When you call the box office of Seattle's Annex Theatre to purchase tickets to the world premiere production of Djinn the box office salesperson instructs you to "dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes."
But don't panic that your mother mystically got cut in on the phone line. It's still the box office. You see, while viewing the show, you may find yourself standing in a damp, chilly place for some time. And to get there, you have to ride a bus.
The bus transports Annex audiences to a mysterious site-specific production of Djinn, adapted and directed by House of Dames' Nikki Appino, based on the novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet. Djinn runs at this surprise location, through June 7.
Production company House of Dames and Seattle's Annex Theatre have teamed up for the "theatrical event," which dresses audiences in trench coats and engages them in a story of suspense, following the disappearance of criminal Simon Lecouer. The only trace of Lecouer is a manuscript left on his desk, and the play becomes an enactment of the manuscript in order to find clues to Lecouer's whereabouts.
Appino, a bi-costal film and theatre director, has had the idea for a production of Djinn since she first read the English translation of the French novel in 1981. "I've been carrying it around for quite sometime,"Appino says, "I knew it was huge. That's why I hadn't produced it [before now]...We've developed it over a nine month period of time. It's like an art installation, and the chapters are told in different forms. The whole eighth chapter is a 12-minute video [designed and directed by Terry Simpson.] The Creative Team, lead by Appino and Djinn designer Dan Corson conducted a search for the space, a 25,000-square-foot abandoned factory. "The space is a big star in the show," Appino continues, "full of all kinds of appropriate junk that we've reformed into all kinds of Kafka-esque environments. . .all we had to do was light it." Seattle's Group Theatre and the former Alice B. Theatre lent their lighting equipment to the production.
Appino said the acquisition of the space for the project was "quite a victory", considering the amount of red tape and city bureaucracy that was involved in securing it. Due to a temporary usage permit for the space itself and the lighting and theatre equipment rentals, it is not likely that Djinn will extend its run .
Long time Annex company member Christina Mastin,and Amy Caton-Ford are the performing members of the Creative Team. Also appearing in Djinn are two twelve year olds, Savannah Milgiuri and Ian Nelson-Roehl. Talia Toni Marcus joins Djinncomposer Jim Ragland in creating live music.
House of Dames, which originally began as a late night cabaret for "women and the women-friendly," is now more of a producing organization that works on a project to project basis. Dames' prior production of Sabrosa in 1993, a collaboration between Appino, Corson and Ragland, set the Cupid & Psyche myth in pre-World War II Paris. Sabrosa got the attention of the Annex Theatre. Appino explains , "We finished the project and were waiting for the next commission. Annex said why don't you come over here and do something?"
The partnership between House of Dames and the Annex is very solid. Appino said, "The Annex is a unique theatre in the 90's, a company driven and dedicated to new work. Their organizational structure is unique. . .producing some of the most environmental and interesting new work in the city."
According to Appino, Djinn audiences are having a lot of fun, but they don't always articulate it directly after the show."It's . . . overwhelming. It's a whole experience. They get on the bus [afterwards] and they're still in the world of the play. " Appino believes the Saturday night late night performances of Djinn are the ones to see. "The quality of light, because its dark outside, is a whole different thing. It's the best. I'm encouraging the people I know to come to the late nights -- it's kind of magical."
But take note, if you are late for curtain, you miss the bus.
For tickets or more information call (206) 728-0933, or refer to the Annex Theatre regional listing on Playbill On-Line.
--By Blair Glaser