Satori Group presents the existential satire "Winky" through April 5 in various staging areas of Pioneer Square's 619 Arts Building.
Theater review |
Going to a “site-specific” show may mean trooping after actors in a park, or sitting on folding chairs on a street corner.
Or in the case of the Satori Group’s mobile new piece, “Winky,” shifting seats and perspectives several times.
Based on a semi-surreal New Yorker short story by George Saunders, “Winky” is presented in the company’s raw new Pioneer Square quarters at 619 Western Ave., a building where many artists have studios and informal galleries.
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This unusual fable, funny-bizarre and sad-touching, is presented in a long, narrow room divided into two staging areas. The first scenes bring you into a “People of Power” seminar run by a slick self-help guru, Tom Rodgers (Adam Standley), who urges his followers to ditch anyone who spoils their dreams (or in Rodgers-speak, defecates in your oatmeal) — even if it’s your wheelchair-using brother.
You next move to another staging area, to observe a strange young woman, Winky (Greta Wilson), holding court in a pastel-pink, Pee-wee’s Playhouse world of her own. She sings nonsensical songs, converses with knickknacks and pathetically tries to be a good hausfrau for her brother-roommate, Neil (Anthony Darnell).
“Winky” ends with patrons back where they started, watching live action and video projections in yet a third seating arrangement.
Gimmicky? A bit. And a bit cumbersome, too. The stagecraft, and Spike Friedman’s scripted adaptation of the story, need a tweaking.
But there’s much of interest here, in how the piece cleverly mimics the different narrative perspectives in the story. And how it comes through as a piercing satire of codependency and callousness.
The seething Neil adopts Rodgers’ creed because he feels trapped. He’s his crazy sibling’s caretaker, and oppressed by memories of parental meekness. Will the poor shlub ditch his leech of a sister and get a life of his own?
But this is no case study that offers other possible housing options. (Be assured, there aren’t many in our frayed mental-health “safety net”).
“Winky” just lays this existential dilemma out, with the full-bodied acting and multifaceted staging (by director Caitlin Sullivan) we’ve come to expect from the intrepid Satori folks.
Standley’s riffing Rodgers is aptly smooth and toxic. Darnell’s Neil is a feverishly implosive schlemiel, as pitiable as he is creepy.
And Wilson’s portrait of Winky won’t let you off the hook. She has the right balance of doe-eyed vulnerability, manic zaniness and social ineptness. Like Neil, you want to take care of her — and blot her out.
Misha Berson: email@example.com