The Weekly Wire: The Week's Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 4/13 Stage: Major Minutiae With a compassionate whimsy that first took root at Seattle's Annex Theatre, playwright Glen Berger simultaneously spoofs and celebrates the gargantuan folly of those who insist on mucking about in the minutiae of everyday life. His off-Broadway hit Underneath the Lintel put audiences at the lecture of a desperate librarian convinced that a 113-years-overdue book was proof of God's existence. Great Men of Science, Nos. 21 & 22 watched as two would-be geniuses pondered, respectively, a mechanical duck and the supposed revelations of frog-mating. O Lovely Glowworm, which New Century Theatre Company begins in previews tonight, sees existence from the perspective of a stuffed goat who conjures up mermaids and memories atop a garbage heap in Ireland circa 1918. "It's about how small in the end we are," Berger wrote of the 2005 play. "Seen in regard to the whole huge universe, we and our struggles are so endearingly pathetic, it's laughable." The goat, trapped in unimaginable pain, imagines himself a conductor, a racehorse, a dog. That Berger, now based in New York, uncovers amusing profundity from what could easily come off as theatrical ramblings remains his most astonishing gift as an artist. But then the man fearlessly pursues gargantuan folly himself: He's been enmeshed for what must now seem like an eternity of minutiae in his chores as co-bookwriter (with former director Julie Taymor) of Broadway's compellingly beleaguered Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Through May 14.) Erickson Theatre, 1524 Harvard Ave., 800-838-3006, $18–$25. 8 p.m. STEVE WIECKING THURSDAY 4/14 Comedy: Bald Bearings Native Missourian David Koechner is proof that Middle Americans have plenty of edge. OK, maybe not in the looks department, as Koechner looks like an insurance salesman. But looks aren't anything, and good-looking comics rarely go anywhere anyhow. Koechner seems to crop up everywhere these days, notably in The Office and in Paul (still in theaters). But it was his role as sportscaster Champ Kind in Anchorman that really imprinted his hairless dome onto the cultural fabric. Veronica Corningstone's resistance to the alcoholic, cowboy-hatted Kind's invitation to pair up for "some chicken, maybe some sex" represents one of the great acts of self-control ever portrayed onscreen, and his closeted homosexual yearning for Ron Burgundy all but made Brokeback Mountain possible. His stand-up act is plenty risqué, even if he won't actually shit a squirrel onstage. Oh, well. (Through Sat.) The Parlor Collection, 700 Bellevue Way N.E. (Lincoln Square), 425-289-7000, $20–$35. 7:30 p.m. MIKE SEELY Stage: Profound Clowning Vashon Island's UMO Ensemble is best known for combining rigorous physical-theater techniques—such as clowning, aerial work, and masks—and unlikely subjects (including Mexican conquistadors, Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, the Rapunzel fairy tale). Shows can take a year or longer to gestate before they reach an audience. Sometimes UMO's storytellers, like the Buffoons of El Dorado or the acrobatic Djools of Caravan of Dreams, are strange half-human creations. And sometimes, as in the new Red Tiger Tales, they're just strange. "When we started on this project about four years ago, the characters in this show began as Zen monks who were red-nose clowns," explains director Elizabeth Klob. "That allowed us to treat solemn material with complete audacity. But . . . now we're mixing up aerial and mask work with the clowning. That might offend some theatrical purists, but they'll get over it." And while the show began as a sampler of Zen parables (adapted by company member Lyam White), the stories draw from many different traditions, including Buddhist, Zen, and Sufi folktales. It's "mostly Eastern, all pretty darn old," says Klob, who cautions that Red Tiger Tales isn't all philosophical and serious. "If you're not laughing, I haven't been doing my job." (Through April 23.) ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, $5–$20. 