THURSDAY, SEPT. 12

Xanadu

Critics would’ve laughed back in 1980 if you’d told them that Xanadu , Olivia Newton-John’s failed attempt at post- Grease film

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Agenda: The Week’s Recommended Events

THURSDAY, SEPT. 12

Xanadu

Critics would’ve laughed back in 1980 if you’d told them that Xanadu, Olivia Newton-John’s failed attempt at post-Grease film superstardom, would hold any charm for theater audiences as a stage musical decades later. Yet laughter is the key to the fast (about 90 minutes) and very loose 2007 Broadway adaptation by playwright Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed). This production keeps the movie’s pleasing pop score by longtime ONJ collaborator John Farrar and rock band ELO’s Jeff Lynne. Also intact is the movie’s fantastically ridiculous notion that a muse (here played by Jessica Skerritt) would descend from the heavens to inspire some dim-bulb artist (Drew Stokinger) to open a roller disco (or, as he puts it here, “My apex of all the arts”). But Beane gets mischievous: The Greek muse Kira’s inexplicable Australian accent in the film becomes part of her “disguise”; her sister muses include a couple of men; and an added subplot involving mythical conniving allows for the interpolation of other ELO hits like “Evil Woman.” Expect director David Ira Goldstein to know how to put extra kick into the numbers with the help of choreographer Kathryn Van Meter. Xanadu doesn’t demand much from its audience—except perhaps some affection for the film, the ’80s, and/or a certain kind of camp theatrical sensibility. As one of the muses notes, “This is like children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people.” (Through Oct. 20; then moves to Everett Oct. 25–Nov. 17). Village Theatre, 303 Front St. N. (Issaquah), 392-2202, villagetheatre.org, $30–$65. 7:30 p.m.

Everything Is Terrible

Part of the new VHS-meets-the-Internet videotape nostalgia boom, Everything Is Terrible creates supercuts of found-footage oddities, most of them from the ’80s, when the compilers were kids glued to the idiot box. This road-show presentation, hosted by Dimitri Simakis, offers two such examples: one a collage of white folks vainly cashing in on hip-hop and rap; the second, called Comic Relief Zero, is a 50-minute compilation of VHS and cable comedy specials featuring the likes of Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, and Bob Saget. I mention those names because the other 90 percent of the performers are mostly forgotten journeymen—wait! was that Sinbad?—with mullets and parachute pants. And none get to tell an entire joke the whole way through. What Simakis and his EIT cohort do is to edit on repeated gestures and bits, to tease out the parallels and perhaps outright cribs among the comedy trade. Ethnic stereotypes, “Did ya ever notice?”, sexist humor, and other stage tropes are painfully and somewhat numbingly cut into a new sequence. All you’re left with is hackery and cliché, and soon you’re laughing at these guys, not their jokes, which is EIT’s whole point. Sometimes this seems unfair, as with Richard Belzer or Eric Bogosian; and Letterman is conspicuously absent from the montage. But here come Carlos Mencia and Howie Mandel—and no, you decide, they’re getting just what they deserve. Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $13. 8 & 10 p.m.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 13

The Big-Screen 70 mm Film Festival

Just voted Best Movie Theater in our Best of Seattle® readers’ poll, Paul Allen’s Cinerama is presenting a dozen old titles worthy of its giant screen. Or screens, actually, since the cinema will be using the curved, 90-foot wraparound screen for the three-strip, Cinerama-process prints of How the West Was Won and This Is Cinerama. Tonight and for the other 70 mm titles, the standard 68-foot screen is plenty large. First up is the 1992 ethnographic trance movie Baraka, directed by Ron Fricke. Following is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece Vertigo, the most emotionally resonant tragedy of his long career. James Stewart is the San Francisco cop, afraid of heights, who falls for Kim Novak, loses her, and then gradually loses his mind while trying to recreate her image with another woman (also Novak, unbeknownst to him). This psycho-thriller is less overtly Freudian than, say, Psycho, but plunges deepest into the psyche of a guy so in love with a dead woman (who claims to be a reincarnation) that his urges push a live woman—who can’t live up to his ideal—to her death. It’s eros and thanatos dancing to an eerie score by Bernard Herrmann, pulling Stewart inexorably into the fatal whorl of his own passion, like the spiral curl of Novak’s blonde hair, like the twisted tissues of his own cortex. Following in the series are classics including Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Sound of Music. (Through Sept. 29.) Cinerama, 2100 Fourth Ave., 448-6880, cinerama.com. $13. 5:30 & 9:30 p.m.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

