Brief Encounters


Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S., 206-463-4848. $8- $12. 8 p.m. Fri.- Sat.; also 4 p.m. Sat. Ends Sat., Nov. 9.

A WHITE-COLLAR DRONE, repressed by a consumer society, chokes on a chicken sandwich and sees the light. Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab's latest production, about the evolution of an Everyman named Blip, is a singularly imaginative, all-ages affair that should put the troupe squarely under your theatrical radar. The script could use a few tweaks—it's more meaningfully funny when it goes sly, Simpsons-style (the title derives from a catchall name brand that is both beverage and "the other white meat"); shifts in tone often have a Big Humanitarian Message oddly pitched somewhere between precocious children and Republican carnivores. Director/producer Billy Jarcho's cartoonishly surreal and rambunctious designs, however, are worth the price of admission: pop-culture graphics churn inside Blip's head, oversized sardine tins serve as commuter trains, and the Picasso-nosed puppet people are all murmuring, caffeine-fueled cans on wheels. (Note: A puppet act that opens the evening is blessedly brief). STEVE WIECKING


Open Circle Theater, 429 Boren Ave. N., 206-325-6500. $12. 8 p.m. Thurs.- Sat. Ends Sat., Nov. 23.

IF YOU CAN'T JOIN the family this Thanksgiving, there's always this play: Gird yourself for an evening that culminates in sniping, pettiness, and a cathartic round-robin of blame. The wheelchair-bound novelist has, in the '70s vernacular in which the story feels rooted, "issues." Retreating from a failed marriage after a paralyzing car accident, he hires a lodging-seeking woman to ward off his domineering mother's demands that he return home. The girl, it is revealed, has a distressed past of her own, and the two damaged souls draw together while mother, wife, and rebellious sister feud. The dysfunctional family tale quickly slides into mirthless harangue, and playwright Tess Hardwick's attempts to explain Mom's bitchiness arrive too late. Philip Clarke's Alan Alda- affableness as the novelist heightens reminders of the spent midlife-crisis genre—the play feels more like therapy than theater. GIANNI TRUZZI


Thumpers Oak Room, 1500 E. Madison St., 206-328-3800. $12.50 (food, beverages extra). 7:30 p.m. dinner seating, 8:30 p.m. show seating Fri.- Sat. Ends Sat., Nov. 30.

SOME OF YOU MAY remember Saturday night church potlucks, where offerings included a bizarre dessertlike substance made of Dream Whip, Jell-O, and pretzels. If so, run to Thumpers for the best drag show in recent memory. The Stops is a fiendishly clever cabaret event—a gleeful send-up of all things holy and good—that introduces us to three lady organists, proud members of the North American Lady Organists' Guild. The songs, all written by Seattleite Eric Lane Barnes, are as quotable as anything I've heard lately; one tune requests that we embark on a "Bossa Nova for Jehovah," while another advises us to get a "Faith Lift." Even the dinner menu—this is dinner theater, after all—sticks with the fundamentalist theme: Offerings include Melted Cheese Triangles and Super Chex Party Mix. And while the show's second act veers dangerously close to maudlin, The Stops remains a satisfying visit to the old church basement. CHRIS JENSEN

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