WET’s “Sprawl” Christens the New 12th Avenue Arts Theatre Complex

The star here is definitely the new flexible black box theatre, part of the innovative two-house theatre complex created by the nonprofit Capitol Hill Housing group on the main floor of its 88-unit apartment building in the heart of Capitol Hill. The facility is a welcome addition to the whole Seattle theatre scene. Three companies—New Century Theatre Company, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, and Washington Ensemble Theatre (WET) —will share the spaces.

WET’s “Sprawl,” directed by Ali Mohamed el-Gasseir, the first production here, makes good use of the sophisticated lighting set up and sound system, but the company might have thought twice before selecting Joshua Conkel’s “Sprawl” to show off the space, its facilities, and the many talents of its own actors. Though the creators of this work liken it to that of John Waters and Tim Burton, it seems to be more a campy take on those old time B-grade movies like “It Came from Outer Space” and “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Disorganized, disheveled, and somewhat sophomoric are the descriptors that come to mind.

The story takes place in a model home in a new suburban housing development (and yes the expected jokes about suburban living are included). A very pregnant agent and her coke-snorting colleague are waiting for their book group/prospective buyers to show up. They don’t get what they expected from this evening!

The commendable cast deserved better. Samie Spring Detzer does a great waddle as she lugs around her about to be born offspring. Laura Hanson has all the nervous energy of a coke-head. Marc Kenison in drag as the Mayor’s wife is snobbery personified. Justin Huertas and Ben McFadden bring the right humor and charm to their roles as two gay guys. And kudos to the prop people who designed the cars they drive up in. But then the insectoids take over.

This wasn’t my cup of tea, but if you loved those ancient science fiction-horror films, this might be to your taste.

Through Feb. 2 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, (206 325-5105 or washingtonensemble.org)

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