The Pick List: Phil Klay, Moisture Fest ...

Wednesday, March 19

The Importance of Being Earnest

This is probably Oscar Wilde’s most successful and most revived comedy, his signature stage work. Drenched in wit and bons mots, the 1895 play adroitly skewers the false fronts and social conventions of what we now deem the late Victorian era. (If anything, in his last stage piece produced before his gay-scandal downfall, Wilde effectively nailed the coffin shut on that era.) Is polite society but a sham? Can mendacity serve a higher purpose? Does the mask reveal the man? Earnest is shot through with all those themes, but it’s also a first-class farce with mistaken identities and masquerades. Yet what audiences know and love about it most, of course, is the Wildean writing—for instance, “In matters of utmost importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” Victor Pappas directs a Seattle Shakespeare Company cast featuring Quinn Franzen and Connor Toms (as the two scamps who eagerly lie for love) and Hana Lass and Emily Grogan (as the ladies in question), plus Charles Leggett as the perpetually pedantic Canon Chasuble, who approves of everything while understanding nothing. (Previews begin tonight; opens Friday; runs through April 13.) Center Theatre at Seattle Center, 733-8222, $29. 7:30 p.m.

Phil Klay

He could’ve done the easy thing, as an ex-Marine who served in Iraq now trying to make it as a fiction writer: patriotic, blood-and-guts combat accounts in which troops bravely battle terrorists only to be undermined by lily-livered liberal politicians back in D.C. Yet Klay, a Dartmouth grad, wasn’t after the market for airport page-turners or appearances on FOX TV. The first-person stories in Redeployment (Penguin, $26.95) feature a dozen different perspectives on war, with a strong emphasis on its aftermath. Combat may be clear and decisive, but not so the business of coming home and re-establishing a civilian’s life. In “Psychological Operations,” an Egyptian-American college student, back from service, uses his training to mess with the head of an African-American girl who’s converted to Islam; it’s part seduction and part confession—trying to trick her into the kill zone, as it were, like the gunmen in Fallujah. In “Unless It’s a Sucking Chest Wound,” a new lawyer, also back from service, is uncomfortable with “the weird pedestal vets are on right now.” Far from Iraq, he muses, “I started feeling more like a Marine out of the Corps than I’d felt while in it.” All his law-school friends identify him as such, and “If they didn’t know, I’d make sure to slip it into conversations first chance I got.” Even out of uniform, Klay’s characters still seem to have been shaped by their uniforms. Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, Free. 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 20

Moisture Festival

Entering its second decade, the Moisture Fest comes in two flavors: the family-friendly edition featuring clowns, acrobats, jugglers, and all manner of music; then there’s the late-night program, which emphasizes burlesque, T&A, and double entendres (liquor helps set the mood). In truth, both are good fun; and if you take your kids to a matinee, you may feel like going back later with your friends on a baby-sitter date night. Opening night, your host will be Ron W. Bailey, who’ll preside over an array of talent including the acrobats Duo Rendez-vous, magician Jay Alexander, the vaudeville clowns Kamikaze Fireflies, aerialist Marina Luna, and the comedy stunt performers known as Rootberry. Doc Sprinsock and the SANCApators provide the live music. The roster of talent changes almost nightly—one reason they call it a variety show. (Other venues include Broadway Performance Hall and Teatro ZinZanni; runs through April 13.) Hale’s Palladium, 4301 N.W. Leary Way, $10–$25. 7:30 p.m.

Thuy-Van Vu

There are no humans in Vu’s paintings, save for a single portrait of a nude woman whose face is obscured by a flash of light. It’s an appropriately enigmatic burst of humanity in Vu’s canon—paintings mostly of the fleeting objects we leave in our wake. A quiet rendering of paper lanterns left from a wedding suggest a celebration past, but the image’s yawning emptiness swallows any remnant of joy that might be had. Vu seems entranced by those vacant moments after the action. Demolished houses often figure in her work—fractured piles of splintered wood and castoff insulation. These places used to be homes, but now they’re scraps. While the hollowness of her paintings can leave you somber, there’s playfulness there too. Her painting Masking Tape From Last Untitled Painting is exactly that: a wadded ball of masking tape. Security Guard’s Book depicts a tattered paperback copy of The Godfather. There’s still hope among these remnants: Worn as that paperback may be, it’s waiting for someone to pick it up and enjoy it again. (Through April 26.) G. Gibson Gallery, 300 S. Washington St. (Tashiro Kaplan Building), 587-4033, Free. Opening reception: 6–8 p.m.

