"The Krewe of Neptune," written and performed by Anne Galjour. At The Fremont Palace, 3509 Fremont Ave. N., Thursday-Sunday, 8 p.m., through June 28. 545-3577.
With little more than a table and chair, and her exquisitely nimble voice, Anne Galjour has transformed Seattle's adventurous new performance space, The Fremont Palace, into a Louisiana bayou backyard.
Populated by ghosts and the living, prize roosters, borrowed bloodhounds and the grand fantasies of the Mardi Gras Ball, Galjour's captivating solo performance conjures the world of two willful, dreamy sisters, Rose and Camille Bonvillain, with a brilliant script and deceptively simple staging.
Rose and Camille, with older brother Tookie, have lost both their parents and are living uncomfortably with one another in adjoining shacks at the edge of a marshy canal. Haunted and helped by the visiting spirit of their dead mother Mae Anne, the two sisters spend most of their time preparing for the local "Krewe of Neptune" Mardi Gras Ball. A neighbor woman, Mita Thomassie, and her son Louie help the girls with sewing and ear-piercings (plus frightening lessons in the ways of love and gallantry), while drunk Tookie torments them with his prize rooster.
Through a miracle of sustained energy and smart, simple choices, Galjour brings all six characters vividly to life while alone on the stage in a plain dress without makeup. Using subtle changes in posture and voice, she moves fluidly among them, delivering dialogues and "trialogues" as clearly as if there were six separate actors. Carl Sander's clever, deliberate lighting accentuates the shifts, while Galjour's graceful movement around the small stage establishes an entire neighborhood of locations within the first five or 10 minutes.
The second miracle is the writing. Galjour has an ear for closely observed dialogue, and a willingness to take risks with her characters. The performance begins in the complete dark with Galjour's honey-thick voice filling the room. Mae Anne's spirit is visiting her own grave on All Soul's Day (now we see the side-lit face floating before us) watching Rose and Camille scrub the "powdered car fumes and bird mess" from the stone. "I moved among the tombs to a litany of Hail Mary's and scrubbing," she half sings. "The sky was blue as the Virgin Mary's veil. All across the cemetery between the white-washed and marble houses of the dead were brown sun-dried tears across the tombs of those that were forgotten. Forgotten."
Rarely is solo performance anchored in so sparkling and literary a text as Galjour has written for "The Krewe of Neptune." Her admiration for southern short-story writer and novelist Flannery O'Conner is evident in the uncanny rendering of simple dialect and in her unflagging interest in larger questions of the spirit. For both Camille and Rose, the "Krewe of Neptune's" Mardi Gras Ball will be more than just a pleasant evening out.
Galjour operates with the same transporting self-confidence and faith that writer-performer David Cale has brought to his work over the last decade in New York and around the U.S.
Like Cale, Galjour shuttles easily between adult and child characters, revealing, both the earnest maturity of childhood fantasies, and the blessed (and dangerous) childishness of adult self-delusions. And like Cale, she is a terrific writer, with a great deal of love and respect for her characters. Catch Anne Galjour now, while she's still playing in the small, intimate spaces, like The Fremont Palace, where her talent for solo performance shines brightest.