In their native United Kingdom, theatre company Forced Entertainment is known for being “fiendishly clever and sometimes unbearable to watch,” most recently taking a very pointed look at the state of the nation following the Brexit vote. "Real Magic," which The Guardian called "one of the top 10 theatre performances of 2017," is both chaotic and ruminating, using repetition and humor to illuminate our inability to learn from the past, and highlighting the nonsensically unwavering human belief that things will turn out differently. Attendees of Friday’s performance can enjoy a post-show conversation with the performers, joined by Todd London of the UW School of Drama. It’s one you’ll need to talk about after.
If you go: Real Magic, On the Boards, Jan 18-20 ($30)—N.C.
Straight White Men
A new play by the Washington Ensemble Theater takes straight white men as its subject, compassionately considering, chiding and critiquing a social identity that has long been synonymous with American cultural and political power. Written by Young Jean Lee and directed by Seattle’s Sara Porkalob, “Straight White Men” is set amid a banal rendering of the national idea: a living room in a middle class home in a single-family neighborhood, somewhere in the Midwest.
A minimalist plot, the three-part story riffs on the classic father-son tale, following three grown brothers at home for Christmas, two of whom are visiting their widower dad. The third and gentlest brother, Matt, lives at home and works a mundane office job despite his Ivy League education and years of charity work in Ghana. Matt’s genuine aimlessness and embattled depression are the play’s key narrative mystery, but as with much of Lee’s work, it’s not so simple. In the end, the play becomes an almost-anthropological exploration of the psychological and behavioral tropes that characterize straight white dudes. It’s hilarious and thought provoking, and although currently sold out, you can put your name on a waitlist starting at 6:30. Get their early, have a ginger beer, and maybe you’ll get lucky.
If you go: “Straight White Men,” 12th Avenue Arts, through Jan. 29. ($15 - 25)—M.B.
Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour
This program, showing at Northwest Film Forum for two special nights, collects and presents seven of the best films shown at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Gathered from around the world, the night includes the very amusing and inventive Polish "Pussy" (which stole the show as part of SIFF’s Animation4Adults program last year), as well as "Night Shift," a portrait of a day in the life of an Los Angeles nightclub bathroom attendant. With films ranging from 5 to 19 minutes, it’s a great way to take in a handful of masterfully told stories — and learn about new filmmakers along the way.
If you go: Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, NW Film Forum, Jan. 18 and 20 ($12)—N.C.
Green Lake Public Star Party
Meet on the northwest side of Green Lake, near the Bathhouse Theatre, for a night of winter stargazing with the Seattle Astronomical Society. Learn all about stars, planets, constellations and more from knowledgeable, passionate volunteers, who also generously give use of their telescopes. Participants are encouraged to bring a cell phone with “their favorite star app;” if you’re not quite there, don't worry. Bring a sense of wonder, a cozy jacket and a thermos of something nice to drink instead.
If you go: Green Lake Public Star Party, Green Lake, Jan. 20 (Free)—N.C.
On its website, the First Hill gem Hotel Sorrento trumpets “Jazz + Brunch = a perfect Sunday ritual.” I have little to add to that, except to say that exceptionally striking jazz vocals from Emma Caroline Baker (accompanied by George Bollock on guitar) only bolsters the ritual. To make things even better, the menu contains a wide variety, including tempting small plates like harissa deviled eggs, a savory quinoa bowl with seasonal veggies and tahini dressing and brioche French toast. Top the experience off with a mimosa or Bloody Mary bar, with your choice of condiments.
If you go: Jazz Brunch, Hotel Sorrento, Jan. 21—N.C.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
If all Ladysmith Black Mambazo had done was contribute to the song “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” providing the layered background vocals to Paul Simon’s sweet-as-honey-and-smooth-as-peanut-butter-on-toast vocals, it would have been gift enough to the world. However, the South African group, who’s now been around FOR OVER 50 YEARS, has given the world so much more: 50 albums, each spreading peace and beauty, and an impressive number of live performances around the world. Their 2016 album Walking in the Footsteps of Our Fathers, in the acapella style they’re known for, is warming and full of the heart that has made Graceland and Ladysmith Black Mambazo so treasured. Come see the group that none other than Nelson Mandela called “South Africa’s cultural ambassadors to the world.”
If you go: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Neptune Theatre, Jan. 21 ($33.50)—N.C.