If there is one play you see this year, make it a Liminal one. Indeed, there might be only one to see. Liminal has averaged barely one full production per year since its arrival on the scene in 1997. It is thus safe to tout its new production, Three Plays, Five Lives, opening April 17, as a Rare Event.
But it's not just Liminal's eccentric scarcity that makes it a must-see. Nor is it just that it consistently does either new and genuinely provocative theatrical works (see: Objects for the Emancipated Consumer, in which the stage was transformed into an interactive airport); or radically innovative reinventions of classic works (see: The Seven Deadly Sins, in which the epic Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill opera was pared down to an hour-long, leather-clad, electronic dance piece). Rather, what really makes Liminal the most intriguing theater company in town is its dogged commitment to subversion; its insistence on questioning the very nature of live theater itself.
Three Plays, Five Lives is an evening of three simple stories, each summarized easily in one line: A man designs an architectural masterpiece to bury his past; A matriarch's family destroys her famous paintings to reap future wealth; A Western aid group struggles in a war-torn village to ease present suffering. It's important to also mention these play are performed... simultaneously.
"We would encourage people to move around," says director Brian Markovitz, "because there are three really unique perspectives you can see this show from. At least."
The relentless storytelling action will be accompanied by Liminal's trademark relentless technical action, a synchronization of visual and sound effects, and physical movement. Live video and sampling devices will record certain moments within each play, then broadcast them on a screen or over speakers. The cast will draw from the samples, tangenting from the three plays to form elaborate physical sequences and speech repetitions that are basically inspired by recordings of their own movements and voices; recordings that happened just seconds before. It's a mind-boggling, self-analytical technique that deconstructs the live aspect of theater on a moment-by-moment basis.
"We're always on a tightrope," says Three Plays' director, Brian Markovitz, "where you never know if things are just going to get way too out of hand; moments where you'll wonder how [the cast] can possibly pull things back into making any sense."
Don't be intimidated by all the theory-talk, though. No company balances chaos and entertainment better than Liminal. Their technical virtuosity is unprecedented for a small company, and their abnormally long rehearsal process allows for fascinating and deeply complicated experiments with text and movement.
"There is so much happening [in Three Lives]," says Markovitz. "We are demanding a level of thought in the audience that they may or may not want to have in their evening of entertainment... but at least the senses will constantly be fed." JUSTIN SANDERS
The Liminal Space, 403 NW Fifth, 890-2993, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, $12
The Polyphonic Spree
If you are in love with the all-encompassing, chill-inducing sounds of an angelic, white-robed gospel choir--but can't cope when they're making with all the scary "Jesus" crap--you'll fall on your knees and yell "glory hallelujah" when you experience the rays of splendor that is The Polyphonic Spree. Begat, strangely, by three members of '90s alt-rockers Tripping "I got a girl but she's got a guy" Daisy, the 25-person ensemble prays to the gods of uplifting, symphonic pop. Accompanied by all sorts of heavenly instruments, such as theremin, flutes, Moogs, horns, and harps, these Texans' music practically explodes with unfettered joy and unhampered positivity. With a sparkling innocence, they implore, "Just follow the day, and reach for the sun!" A wonky lyric if there ever was one, but with these lads and lassies, you actually believe that if you follow the day and reach for the sun, an abundance of joy and love awaits. As a cult, they are certainly convincing.
In addition, the Polyphonic Spree is physically fit, as is evidenced by their virile stage presence. The ensemble has been known to execute pre-choreographed pogo numbers, as well as venture into the audience to "bless" its denizens with the glorious bliss of pop. If you've been trawling the depths of darkness, The Polyphonic Spree will drench you in light. JULIANNE SHEPHERD
Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Blvd, 233-1994, Mon April 21, 7 pm, $12.50.
So if Madonna has been shucking her clothes and coughing up tunes for 20 freakin' years, then that means you (i.e., we) are officially old farts and fartettes! But on Monday, April 21, you can leave the cane at home and hit the dance floor, because Boxxes and Red Cap Garage are hosting a CD release party for American Life, Madonna's newest CD. The event includes all-night booty shaking to the beats of M's catalog on the Red Cap dance floor and an all-Madonna video blowout at Boxxes bar. Plus, they'll be giving away CDs, DVDs, and posters to hang on your shabby chic walls--how retro! Best yet, you are encouraged to dress up as Ms. Ciccone from your favorite phase of her eclectically whorish and saintly career. And if that wasn't impetus enough to get your ass dressed up like a tart and out on the floor, event manager Dietric Broderson says, "This event is going to be taped and sent to M herself. This is a great way for fans to express how much they like her!' Screw "like"! I'm still full-on in LOOOOVVVEEE! BRIAN BRAIT
Boxxes & Red Cap Garage, 1035 SW Stark, 226-4171, Monday, April 21, 9pm, Free