Arts & Culture

Like Watching a Friend's Brother Play Dressup

By Heidi Broadhead March 10, 2010

A dancer rams her head into a microphone. A skinny dude in a peach dress comes out with a gargantuan ghetto blaster dancing in his socks to Michael Jackson. Another guy in a white t-shirt talks about real estate and spies. Yep. This is a performance festival.

Based on what I saw during the first week of this year's two-week Solo Performance Festival (SPF#4), it's a pretty decent night of theater. Amazingly, the fest includes 30 performances, much of it new work, mostly by local performers.

Tonight's lineup includes two of the shows I saw on Saturday, both of which have an endearing roughness, a sense of playing with the form. These aren't overly rehearsed, painfully earnest monologues. These guys are working something out on the stage.

In Not. Stable. At all. Seattle actor-teacher Paul Budraitis is testing the bounds of soliloquy and public speaking. Basically, he walks around with a microphone talking to the audience. One minute, he's delivering a motivational speaker-like monologue into the mic, then he puts the mic down and says as an aside, "Will you go home with me?" He goes back to the presentation, then pauses again, "No, seriously, will you please go home with me?" A few minutes later he's wearing glasses and talking about spies in a Russian accent. He never caves to the pressure to tie it all together for us. He just puts this stuff out there and the audience gets to draw our own conclusions.

The best thing about Traveling Panties by recent Cornish grad Mike Harris is that it feels like watching a friend's brother play dressup in the basement. The aggressively energetic Harris moonwalks his way around the stage, playing a tiny keyboard, twirling a pair of panties on his finger, yelling "panty party," and showing off his presentation on the river cooter turtle from the fifth grade. The non-linear narrative about how he hitchhiked from South Dakota wraps up a little too neatly, but when it does you don't care because he's completely drawn you in to his schtick.

The third piece tonight is SUBPRIME! by Norman Bel (pictured). I haven't seen it, but a "fast-paced roller coaster tour through the turbo-charged world of the subprime mortgage industry" sounds intriguing.

Also this week:
On Thursday the fest has Returning the Bones, with Harvard-educated Gin Hammond playing 26 characters as she acts out the true story of the African-American doctor Carolyn Beatrice Montier.

Friday's show leans more toward comedy, featuring a kitty beauty bar story, a Ted Bundy obsession monologue, and comedian Lisa Koch's "quirky look at life and death."

There doesn't seem to be a calendar online, but you can read descriptions of all the shows here.

SPF#4 runs through April 3. Theater Off Jackson, 7:30 p.m., $15.
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