DIY Opera ‘#adulting’ Explores Growing Up, the Seattle Way
With an eclectic score and absurdist humor, Lowbrow Opera Collective makes fringe theater out of their own lives
By Gavin Borchert
February 4, 2020
Where do fledgling singers land after UW or Cornish tosses them out of the nest? Or, to paraphrase the opening number of Avenue Q, “What Do You Do with a B.A. in Vocal Performance?” One answer—increasingly necessary for all classical musicians, not only singers—is to build your own opportunities from scratch, as the young artists of Lowbrow Opera Collective have done with #adulting, running one more weekend at 18th and Union.
If the effort is high and the financial reward low to nonexistent, the great advantage of this DIY approach is that you get to remake opera in your own image—or as director/performer Katie Kelley put it in her speech before Saturday night’s performance, Lowbrow’s shows can be “a little more queer, a little more fun, a little more whatever-the-hell-we-want-them-to-be” than yet another Don Giovanni or La bohéme.
Natalie Stewart Elder’s book for #adulting provides just the loosest of premises for a series of sketches about people quite a bit like the six performers themselves: early-20-somethings trying to function in a Seattle increasingly hostile to that demographic. In the opening number, Bucket (Krissy Terwilliger) seeks housemates via Craigslist and ends up with a “gay lawyer” (Jared White) and an “annoying couple” (Eric Angus Jeffords and Christine Oshiki). As the four housemates negotiate intimidating new frustrations and responsibilities, Kelley and Nic Varela play these various nemeses, personifying, among others, Student Debt, Groceries, Couch, Alarm Clock and Customer Support. Where do you find furniture? How do you write a check? What happens when your cell phone dies? Who ate my cake? A fast pace (in Act 1, less so in Act 2) and absurdist humor are the tools #adulting uses to explore these dilemmas.
And “whatever-the-hell” is an apt description of John Ervin Brooks’ music, which deftly, wittily and energetically cribs from/sends up practically every musical idiom the cast just spent four years studying. The very first music you hear layers Handelian coloratura over a Kander & Ebb vamp, while the couch number makes room for a lament over a drooping bass line; it’s a first-cousin-nineteen-times-removed of an aria every soprano learns, English composer Henry Purcell’s greatest hit from his 1688(ish) opera Dido and Aeneas. A lot of the music in Act 2 riffs on, of all things, Scott Joplin’s rag “The Entertainer” (providing busy piano accompanist Ava Linvog a showoff moment), and the hyper-caffeinated finale is a straight-up Rossini takeoff.
Ends Feb. 9. $15-$28. 18th and Union, Capitol Hill; 18thandunion.org