LET'S HEAR IT for geeks! Those dorky, computer-loving, money-making rascals have become our favorite residents to scorn. Yet in her play Grace, C.L. Johnston has more interesting fare in mind: a techie who not only adores gadgets but also feels that the Internet he once believed would be the next great community is now just another way to make a fast, obscenely large buck.


Speakeasy ends November 18

Brandon Whitehead breathes dry-witted life into Adram, who darts among the other five characters as they gather for Thanksgiving to celebrate their dot-com cash cow, Maximus. If only these other characters would dart back. They cover all the recognized Seattle personalities, like the mantra-intoning "modern urban woman" housewife (Lauren Hendler) and her power-loving, cell-phone-attached husband (Steven Lee Shults), the brains behind Maximus. Yet they're either miscast, like the womanizing, swaggering brawn of Dravin (Tim Gouran), or underwritten, like the socially outraged, barbed-tongued artist (Nicole DuFresne), and none of them ever veers much beyond the socio-politico-economic boundaries set up for them.

Which may be Johnston and director John Longenbaugh's point: to pin up stereotypes we're jealous of who we then gleefully watch crumble when a magic spell accidentally mixed into their soup makes them tell the absolute truth. Yet the characters are neither sparkling enough before the spell hits nor pointedly wicked enough when the truth comes tumbling out to make this premise as delicious as it could have been. When faced with the damning image of the life they and their loved ones chose, characters furrow their brows, shake their heads, and bite their tongues, as if the "grace" for which they're searching should be approached rationally rather than with the fury and passion it deserves.

A fun play about Seattle's boom-time economy finds itself trapped inside a literal dining-room drama, marching through every character's moment of deliberate self-reflection, without ever breaking into a startling reflection of us all.


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