“The Oddwoman of Pioneer Square” is a fresh Seattle spin on a French classic

By Tom Keogh

Theatre 9/12’s engaging and occasionally inspired The Oddwoman of Pioneer Square could well encourage every neighborhood in Seattle to select its own, eccentric matriarch to remind us of the things that make life truly worthwhile. And to defend us from those who would crush our good life for a profit.

Inspired by Jean Giradoux’s 1943 fantasy-satire The Madwoman of Chaillot, Oddwoman… transfers the original play’s story about oil profiteers, and the street characters who prevent them from destroying Paris, to our Emerald City.

Written by Charles S. Waxberg, Oddwoman begins in a cheerless old cafe on the Seattle waterfront. There, a pair of wheeler-dealers (David S. Klein, Robert A. Barnett) and a high-strung prospector (Michael Oaks) plot to exploit an oil deposit deep below Pioneer Square.

Their surprisingly violent and terrifying plan involves a confederate, Pierre (Alex Robertson), who changes his mind and comes under the sway of Aurelia (Ruth McRee), the play’s titular sage.

The whimsical but affirming oddwoman’s grand pronouncements about love, freedom and responsibility uplift a colorful coterie on the neighborhood’s fringe: including a homeless man (Terry Edward Moore), street musician (Marty Ofsowitz) and waitress (Heidi Jean Weinrich). Gabriella leads the downtown denizens in a plot against the oilmen, including a mock trial that becomes — largely through a driven, almost frightening performance by Moore — Oddwoman’s most powerful scene.

Directed by Paul O’Connell and staged in a rehearsal room at A Contemporary Theatre, Oddwoman… is self-produced by its professional actors. While the work has a casual, in-development and slightly hit-and-miss feel, one tends to focus on its admirably balanced elements. These include garrulous villains offset by laconic (in one case, mute) characters, and a chimerical strain countered by many shades of desperation among Gabriella’s devotees and friends.

As with its Giradoux template, the overall feeling of Oddwoman… is of a thriving life pool — in this case, with just the right amount of Seattle texture, including a second act set entirely in the city’s fabled underground. The story’s surreal conclusion could well create a new urban legend about what really lies beneath our feet.

 
 

                                                                                              Featuring:   

ROBERT BARNETT                        DAVID S. KLEIN                                   MICHAEL OAKS                          NIKKI VISEL

MEREDITH BINDER                       RUTH McREE                                       MARTY OFSOWITZ                    HEIDI WEINRICH

GABRIEL FRANKEN                      TERRY EDWARD MOORE                  ALEX ROBERTSON

LAURA KENNEY                            CHRISTINE MOSERE                          KATE SZYPERSKI