Emerald City

Produced by the Live Girls! Theater company, S.P. Miskowski's ambitious new play uses an outsider's perspective on emotionally chilly Seattle, building from comic niche complaints to genuine pathos. Emerald City opens in California, where Scarlett (the redoubtable Jennifer Pratt) is still smarting from the loss of her Seattle reporting job, house, and girlfriend. Now she's re-partnered with high-strung homebody Lillian (Megan Ahiers), a cook and blogger. When her literary agent convinces Scarlett to pursue a real-estate story back in Seattle, she reluctantly agrees. Lillian panics, then surreptitiously decides to visit the place where her partner has so many bittersweet memories. While Scarlett interviews a woman (Gretchen Douma) who won't sell her house to developers, Lillian is covertly touristing around town and adorning herself with tattoos. The play then begins to move in concentric circles, drawing more disparate characters together. Directed by Meghan Arnette, Emerald City could stand some pruning, but it's both a challenge and a delight for the cast and audience. Miskowski's text packs more laughs into two and one-half hours than an entire sitcom season, but it's also achingly sad. In the final minutes, Miskowski performs a trick you'll seldom see on a stage anywhere: The performers bounce back and forth between heartrending pathos and manic glee. Laughter is impossible to resist. So Seattle-centric, Emerald City probably won't play on the road, but that's its strength as well. With so many inside jokes and spot-on insights, it's a jewel we can call our own. KEVIN PHINNEY [See Kevin's full review.]

Fridays, Saturdays; Sat., March 17, 2 p.m.; Mon., March 19, 8 p.m. Starts: March 9. Continues through April 7, 2012

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