Ten Triumphs, Ten Downers

The year in review.

WHAT GOES AROUND comes around. ACT had an embarrassing, inexcusable financial disaster; fringe artists went "ha!" The Fringe Festival had an embarrassing, inexcusable financial disaster; fringe artists went "wee wee wee" all the way home. Welcome to theater in Seattle in 2003. Economic catastrophes aside, the city's venues did provide audiences with real rewards last year, although, tellingly, almost half of the year's 10 finest were not of local origin. 1. Far Side of the Moon: Unknown (in the States) Quebecois artist Robert LePage's one-man show at the Moore promised to contemplate the U.S./Soviet space race and two feuding brothers dealing with a mother's death. Uh huhnobody went. I can't blame them, but, man, did they miss out: The thing was big and weird and funny, and LePage did ingenious stuff with stagecraft and video. 2. The Light in the Piazza: Writer/ director Craig Lucas and composer Adam Guettel's bittersweet musical love story at Intiman wasn't perfect, but you'd swear it was after Victoria Clark had her way with youevery last damn hair on the back of my neck had stood up by the time she'd wailed through her final solo as a mother desperate to marry off her brain-damaged daughter. 3. The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?: ACT finds redemption. Edward Albee's play about a goat fucker was, in Warner Shook's corrosively intimate production, completely infuriating and absolutely necessary, that rare experience in a theater when you weren't quite sure what the hell you'd gotten yourself into. 4. Topdog/Underdog: The Rep's best show, ironically, was a guest production from out of town. Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer winner considered two fast- talking sibling con artists called Lincoln and Booth. With George C. Wolfe's superlative direction, you were uncomfortably sure they were given those names for a reason. 5. Twisted Olivia: Still performing at the Empty Space, the Ridiculous Theatre's Everett Quinton plays a drag queen using the junk in her apartment to enact Oliver Twist. When he picks up a baseball cap as a stand-in for the Artful Dodger, you know you're in good hands. 6. Drummer Wanted: A down-and-out musician with a broken leg is holed up in his mother's house. They argue. They go to a bar and sing. New York writer/ director Richard Maxwell had them deliver every line in something approaching monotone at On the Boards. You had to be there. 7. Breathing Lessons: Michael Winters and Jane Jones nailed the cadences of a long-married couple in this staging of Anne Tyler's best seller. Prime Book-It adaptation: You wanted to read the novel, but were glad they were doing it for you. 8. Extropia: A factory drone in a monotonous, conformist "Utopia" begins to hear the liberating cacophony of the world around him. Two musicians clanked out the rhythms and sound effects of his revelation from the side of the stage in this Collaborator production at Re-bar that modestly redefined the word "musical." 9. Far Away: John Kazanjian's bare-bones staging of Caryl Churchill's pitch-black absurdist comedy had 50 minutes to convince us it was a good idea to haul our asses out to New City's remote warehouse location. Mission accomplished. 10. Strange Attractors: Playwright David Adjmi's rethinking of A Doll's House at the Empty Space envisioned Ibsen's housewife dabbling in sexual masochism. The play didn't completely work. A soulful Heidi Schreck played the housewife. She worked. NEXTTHE DOWNERS. If I saved any of you from the following miseries, then my life has not been lived without honor and purpose: 1. I Am an Artist: No, you're not. ConWorks mounted Greg Lundgren's "daring" play, but it was the audience that got screwed. 2. Cardenio: A "lost" Shakespeare play that director Melanie White was unable to find for A Theatre Under the Influence. 3. Point Break Live!: It isn't enough just to know that it's funny to stage a cheesy movie at the Little Theatre, see. You actually have to be funny. (Runner-up: the lame DePalma spoof sCarrie) 4. 10 Naked Men: 1 bad gay sitcom posing as a play at Theatre Off Jackson. 5. The Crumple Zone: 1 bad gay sitcom posing as a play at Capitol Hill Arts Center. 2 cute guys. Nobody naked. 6. Party: 1 bad gay sitcom posing as a play at Northwest Actors Studio. No cute guys. Everybody naked. 7. A Chorus Line: One singular sensation Taryn Darr's socko "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three." The rest of the showTwo left feet. They shoot horses, don't they? 8. Romeo and Juliet: They died at the end. Sharon Ott's Rep production died at the beginning. 9. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular: A stultifyingly surreal turd that provided anyone lucky enough to experience it with comic dinner conversation for the rest of the year. In case you didn't know, Santa Claus just loves Starbucks, Pike Place Market, and the Space Needle, and it isn't sacrilege, apparently, to stage the Nativity in a show also featuring a rapping midget. 10. The Wizard of Oz: Judy Garland is rolling in her grave, and the sound that makes is more artful than what went on in the 5th Avenue's whorish Christmas cash cow. swiecking@seattleweekly.com

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