7:30 p.m. JOHN LONGENBAUGH FRIDAY 4/15 Books: NGOs and IEDs There's a twofold sense of mission to Rye Barcott's do-gooder memoir since, after college and before joining the Marines (before 9/11), he almost accidentally founded a charitable organization in the huge Nairobi slum called Kibera. (If you've seen The Constant Gardener, it's the same teeming place.) As he writes in It Happened on the Way to War (Bloomsbury, $26), he simultaneously wanted to help the poor and prove his mettle as a warrior. (His father fought in Vietnam, an influence Barcott frankly acknowledges.) But Christian charity and the military are nowhere near so simple as one's initial impulses. Barcott gets mugged by the same Kenyan teens he hopes to help; and while he's serving as an intelligence officer in the USMC, the locals more or less constantly lie to him, whether in Croatia, Somalia, or Iraq. Nothing is as it seems, and the introduction of Western cash—whether foundation microloans or U.S. macrobribes—only complicates things further. Very much to his credit (and attracting notice from the Gates Foundation), Barcott has built Carolina for Kibera into a nonprofit that today conducts health, economic, and educational programs in Kenya. It Happened is full of non-governmental organization (NGO) minutiae and standard military FUBAR-ism that makes the frustrations of both endeavors abundantly clear. If the test for young Barcott, now 32, was "to defy the stereotype of the soft, pampered middle-class kid," he passed. The test for his book, of course, is to see how many post-collegians follow his path. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, $5. 6 p.m. BRIAN MILLER Film: Not-So-Mean Streets Charlie Chaplin's 1931 silent comedy City Lights begins SIFF's week-long retrospective of his films (not all of them silents; a package of shorts is also included). Of the 10 features, City Lights is perhaps the most delicate and sentimental. Who today would dare to write, direct, and star in a tale of a blind flower girl and the love-struck little tramp who hopes to restore her sight? Not even Mel Gibson. The silent-film era was already over at the time of City Lights' release, giving the melodrama a backward-looking, almost Victorian quality that Chaplin wouldn't dispute. Though then the greatest artist of a brand-new technology (which made him a rich man who wore rags to work), the clown-turned-auteur was profoundly ambivalent about modernity. The Little Tramp and his flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) are the penurious castoffs of a system that has no use for dreamers or the disabled. Forget about unemployment benefits or health care; this is the height of the Great Depression, when no one seems willing to lend a hand to the down-and-out. (See Modern Times, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, for a fuller critique of capitalism.) Before the welfare state, in Chaplin's world, people could only depend on one another. (Through Thurs.) SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St. (McCaw Hall), 448-2186, $5–$10 (individual), $40–$70 (series). 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER SUNDAY 4/17 Books: Wave-Tossed Tourist For his long, very entertaining and digressive pop-science book, Donovan Hohn supplies a suitably expansive title: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them (Viking, $27.95). His quest begins, in large part, owing to Seattle oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who helped Seattle Weekly track those mysterious floating feet a couple of years back. Hohn's mission is less morbid. He starts in New York, knowing little about waves, tides, and salinity, then visits Seattle, Alaska, the Arctic, and beyond while pursuing the errant yellow ducks and educating himself about the oceans. The book's not just another screed about our overconsumption and waste, however; Hohn enjoyably incorporates into his account autobiography, first-rate reporting, and pop-culture analysis. (Why are yellow bath ducks such a resonant, innocent symbol of domestic life? Think back to Ernie's song "Rubber Duckie" on Sesame Street.) An unlikely, likable mariner who mooches rides on several expeditions, Hohn always avoids the high, solemn McPheeist tone of environmental erudition. His learning process is simply following and listening. The waves push him this way and that, just like the gyrating scientific theories about our tempest-tossed trash. Can his forlorn flock of rubber ducks, originally bound for Tacoma in '92, circumnavigate the globe? Maybe not, but Hohn's book deserves to be just as widely circulated. Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, Free. 2 p.m. (Also: Third Place, 7 p.m. Tues.) BRIAN MILLER

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