Thursday night at The Works
posted by Kirsten Collins
Ladies of the lake
Wade over wade over wade over me
Touch me with your depths
Touch me to the depths
Ladies of the lake
Wade over wade over wade over me
Draw your heavy blade
Run it over me
Let’s get to the bottom of it
The murky, muddy deep waters
Cut cleanly through

Last night, the lucky crowd at The Works met the Ladies of the Lake, a group of Olympia-to-Portland transplants in an action-packed variety show curated by Khaela Maricich of the Blow. The evening was part school play (with hand-painted cardboard set pieces, and a bit of fumbling), part artsy-bar music show, part fooling around with a video camera, part hanging out with your friends, and playfully smart overall.


The evening started with “Beacon of Light,” Jenn Kliese and a sweet, understated vocal/accordion solo. “Talk To Me Dog, I’m a Believer,” featured some polar bear friends building an igloo, running through the park, and being caught in a storm. The storm sequence starred one of the Ladies in a giant cloud costume violently waving cardboard lighting bolts. The best part was a subtitled video of one polar bear taking the other polar bear to the emergency room to be revived by a complicated machine with important buttons (I think).
My favorite moments were both Mirah-related. First, in a touching autoharp solo, “NOLA,” Mirah sang-out an emotional response to Hurricane Katrina, but without the overcharged, my personal-story-is-more-heartbreaking-than-your-personal-story quality that makes me dread artistic responses too-soon after disaster. With each tender repetition of “It’s not your fault, Ponchartrain, It’s not your fault, hurracaine” my heart broke, and mended and then broke again. She struck a delicate balance between outrage, frustration, compassion, and hope. And there, listening, I thought, “Yes. This is exactly what I need to hear in this precise moment. We are in sync. Thank you.” For the brief duration of the song I was more suspended and engaged than in any other TBA moment thus far.
And one booty-dance later, Mirah was back with bright green stretch pants, heels, and a sideways ponytail as the co-host of “Happiness Gameshow.” Cast perfectly, Mirah approached the chipper role with eerie sincerity. Co-host Anna Oxygen brought incredible energy to the stage as well. Three contestants were brought up from the audience to test their comparative level of happiness. Questions were asked, bells were rung, points were awarded. The game climaxed with the final “Physical Challenge,” in which the three contestants competed to simultaneously write and email, carry on a phone conversation, and eat a bowl of cereal. They completed the task without a sweat. This was the best executed gameshow spoof I’ve ever encountered, hands down.
The audience also played “I want to know you forever.” We were given playing cards that read “Hello.” “How are you.” “Great, thanks.” “Talk about something irrelevant,” and took turns “playing” them. Essentially, we were asked to practice chit-chatting with someone we didn’t know. I think some people got really into it. I cheated, and just talked to my friend. But the cards are a nice parting gift.
Throughout the show, the Ladies touched on challenging subjects of abortion, modern relationships, and the misunderstood nature of happiness. But these themes were presented amidst a smattering of colorful images, and an affection for life’s overlooked details (A paper towel, a stoplight, simple science, plastic lining “I keep things from leaking”). So some of the time I was grappling with tough issues, “Am I a ‘couch girl,’ or a ‘bed girl,’ and what does that really mean,” and some of the time I was reminded of an unexpected pleasure, and some of the time I was purely smiling, thinking “what a fun time they must have had putting this show together.”