The "Devices" Series in the Proportions of Man: Drama in the Digits

ACA Gallery@ArtPlex,
through September 13

From Mona Lisa's pillowy-white fingers to the razor-sharp talons in Picasso's Dora Maar Seated, the human hand has long been a common muse for artists. With their seemingly limitless gestures and pantomimes, hands are innately dramatic. An artist can personify a wide range of emotions by depicting just a few nimble digits.

Marc Silva has mastered the essence of the phalanxes. His "Devices" series is a half-dozen oil on masonite works that depict ghostly-white hands modeling a bizarre line of mechanisms, designed to represent a way of harnessing the "illusive and fickle" creative forces that drive artists to their work. In a style simultaneously reminiscent of Blade Runner and Madame Curie, the hands and their devices are meticulously detailed, with an eerie realism that is slightly broken by the masonite's cracked mosaic effect on the pale skin tones.

Device for Retrieving the Memorie depicts a hand crowned with a winged Mercury helmet, which has an attached chain that leads to a pair of specs perched on the middle finger, bent in the form of a nose's bridge. The forefinger and thumb grasp a small crystal ball, and a small set of military epaulets are wrapped around the wrist, as though there were a teensy-weensy pair of shoulders there. The red in the shoulderboards is the only color break in the work's blacks, whites, and golds. The helmet and tassels suggest the "memorie" finding to be a sort of battle, and the specs and ball imply the need for clarity. It's an intriguing and beguiling set of metaphors -- like a vision that survived the trip from dream to canvas.

The Device for Crossing the Boundarie is perhaps the most mysterious work. A hand and arm is outfitted with scuba gear, circa the Titanic era. Straps around the arm create a tense pulling of the skin, and water is trapped in the helmet, seemingly drowning the hand, which appears eager to escape the situation. Wet knuckles press against the glass, and tensely bent fingers seem almost panic-stricken. The viewer can feel a certain alarm within the work, as if this "boundarie" was not meant to be crossed. On the other hand, it may be simply the innate drama of the digits.

-- Cari Marshall

Scavengers: Explosive Comedy
Planet Theatre,

through September 20
Running Time: 2 hrs, 30 min

Karen Cronacher's new play, Scavengers, produced by Salvage Vanguard Theater, is an explosion of words and ideas: witty, wacky, bordering on the absurd, yet connected to the modern world and its fixation on fads, gizmos, and the need for self-improvement. Seattle-based Cronacher has a gift for manipulating language in volcanic bursts or with the ponderous inevitability of a lava flow. The worlds she creates here possess the disquieting sense of probability and a complementary hilarity.

Cyber Jeanne is a performance artist and Cyber Jean a conceptual artist (his medium the realm of ideas). They meet, court (rapidly), and start a life together that is at once completely absurd yet startlingly realistic. Experience-hungry, world-traveling, macrobiotic artists, they write grants, have sex, fight, and play control games, while (literally) careening about their lives. Ultra-chic, ultra-hip, Cyber Jeanne and Cyber Jean challenge each other's notions of self and defy the norm. External forces, however, exert an intrusive influence on the couple, and their lives shift radically from day to day. The unseen hand at the controls of their lives is Jeanne, a real-life housewife to real-life debt collector Jean: The two artists are cybernetic projections of the real couple created by a pair of goggles to which real-life Jeanne has grown addicted. As real-life Jeanne begins to find herself, the parameters of the world of the two cyber characters shift like tectonic plates, causing massive confusion and the repeated need to start again.

Travis York and Amy Dickson infuse the cyber characters with nuclear energy and high-octane comedic timing. Their words fly out with mind-shattering speed and density as the two rampage about the stage, victims to another's goggle-vision. As real-life characters Jeanne and Jean, Sarah Ing and Kevin Madden give full, grounded performances, but their world, crazy as it is, cannot hold a candle to the wildfire of the cyber characters' lives. Three Furies (Betsy Boyd, Rebecca Davis, and Emily Lundin) straddle both worlds as supernumerary characters, influence-exerting sirens, and goofy squirrels with clear relish and a devious sense of fun.

As fun as this play is, with Cronacher's incisive and bitter comedy exploding all about the stage, there comes a point where production dramaturg David Bucci should have (gently) influenced the play's development. Cronacher's feminist ideals overrun the real characters: The one-dimensional Jean and the one-and-a-half-dimensional Jeanne ignite few passions compared to the cyber pair, making the play drag as each act concludes. First-time director Dan Dietz has staged a strong production; the unceasing activity never gets in the way of the story, and the evening maintains its verve from start (almost) to finish.

-- Robi Polgar

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