WET begins its fall season with Rajiv Joseph’s 2009 magical-realist fable of the early Iraq War, in which two American soldiers guard—and eventually kill—the once-proud predator in Baghdad’s ruined bestiary. The talking tiger, played by Mike Dooly, doesn’t die; its philosophical ghost hangs around to haunt the quarrelsome G.I.s (as does the ghost of Uday Hussein, the psychopathic son of the deposed dictator, who keeps his dead brother’s head in a bag). The play is set in 2003, when few could’ve imagined the occupation would last another decade. Certainly unprepared are the two soldiers (Jonathan Crimeni and Ryan Higgins), who depend upon an Iraqi translator (Erwin Galan), formerly Uday’s gardener, with an agenda of his own. All parties are degraded in their micro-conflict. If the tiger comes off best, it’s because he appeals to justice beyond his cage; meanwhile, his human tormentors fight over the spoils of war. Michael Place directs Joseph’s Pulitzer-nominated drama. (Through Oct. 7.) Washington Ensemble Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E., 325-5105, washingtonensemble.org. $15–$20. 7:30 p.m.

Le Joli Mai

Hardly seen in the U.S., this 1963 documentary essay by Pierre Lhomme and Chris Marker has been digitized and restored by Icarus Films. It now runs over two and a half hours—which is a lot of Parisian street scenes and interviews, plus voice-overs by Yves Montand (in subtitled French, plus a song) and Simone Signoret (in English)—but I would argue Le Joli Mai is worth it. (Though you’ll want to sneak out for an intermission snack.) Marker puts miles of philosophical musings in Signoret’s mouth, yet it’s the ordinary French citizens who speak most eloquently—sometimes merely through their shrugs and gestures. Using light new handheld 16 mm camera rigs allowed the filmmakers to grab some gorgeous black-and-white street scenes on the fly, and the frame often wanders from the interview subject to something more interesting in the background. The city is changing, and Marker keeps asking his subjects about slum clearance and economics. New tower blocks are rising in the outer arrondissements, but Paris doesn’t yet seem like a modern postwar metropolis. Though there are violent protests against the colonial occupation of Algeria, the ’60s haven’t really happened yet in 1962. (That will wait for the Beatles, the Pill, and the riots of ’68.) Men wear ties, women wear gloves, and many scenes have the aspect of Brassaï or Robert Doisneau. A half-century later, the cobblestones are still there, but this old Paris is gone. (Through Mon.) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, nwfilmforum.org. $6–$10. 7 p.m.

SUNDAY, SEPT. 15

Seahawks vs. 49ers

What was already the best rivalry in football last season has only gotten richer since Seattle and San Fran last met on a miserable December night at the Clink last year. The 49ers arrive today for this NBC prime-time game as defending NFC champs, a title that smart money says the Hawks will take from them this season. The two teams’ young-gun quarterbacks—our choirboy Russell Wilson and the Niners’ tattoo-festooned Colin Kaepernick—stand to be the league’s most scrutinized players this year. So fierce is the animosity that the Seattle Police Department plans to place undercover agents in 49er gear to bust overly hostile 12th men under the Sunday-night lights. After a long summer, the NFL returns to Seattle, and it stands to be football at its ugliest and best—which, really, are the same thing. CenturyLink Field, 800 Occidental Ave. S., 381-7555, seahawks.com, $114 and up. 5:30 p.m.

 
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