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Friday, April 30, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Theater Preview
Offbeat shows spice up the May calendar

By Misha Berson
Seattle Times theater critic

"The Dragon of Wantley," a mini-opera composed by John Frederick Lampe, will be performed by the Carter Family Marionettes May 14-23 at the Northwest Puppet Center.
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Seattle-area theaters will usher in May with a batch of offbeat shows featuring local and imported stage talent. Here are some of the more distinctive items coming to a theater near you during the next month:

'To My Chagrin'

When the Obie-winning performing artist Peggy Shaw came to Seattle with her Split Britches company a few years ago, she played Stanley Kowalski in a gender-kinked version of "A Streetcar Named Desire."

In her current solo play (accompanied by musician Vivian Stoll), she returns to On the Boards as herself: mainly, a self-described "butch" lesbian, who glories in wearing a red tux jacket and two-tone shoes, and recalls her youth buying cars (an Impala, a Coupe de Ville) and hitting the road.

But Shaw is a clever, capable enough performer to defy easy categorization or neat stereotype. In this Seattle premiere piece, she also focuses on a key relationship in her life: as grandma to a mixed-race grandson.

Runs Thursday through May 8 at On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $18 (206-217-9888 or www.ontheboards.org).

'Ubu'

Some theater scholars believe Alfred Jarry was the uber-pioneer of absurdist theater. That reputation is largely due to his late-19th-century "Ubu" trilogy, about Pa Ubu, a grotesque figure loosely based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, who may be crude and stupid but aims to conquer the world "by any means necessary."

Clearly, there's some modern currency in this fable, and Seattle playwright Ki Gottberg sets out to find it in her new adaptation of Jarry's savage satire. Staged by Gottberg and workshopped at Seattle University (where Gottberg teaches), the piece gets its world premiere at Empty Space with gifted comic actress Sarah Rudinoff switching genders to portray Pa Ubu.
 
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Previews tonight through Tuesday, runs Wednesday through June 6 at Empty Space Theatre, 3509 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle; $10-$35 (206-547-7500
or www.emptyspace.org).

"In-Site: Industrial Performance Project"

This is a site-specific theater festival. Meaning: All the performances take place in a raw 6,000-square-foot former garage facility at Sand Point. The trick was to let several troupes and their unfettered imaginations loose in the cavernous building for a month, and have them come up with a piece for the festival bill.

Participating groups include Collaborator, Defibrillator Ensemble, the musical group Degenerate Art Ensemble, GSAA Kung Fu School (yes, they do martial arts), Perfreal and Sgt. Rigsby and His Amazing Silhouettes.

Previews May 12 and runs May 13-22 at Sand Point Building 67, 7400 Sand Point Way, Seattle; $15 (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com; for information, www.defibrillatorproductions.org). "The Dragon of Wantley"

The Carter Family Marionettes has a flair for digging up obscure 18th-century marionette operas, dusting them off and turning them into felicitous modern entertainments.

Their latest entry in this vein is this mini-opera, "the comedy sensation of 1737," composed by John Frederick Lampe. A tale of adventure, romance and dragon-slaying, the piece will feature live opera singers, a chamber orchestra, baroque scenery and, of course, the stars of the show: hand-carved, sumptuously costumed puppets on strings, manipulated by the Carters.

Plays May 14-23 at Northwest Puppet Center, 9123 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle; $18-$22 (206-523-2579; information, www.nwpuppet.org).

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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