The Weekly Wire: This Week’s Recommended Events


Visual Arts: Temporary Edifice

I’m not sure why the big bamboo assemblage that is Compound has been shoved to the wall in its atrium gallery. When first deployed by Cambodian-born artist Sopheap Pich at the Singapore Biennial earlier this year, it was presented in the round, so you could view it from all sides. In its new configuration, overseen by the artist last month, the modular, crab trap–like cages have been stacked into a vaguely urban form—suggesting a city’s towers, though empty within its lattice. There’s the appearance of density but no mass, as if a building had been removed from beneath exterior scaffolding left in place. Pich, trained in the U.S. but now living in his homeland, leads a compound existence combing two cultures; his installation also has a hybrid aspect—skyscraper meets basketry, if you will. There’s a collision between old and new that Pich pointedly documents in a series of photos facing Compound. Study their dates carefully, and you’ll see that an entire lake has been filled in—by truck, barge, and sand pump—to provide more buildable land for booming Phnom Penh. The bamboo and rattan used in Compound are indigenous materials, green and sustainable, but they have no use in a modern skyscraper. And yet Pich can reassemble the work elsewhere, in a new museum setting, and it may ultimately outlast Boeung Kak Lake and the fishing communities that once thrived there. (Through April 1.) Henry Art Gallery (UW campus), 543-2280, $6–$10. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. BRIAN MILLER


Comedy: Amusingly Affronted

D.L. Hughley was just another struggling comic until the Kings of Comedy tour—subject of a 2000 documentary—got him onto TV. But let’s face it, he was never going to be Bill Cosby heading some sitcom family forever, and his club material firmly resists the clichés of wedded bliss. Though married for 25 years, Hughley’s jokes often deal with the everyday humiliations of domestic life. Why can’t a married man spend his weekends on the couch, watching porn and TV sports to his heart’s content? Why must he be roused to go on Costco expeditions and other needless tasks? In Hughley’s harangues and complaints, you hear not only echoes of Richard Pryor—particularly in his observations about race—but also the old marital grievances of Jackie Gleason. And, like Gleason, he’s got a great radio voice—one that breaks up a register when relating each new indignity and affront. His exasperated husband persona doesn’t make his humor misogynist or cruel. Rather, you sense the awareness that if he weren’t married, he wouldn’t have any material. (Through Sat.) The Parlor Live Comedy Club, 700 Bellevue Way N.E. (Lincoln Square), 425-289-7000, $35. 7:30 p.m. T. BONILLA

FRIDAY 12/16

Film: Taste the Sugar

In the surprise 2003 Christmas hit Elf, Will Ferrell embraces the cutesy confection of its plot. Santa Claus doles out presents at an orphanage; a wee human crawls into his sack of toys, winds up at the North Pole, and is subsequently raised as an elf. Eight zillion sight gags constitute the first act of the film (directed by Jon Favreau), in which a giant-sized Ferrell bangs his head into low ceilings, squats on miniature crappers, and botches even the most remedial toy-making duties. Ferrell finally discovers he’s the bastard son of James Caan, now a distant, terse Manhattan publishing-house exec. Innocent, syrup-swilling Ferrell then goes to big, bad NYC, meets Zooey Deschanel, and hilarity often ensues. So frantic, off-the-cuff, and self-aware in his ad-libs, Ferrell owns the movie the way Santa owns Christmas. (Through Dec. 23.) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, $6–$8. Call for showtimes. ANDREW BONAZELLI

Classical: Messiah Participation

Now and then some classical pundit will write a hand-wringing column about drawing younger audiences, usually including a call to make music somehow more “interactive.” Because today’s wired kids apparently find it hard merely to sit and observe something. (They have no problem with TV and movies, but never mind.) So they rack their brains for gimmicky schemes to get people doing something during concerts; orchestras in Cincinnati and Indianapolis, for instance, have established Twitter sections for those with Restless Thumb Syndrome and friends who are dying to read “smokin’ tuba lick!!! #shostakovichrocks.” But if only there were some less superficial way to get people invested in music-making, to make them feel like they’re actually contributing . . . maybe . . . no, it’s too crazy, it would never work. But just suppose . . . nah . . . OK, I’ll tell you. Here’s my wild, unprecedented idea for making music more interactive. Perhaps you could LEARN TO PLAY OR SING. It may not get you into the Seattle Symphony, but there are easily a dozen each of local community orchestras and choirs who would love to have you. For one thing, there are sing-along Messiahs every Christmas, and Eric O’del is conducting one tonight. Bring your own score or rent one there, and stand shoulder to shoulder with those who’ve always dreamed of belting out the “Hallelujah!” chorus. Or if you prefer just to listen to Handel’s 1741 setting of the Nativity story, the Seattle Symphony is presenting its annual Messiah tonight, too (and also Sat. & Sun.) Do-it-yourself or fully professional, Handel can handle any treatment. Sing-along: Seattle Unity, 200 Eighth Ave. N., $20. 7 p.m. SSO: Benaroya Hall, Third Ave. and Union St., 215-4747, $20–$91. 8 p.m. (also 1 & 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.) GAVIN BORCHERT

Film: Glorious Despair

Swoon, ye 21st-century philistines, before the cataract of existential glamour that is Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert, now returning in a new 35mm print just when you forgot how cool modernist despair could be. As a kind of capper to the white-hot Italian’s alienation “trilogy,” this famously Technicolor 1964 odyssey finds muse Monica Vitti lost in the supermarket of life, an unstable young mother wandering the fabulously gray industrial wastelands of Ravenna’s shipyards and entertaining the seductions of trench-coated engineer Richard Harris. Intimations of infection loom (ships pass waving polio quarantine flags) and sexual games are played, but Antonioni was then the most obsessively compositional filmmaker alive, and the movie is all about the scary, foggy, metaphysical negative spaces. The face of ’60s unhappiness, Vitti still fascinates, while Harris, all dimply and young-Dennis-Hopper-ish, seems dropped in by helicopter—but both are subservient to the imagery, which desaturates, beautifully, when the world isn’t simply painted neutral, as with the enigmatic gray fruit glimpsed on a vendor’s cart (that no one noticed also appeared in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that same year) and the mountains of streaming ash that could, if you’re of a mind, represent Everything. (The film runs through Thursday as a double feature with Luchino Visconti’s 1963 The Leopard, starring Burt Lancaster.) SIFF Film Center (Seattle Center), 324-9996, $7–$12. Call for showtimes. MICHAEL ATKINSON

SUNDAY 12/18

Holidays: Negative Fortitude

How can one simultaneously be on a diet yet endure an orgy of holiday-party feasting to please one’s family? Would a polite “No, thanks” lead to a Christmas Day spat with a rich relation from whom you hope to borrow some money? That’s the dilemma faced by meek, double-chinned Egbert Mulliner in the holiday story “Another Christmas Carol” by P.G. Wodehouse. And though that story is 41 years old (first published in Playboy, of all places, and there’s no sex in it), we can all relate to the social minefield of picky eaters and potential arguments when families gather. (Shut up, vegans, and go forage in the yard for some turnips if you don’t like what’s being served!) Wodehouse will be represented today alongside Damon Runyon, John Cheever, and other authors in Short Stories Live! A Rogue’s Christmas, with professional stage talent from ACT and other theaters reading the seasonal texts. Unfortunately, when it comes to Egbert’s dietary fortitude, he’s no role model for those tempted to holiday gluttony. Only when the hors d’oeuvres plate is already empty, before he can graze, does he feel “a reverse strength” in declining what’s not actually there. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, $10–$15. 4 p.m. BRIAN MILLER