“Everything Everything Everything”: 2 friends end an era.

Action/Adventure hosts a new touring Seattle show that already feels nostalgic.

Wesley K. Andrews and Ilvs* Strauss are real-life besties; they have been since high school. They know each other better than we’ll ever know either of them, which only becomes more obvious as they try to tell the rest of us their story. “Everything Everything Everything,” at Action/Adventure from Oct. 24 to Nov. 2, is billed as “a narrative performance with acoustic music,” but proves mostly the former, a tandem monologue that the pair performs seated next to their guitar and glockenspiel. Above their heads, a slide show serves Instagram-y images of landscapes and an assortment of seemingly-unrelated old group photos of strangers.

YES, Ilvs and Wes finish each other’s sentences. YES, they exchange conspiratorial glances and indulge in (scripted) tangents of petty-but-affectionate argument. And NO, they don’t seem to care what we think. They live in their mutually affirming feedback loop, thank you, and we’re just visiting.

Ilvis Strauss and Wesley K. Anderson share their recent past...and put a decade's clichés reluctantly to rest.

Ilvs Strauss and Wesley K. Anderson share their recent past…and put a decade’s clichés reluctantly to rest.

Ilvs is a lesbian and Wes is a straight man, and their story spans the time period (circa 2005) when they shared a Capitol Hill, Seattle apartment. They called their home “the dugout” (“…because some ladies ’bout ta get dug OUT!” they remark, making a point to be ironically and not sincerely crude.) Enter Lauren McNally, a girl they BOTH kissed in high school. She’s visiting the city on a mysterious business trip and acts surprisingly eager to pal around with the pair. Her presence, of course, sparks a competition between the friends, who each vow they’ll do “everything, everything, everything” to win her. This culminates in a misguided and poorly-planned pilgrimage to a Dave Matthews concert in the Gorge. As the two unreliable narrators take turns exalting her, our detached suspicion of Lauren grows. But a different realization dawns on the friends: they don’t need her as much as they need each other.

On the whole, the story is engaging and heart-felt, full of surprises, enlivened by details, and rhapsodized with romantic swells and swoons.

Told to you as if by your own friends, it’s a yarn you’ll probably enjoy, and you’re not likely to forget. But… the cultural framework, and the pair’s scripted cross-talk, is positively shackled to an only-slightly-bygone era. The “aughts,” as they’ve augh-kwardly been dubbed—or “the zeros,” as I may start saying—have a peculiar lexicon of proto-hipsterism that’s more obvious in hindsight than it was in the throes. Where the ’60s had “groovy,” the zeros had “whatever.” Casual co-option of Ebonics by whiteys (see “’bout ta” above), which hard-liners have since dubbed “hipster racism,” was also born here. Passionately rebuking supposedly uncool musicians like Dave Matthews (to whom I think history will be kinder) passed for contention and rhetoric. Dressing up in a full-body animal suit was a widely-accepted symbol of identity independence, as well as a cool thing to do with your band or at all-day, low-key, Pabst-swilling parties.

eaglevsshark-01

2007 indie film “Eagle vs. Shark” nails the motifs of the zero decade: Animal costumes, awkward conversations, wistful pining and video games. One imagines Wes and Ilvs in their self-described butterfly and tiger outfits fitting right in at this culture party.

Nearly a decade after the zenith of zeros, most of these trends have long since crested, and a few have completely subsided. Even one’s taste in bands seems less important now, when arguments over politics and the economy are often literally about life or death. Similarly, “whatever”‘s given way to “YOLO,” a texted mantra of relentless self-editing and endless striving. And good luck getting that second interview in your animal suit; these days the kids don a three-piece and top it with a heritage chapeau.

This is not to devalue the zeros, or their predecessors, the “gen X” 90’s. It often takes a generation or two of disaffected devils’ advocates to pave the way for the better angels of positive change. Youth culture may have had to break away from some systemic BS in order to gain perspective—but now, it has to re-engage.

tomorrow

Last season’s “Tomorrow!” at Action/Adventure was a snapshot of a generation facing society’s demise, yet idealistic and striving.

The contrast between the zeros and the teens plays out pretty starkly under Action/Adventure Theater’s very roof. Last season’s “Tomorrow!” featured four well-dressed, idealistic twenty-somethings** marching in synchrony and singing con-gusto about their plans to survive the apocalypse. Yet here, two thirty-somethings** revel in in-jokes and party anecdotes, disagreeing about which actresses are hot. “Winona Ryder!” says Ilvis, and when Wes chides her as outdated, she shrugs. “When I fall in love, it’s forever.” Okay, then. So we ALL know this is nostalgia.

Watching Ilvs and Wes relive their dugout years is like watching a time capsule either be opened prematurely, or sealed too late. Ilvis’s glockenspiel belongs in there, but first she’s going to play it one last time. Same with the slide show, and Wes’s fondness for Magnetic Fields. I, too, love Magnetic Fields, and think Magnetic Fields are forever…but the time for COVERING them with middling skill has already slipped away. Okay—maybe ONE more time, for old friends. “Maybe I should find a straight woman to live with,” muses Wes, a code for growing up. And if she hasn’t already, it’s probably time for Ilvs to trade in her tiger costume for a good camel coat.

*pronounced “Elvis,” an assumed name that Wes pesters her to explain, but she coyly refuses.
**Ages are estimated/averaged, not individually confirmed.

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A. L. Adams also writes monthly column Art Walkin’  for  The Portland Mercury, and is  former arts editor of Portland Monthly Magazine.

Read more from Adams: Oregon ArtsWatch  | The Portland Mercury

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