The Weekly Wire: This Week's Recommended Events


Stage: Fifty Nativities

Mention Langston Hughes, and most people place the author in the Harlem Renaissance, but he wrote one of his most durable works in 1961, at a powerful moment for the civil-rights movement. At its core, Black Nativity is another Biblical recitation story from the book of Luke, in which Mary and Joseph find last-minute shelter so she can give birth to a child. Hughes surrounded this narration with powerful elements from the black churches of his youth and the vibrant theatrical world of his adulthood, so that African drums and gospel singers herald the birth of Jesus. The work celebrates its own birthday this year, with a half-century of annual shows performed all around the country. This year's Seattle production is as much a resurrection as a birth, shifting producers from financially troubled Intiman to the Seattle Theatre Group. (Through Dec. 24.) Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., 877-784-4849, $25–$55. 7:30 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ

Comedy/Film: Man With a Plan

The alt-comedy creation myth goes something like this: Simpsons writer Dana Gould takes in an R.E.M. show, wonders why the same people who attend R.E.M. shows don't flock to comedy events, then sets to doing something about it. If that something involves chucking the standard stand-up trappings in favor of narrating a screening of Ed Wood's hideous 1959 Plan 9 From Outer Space alongside a pair of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 luminaries (Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu), then that's exactly what Gould will do. His enablers tonight are SIFF and the People's Republic of Komedy. And take note that the PROK will welcome Gould (with opener Cathy Sorbo) to Chop Suey's Laff Hole stage the prior Wednesday night for a proper set of jokes and observations—or at least as proper as a non-traditionalist like Gould is capable of being. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, $10–$15. 7 p.m. MIKE SEELY

Music: Sunshine on His Shoulders

Maybe it was the down vest, the hiking boots, the granny glasses, or the blonde bowl cut. Or maybe it was all those things plus simply being in the '70s that somehow allowed John Denver to become a star. (Hey, it was the era of Bud Cort, Michael J. Pollard, Gary Burghoff, and Robbie Rist—the latter who played Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, remember?) One day Denver magically appeared in your childhood TV room, crooning a song about a faraway, mystical place with snow-capped mountains and azure skies. Colorado! For a certain sort of shut-in, D&D-playing, awkward youth, with teeth still in braces, bad skin, and oversized plastic eyeglass frames suddenly being reconsidered, John Denver was a new kind of attainable ideal. Maybe your future boyfriend, whose name you wrote obsessively on your Pee-Chee folders; maybe the inspiration to take up guitar lessons in junior high (to show girls your sensitive side)—he wasn't a hippie or a jock or a stoner, but some kind of wholesome avatar from simpler times. While your parents argued upstairs about Nixon and the Vietnam War, while your older sister was getting pregnant and your older brother getting high, you could just turn up the volume on The Mike Douglas Show and sing along to the words. It was almost like being away from that place, like being older, like being in Colorado. Now, just to be clear, Denver (1943–1997) is still dead. But tribute singer and look-alike Ted Vigil continues his mile-high minstrel tradition, right down to the granny glasses—which might just be due for a fashion revival. The Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333, $15. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER


Film: The 40-Year-Old Review

Suddenly all the people who were swarming around Dennis Hopper are now swarming around Peter Bogdanovich, who can probably write his own ticket for the foreseeable future. The Last Picture Show is the movie with the great New York reviews. Larry McMurtry seems to have collaborated rather smoothly with Bogdanovich. Almost everything in the movie is to be found in the novel—the same characters, the same names, basically the same relationships and situations. At first glance, the movie is a faithful and skillful adaptation of the source, but a second look at both the film and the book reveals some interesting divergences. At its best, McMurtry's novel strains toward Women in Love. At its worst, it sinks into Winesburg, Ohio. What is fascinating about Bogdanovich's treatment is that he avoids both the challenges of Lawrencian sensuality and the pitfalls of Andersonian pseudo-sensitivity. Jacy Farrow is the most fleshed-out of McMurtry's characters, and not simply because she happens to be played by ex–cover girl Cybill Shepherd, a personal discovery of the director; Jacy's amusingly callow coquettishness just happens to lend itself to Bogdanovich's discreetly distanced style. Bogdanovich reminds me a bit of Truffaut also in the gingerly protective way he guides Shepherd through her erotic exercises, a way reminiscent of Truffaut's tender camera caress of Catherine Deneuve in Mississippi Mermaid. Thus even when Miss Shepherd is clumsy, notably in the swimming-pool striptease sequence, she is beautifully clumsy. I may find Claire's Knee more lucid and rigorous, Deep End more inventive and inspired, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller more audacious in its wrong-headed individuality, but no movie I have seen this year can match the spark that The Last Picture Show has set off in audiences. (Through Sun.) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, $6–$9. 7 & 9:30 p.m. ANDREW SARRIS


Cabaret: Tinsel Targets

Critics like to make a show of caviling whenever a satirist's targets are "too broad" or "too easy"—but to be honest, we don't laugh any less when they are. So if Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch, co-creators of the long-running comic revue Ham for the Holidays, choose to reach for low-hanging fruit like Renton, lutefisk, and Marcus Bachmann, I won't complain. Eleventh in the Ham series, this year's show, "A Lard Day's Night," also skewers Kirstie Alley, funeral directors, sexually repressed nuns, and Ballard polka bands. Be warned that recurring favorite the Sequim Gay Men's Chorus, due to recruiting problems on the peninsula, has had to admit women, becoming the Sequim Queer Unified Ensemble Entertainment League (SQUEEL). The parody-within-a-parody centerpiece skit stars Platt and Koch's iconic trailer-trash characters the Spudds (Wynotta and Euomi) in the film-noir sendup "Double-Wide Indemnity." And do your best to keep up with the song medleys, which jump lightning-quick from one comically repurposed tune to the next in impressive vocal harmony (with additional troupe members Michael Oaks and pianist D.J. Gommels). Runs through Dec. 24. Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S., 800-838-3006, $15–$33. 3 & 7:30 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT


Film: Double Memorials

The morbid conceit of SIFF's "In Remembrance" series of double features is to honor filmmakers and stars who died during this nearly concluded year. Tonight's subject is Elizabeth Taylor, who stars in both Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (at 6:30 p.m.) and Suddenly, Last Summer. The love that dare not speak its name—here, the love for Spanish rent boys on sandy beaches—deeply infuses this 1959 adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Taylor plays a young woman traumatized by the bizarre death of her cousin (at the hands of said rent boys). His horrid mother (Katharine Hepburn) wants to preserve his reputation—he was not gay, do you hear me?!? NOT GAY!—by having her lobotomized. Montgomery Clift is the shrink brought in to evaluate Taylor's coy, alluring patient. Predictably, he begins to fall for her while battling Hepburn's mom-ster, who demands, "You've got to cut this hideous story out of her brain!" Flashbacks to Spain show Taylor at her ripest, but the melodrama's mainly enjoyable for its queer subtext and Williams' teasing notions of truth. All his characters talk around the subject, half-aware that total sexual candor would destroy their polite society. Others honored in the series, running Dec. 12–22, include Sidney Lumet, Peter Falk, and Pete Postlethwaite. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, $7–$12. 8:45 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

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