Thursday, April 30, 2009

Whazzat? M's in first?

As we prepare to flip our calendars to May I notice that the Seattle Mariners, losers of more than 100 games on a $100 million-plus payroll in 2008, are 13-9, in first place by 2 1/2 games, and are the only club above .500 in what is looking like a truly pathetic AL West.

Who'd-a thunk?

Pitching has been the key. As of this evening, the M's have the best ERA in the American League at 3.47, just a shade ahead of ... Kansas City? Felix Hernandez (4-0, 2.38) has been lights out, Erik "The Great" Bedard (2-1, 2.61) nearly as good, and Jarrod Washburn (3-1, 3.42) is doing well after putting up an atrocious 23-43 record with ERA in the mid/upper 4s in three years with the Mariners.

Sweetie the Official Scorer has taken an early liking to Chris Jakubauskas, an independent-league refugee who made the club at age 30 and has gone 1-3, 5.23 so far. The numbers are a bit deceptive; Jak has pitched well in four of five appearances, three of them starts. The high ERA is due mainly to one stinker of a start against Tampa Bay. The other day against the White Sox he pitched a complete game, allowed two runs on two hits, and lost. 

The defense has been much improved, especially in the outfield, where Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez have been a far sight better than the assorted cripples who flanked Ichiro last year. Though we can't help noticing that the statue known as Raul Ibanez is tearing it up to the tune of .359 with seven homers and 17 RBI for the Phillies. 

The offense has been another story. Russell Branyan leads the club in batting (.333) and homers (4). Meanwhile prodigal son Ken Griffey, Jr. is batting a robust .200 with a pair of 'taters and five RBI, but word is he's been great as judge of the kangaroo court. Ichiro missed the first eight games with ulcers -- what does this dude have to worry about? -- but is hitting over .300. 

Don't go printing up the playoff tickets just yet. But it looks like the Mariners have as good a chance as any of the flawed teams in the AL West to capture the flag and take their chances in the playoffs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sunday in the Park -- spot on!

The first act of 5th Avenue Theatre's production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George was top-notch musical theater. By midway through Act II Weisenheimer found himself wishing he'd followed the lead of several audience members in his row who bolted at intermission in order to enjoy a sunny Seattle spring Sunday. Act I was a fascinating tale of French artist Georges Seurat, the making of his famed painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (at right), and all of the characters therein. Act II, however, devolved into a whiny complaint about having to hang out with PR people, Texas zillionaires, and museum board members in order to make art a living.

Long after the performances and music are fogotten I'll remember the amazing set, lighting, and projection of this production, designed by David Farley, Ken Billington, and Timothy Bird & the Knifedge Creative Network, respectively. The plain white walls of the set came alive with the ever-changing art, scenes, critters, and characters of the show. The scenes in George's studio as he worked on the giant-sized painting were great,  as we the audience looked through the back side of the work to watch George at work and explaining his technique, which became known as Pointillism.

The best part of Act II was the opening number, "It's Hot Up Here," in which the denizens of the painting voice their gripes with the hot weather and the fact that they're trapped in eternity with some folks who aren't necessarily to their liking. 

Billie Wildrick was marvelous as Dot, George's model and mistress in Act I, and as Marie, George's daughter and young George's grandmother, in Act II. Hugh Panaro played both Georges, though was much more interesting as the focused, creative genius Seurat in the first half. When he got all of those folks in place in their poses for the painting, Sondheim and Lapine should have left it at that. It would have been a plenty good story and straight to the point.

Sunday in the Park with George runs at the 5th through May 10.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

One FUNNY Pez dispenser...

Princess Leia didn't actually drive Carrie Fisher to drink, dope, and bipolarism, but after seeing Fisher's one-woman show Wishful Drinking at Seattle Rep one realizes that the actress can't quite shake the character, as much as she'd like to. The show features not one but two Leia wigs, Leia shampoo, Leia action figures, a life-size, concrete Leia sex doll, a Leia sculpture on a turntable with anatomically correct "galaxy snatch," and more.

"I'm a PEZ dispenser and I'm in an abnormal psychology textbook," Fisher marvels. "Who says you can't have it all?"

And who's that on the cover of her book, adapted from the stage show? Yes, for Fisher, Leia is always there. Damn George Lucas.

"Lucas owns my image," Fisher deadpans. "When I look in the mirror I have to send him a couple bucks."

I tend to be skeptical of one-actor shows, which seem mostly aimed at being inexpensive and making money, especially when they feature someone of Fisher's star power. Wishful Drinking really isn't theater. It's more like a two-hour stand-up act with some psychotherapy thrown in. But it was a hell of a lot of fun.

"If my life wasn't funny it would just be true," Fisher says, "and that's unacceptable."

I thought the funniest part of the show was the complicated "family tree" of Fisher's parents, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and their multiple marriages and dalliances. Carrie uses the opportunity to skewer the folks, though she clearly still adores them -- she lives next door to her mom!

The set for the show was simple, with a comfy chair, a couch, a few tables, and a background wall on which scores of images were projected. 

Fisher's story is a wild one, and she has the performing chops to make it totally hilarious. Wishful Drinking will be at the Rep through May 3.