Thelma Schoonmaker

As the triple-Oscar-winning longtime editor for Martin Scorsese, Schoonmaker and her pal made the deliberate decision to let The Wolf of Wall Street run long and raggedy, to allow for maximum improvisation and bacchanalia over its three hours. (Think of the McConaughey chest-thumping scene, or Leo and the Lambo.) Any good editor—and Schoonmaker is among the best—knows there has to be a balance between effulgence and discipline; sometimes you twist the dial one way (as in Wolf or Mean Streets) or the other (The Departed ). But in two films she’ll discuss and screen over two nights, Schoonmaker will likely emphasize the Apollonian side of her trade. Tonight, directed by Emeric Pressburger and her late husband Michael Powell, the 1946 A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) operates according to celestial scheme, as downed World War II airman David Niven presents his case for living (and a return to Earth) to a heavenly court. Tomorrow, made by the same team in 1950, Gone to Earth is more Dionysian, as a sexy Welsh village girl (Jennifer Jones) drives men to distraction. In that regard, you could compare her to the temptress in Wolf (Australian actress Margot Robbie) who makes DiCaprio’s Wall Street scoundrel crazy with desire. Sometimes the editing follows the characters. (Schoonmaker will also appear at Scarecrow Video, 2 p.m. Friday.) Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, $8–$10. 7:30 p.m. (Repeats Fri.)

Seattle Symphony

For Richard Taruskin, no cow is sacred, the conventional rarely embodies wisdom, and classical-music pieties are just so many piñatas to be gleefully beaten open (there’s usually something more interesting inside). As a steady contributor to The New York Times and The New Republic and an intimidatingly prolific author (the 3,856-page Oxford History of Western Music is the cornerstone of his output), the UC Berkeley music professor is the nearest thing we have to a public intellectual (only The New Yorker’s Alex Ross matches him in reach and impact). Expert in Russian music, he’s being brought by the Seattle Symphony to give the keynote address (Saturday, 2 p.m.) at this weekend’s symposium “Creative Diaspora: Émigré Composers From the Former USSR.” (See the full lineup at Surrounding the conference, the SSO plays three Russian works, including a year-old piano concerto by Alexander Raskatov entitled “Night Butterflies”—a piece as skittish and mercurial as the title suggests: like Messiaen’s birdsong music, but even more brilliantly, icily glittering. Ludovic Morlot conducts its U.S. premiere, with soloist Tomoko Mukaiyama. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., 215-4747, $19–$122. 7:30 p.m. (Repeats 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.)

Friday, March 21

Andy Kindler

Nobody likes to be called a veteran in comedy—at least not until after they’re dead. So let’s just say Kindler has been around (doing stand-up, Letterman, Leno, sitcom gigs, Comedy Central specials, etc.). Kindler is very much a part of the industry, but also a surprisingly caustic critic of it, the enemy of hacks everywhere. He’s renowned for his state-of-the-business tirades at Montreal’s annual Just for Laughs festival (held every July, and a great reason to visit that city). Begun in 1996, these speeches are an occasion to bash Dane Cook, of course, but also to mock his own career fortunes. (“I don’t wanna get too huge. I make sure I’m a renter, to keep myself below the radar, to be the enfant terrible—whatever that means.”) Here, however, Kindler will be delivering jokes in his typically plaintive, nebbishy style; his stage demeanor is that of a nervous Long Island dentist who can’t find his car keys. In one bit, he says he’s too insecure to stay at an extended-stay hotel. In another joke, he wonders why the Real Housewives franchise has a website where viewers can learn more about the show. Kindler asks, “Is there an area of the Internet where I can go to learn less about the Real Housewives?” We hope he finds it. Laughs Comedy Spot, 12099 124th Ave. N.E. (Kirkland), 425-823-6306, $15. 8 & 10 p.m. (Repeats Sat.)

Saturday, March 22

Music of Remembrance

The cultural life encouraged at the Terezín concentration camp near Prague during World War II concealed a hideous irony: It was a vital outlet, even lifeline, for creativity that, however, enabled the Nazis to tout it as a “model ghetto.” (One propaganda documentary about Terezín was titled The Führer Gives the Jews a City.) Among the works performed there was the half-hour children’s opera Brundibár, an allegory about standing up to bullies by composer Hans Krása. Seattle’s Music of Remembrance rebirthed and, in 2006, recorded the opera (with an English libretto by Tony Kushner), and presents a revival this weekend. As MOR director Mina Miller wrote chillingly in her liner notes to the Naxos CD, “Its casts needed constant replenishing when the child performers were transported to death camps after most shows.” (Krása himself was killed at Auschwitz in 1944.) One who survived was Ela Stein Weissberger, who sang in all 55 Terezín performances; she visits Seattle this weekend as an honored guest of MOR. Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Center, 365-7770, $40. 4 p.m. (Also 7 p.m. Sun.)

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