meet men. “I’ve only slept with, like, a handful of my guests,” she said. And if for no other reason, her show will be missed when it ends this year. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $66–$91. 7 p.m.

Pulsos Latinos

With eight recent features from Latin America, most screening twice, this film festival begins tonight with the Ecuadorian Porcelain Horse, about a slacker who gets caught in the drug-smuggling trade. Other topics in the series range from cock-fighting in Costa Rica to tourism in Peru. One worthwhile title is Marcela Said’s Chilean Summer of Flying Fish (9 p.m. Sun., 7 p.m. Wed.), which starts with the seemingly dull dramatic device of an invasive carp infestation. The lake, in Chile’s forested south, is owned by a wealthy part-time farm owner with a teen daughter, Manena (Francisca Walker), who doesn’t initially question her family’s privilege. Hers is a life of iPhones and school vacations to New York, given little supervision by adults who spend much time drinking and disparaging the darker-skinned help, who speak the indigenous Mapuche language. When the native teenager Pedro ruptures an eardrum trying to dynamite the fish at his employer’s command, no one cares. They pay him a few pesos and laugh it off—maybe he’ll use deafness as an excuse not to work! (Those lazy Indians . . . ) I won’t oversell this small, atmospheric film as a romance between Manena and Pedro; rather, he helps open her eyes to the land’s beauty and its barbed-wire inequity. The Mapuche were there first, before Columbus, before private property, no matter how much her parents try to ignore that fact. More than a coming-of-age tale, Summer of Flying Fish is about this girl’s awakening to history. (Through April 26.) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, nwfilmforum.org. $6–$11. 7 p.m.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

Balagan Theatre likes to get frisky with its musicals, as we’ve seen with recent stagings of Carrie, Avenue Q, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Those shows were all imports, proven properties from Broadway (well, off-Broadway), so the company is charting a new direction with this original work by the Los Angeles–based team of Valerie Vigoda, Brendan Milburn, and Joe DiPietro. In a reversal of the compass needle, Ernest Shackleton is premiering here before heading to New York. Vigoda plays present-day heroine Kat, who somehow meets the famed Antarctic explorer (Wade McCollum) through her video blog. He relates his frozen adventures, she shares the hardships of single parenthood and working in the tech industry, and a romance is sparked across the seas of time. We hope there will be penguins, too. Lisa Peterson directs. (Through May 3.) Seattle Repertory Theatre, 329-1050, balagantheatre.org. $5–$45. 7:30 p.m.

Big-Screen Musicals

Easter weekend is as good a time as any to program a batch of mom-friendly musicals, and you’ll find Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story on the schedule. But the SIFF curators have made some eccentric selections, too. Beginning the retrospective tonight is Prince’s 1984 hit Purple Rain—not really a musical in the old MGM/Freed Unit tradition. Maybe rock opera better describes Prince’s very enjoyable self-mythologizing amid the sturm und Minneapolis drang. With his grand ego, “The Kid” wants musical success as much as Prince sought crossover acclaim, and this is the film that achieved both. The soundtrack—as if you need reminding—contains the title tune, “I Would Die for U,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Jungle Love” (from Morris Day and The Time). Somehow the sight of Prince dry-humping the stage always makes us nostalgic for the ’80s. U would be a fool 2 miss it. Other titles in the series, running through Thursday, include Strictly Ballroom, Dirty Dancing, and Step Up 2: The Streets (yes, really). SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, siff.net. $6–$11. 9:30 p.m.

Monday, April 21

Hedrick Smith

A veteran journalist and student of Washington, D.C. power brokers, Smith scored a bestseller two years back and ruffled many op-ed writers with his Who Stole the American Dream? The book came out soon before our last midterm elections, when Democrats would bleed more seats and the Tea Party’s “Repeal Obamacare!” battle cry still proved quite effective. The question for Smith tonight, here in our blue-state smugness bubble, is to assess how the electorate will tip in the next midterms. Are voters still angry? The first ACA enrollment deadline has passed, the website kind of works, we’ve mostly disengaged from two wars abroad, and the economy is somewhat mended. Yet still, Smith’s diagnosis of a gross American structural imbalance remains accurate. The middle class has been on a slide since well before the recession, Obama, or even Reagan. His book looks back to the decline of unions, the privatization of pensions (workers being “encouraged” to use 401(k)s instead), outsourcing and globalization, legislative capture by business interests, ballooning consumer debt (remember when we used to borrow against our houses?), and the ascendance of finance over manufacturing. What might Smith—and by extension Obama—hope to do about it? Tax reform, investment in education and infrastructure, reversing Citizens United, etc. All of which will play well here, but good luck to a swing-district Democrat laying out those proposals. (Note that your ticket also gets you into the 6 p.m. talk by to Jake Rosenfeld, author of What Unions No Longer Do.) Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m.

 
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