Firesign classics to be staged

  • By Mike Murray / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, March 24, 2005 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

For a generation that came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, listening to Firesign Theatre was a way to laugh at and make some sense of those turbulent times.

The surreal satire of the four comics collectively known as Firesign captured the mood of the era and hit a responsive chord among the young.

It was radio-based humor, a notion that seems at odds with our virtual 21st century. But the goofy wit and clever wordplay of Firesign have endured, its still-timely comedy cherished through recordings and embraced by a new generation that has discovered Firesign through live performance.

Two of Firesign’s legendary comedy albums will be presented in staged adaptations at the Whidbey Center for the Arts.

“Waiting For The Electrician Or, Someone Like Him,” written in 1968, and “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers,” which dates to 1970, will be given two performances on Saturday at the Langley performance arts center.

“We always meant to write plays,” said David Ossman, one of the founding members of Firesign Theatre. Ossman has adapted these Firesign classics for the stage and assembled a cast of 16 to perform them. The Langley run is limited to two performances because of scheduling conflicts at the theater, he said.

Firesign disbanded in the mid-1970s, then regrouped to do reunion shows that kept the comedy going. Whidbey Island has played an important part in that revival because Ossman and his family live there.

“Our fan base is now in their 50s,” Ossman said, and these middle-age fans are bringing their children to the shows. The younger generation gets the humor, he said.

Ossman also has the added pleasure of passing the Firesign torch to a new generation of Ossmans. His son, Orson, who is a junior at South Whidbey High School, is one of the featured performers in this weekend’s productions.

He will be doing nearly all of the parts that his dad performed in the originals. Passing along these parts to his son “is really thrilling,” David Ossman said in a telephone interview.

The father-son duo recently performed together in the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts production of “School for Scandal. “

“Waiting For The Electrician Or, Someone Like Him,” the debut album of Firesign, is a time-traveling, century-spanning cosmic tale “that plays like it was yesterday,” Ossman said.

“Don’t Crush That Dwarf” was their third album, and introduced the character known as George Tirebiter, a sort of Everyman character.

” ‘Dwarf’ was always a kind of moral tale about growing up and learning how to change your life,” said Ossman, who has staged it by deploying a big television set on the stage from which the actors appear.

“If you can change the dial you can change your life,” Ossman said.

“Beau Jest”: What’s a nice Jewish girl to do when her boyfriend is a Gentile and her overbearing parents object?

Hire an actor to impersonate the boyfriend and hope the ruse works.

Life on stage, like the real thing, has a way of unraveling, and that’s what happens in “Beau Jest,” James Sherman’s romantic comedy of errors that opens next week in Seattle.

Sherman is a Chicago playwright who has been called “the Neil Simon of Lincoln Avenue” for his successful way with light comedy. “Beau Jest,” which is presented here by Taproot Theatre Company, is one of Sherman’s biggest hits, playing Off-Broadway for more than two years. It plays through April 30 at Taproot.

Sarah Goldman knows her fiance will never pass her mom’s future son-in-law test, so she hires an actor to impersonate her beau for an important family dinner. But the plan backfires, with results that are both funny and thought-provoking. “Beau Jest” had a successful run at Taproot in 1995.

The Tap Dance Kid: Legendary tap artist Savion Glover returns to Seattle for a performance Thursday at the Moore Theatre.

Glover, the 1996 Tony Award winner for his choreography in Broadway’s “Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk,” is a virtuoso dancer of extraordinary technique. Thursday’s performance, “Improvography II,” is a showcase for his dance pyrotechnics performed with a six-piece jazz-funk band.

The tap superstar will perform various improvised musical numbers as well as selections from “Improvography.”

Matthew Lawrence photo

Timothy Hornor (left), Charity Parenzini and Jason Adkins in “Beau Jest.”

Orson Ossman (above) and his father, David Ossman (below) will appear in WICA’s Firesign Theatre productions.

Where to see it

“Waiting for the Electrician” and “Don’t Crush That Dwarf”: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, 565 Camano Ave., Langley. Tickets, $10-$12, 360-221-8268, 800-638-7631.

“Beau Jest”: Opens in preview on Wednesday, with the regular run April 1-30 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle. Tickets, 206-781-9707, and Ticketmaster at 206-292-ARTS.

“Savion Glover – Improvography II”: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle. Tickets, $20-$45, at Ticketmaster, 206-292-ARTS, www.ticketmaster.com.

Where to see it

“Waiting for the Electrician” and “Don’t Crush That Dwarf”: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, 565 Camano Ave., Langley. Tickets, $10-$12, 360-221-8268, 800-638-7631.

“Beau Jest”: Opens in preview on Wednesday, with the regular run April 1-30 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle. Tickets, 206-781-9707, and Ticketmaster at 206-292-ARTS.

“Savion Glover – Improvography II”: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle. Tickets, $20-$45, at Ticketmaster, 206-292-ARTS, www.ticketmaster.com.

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