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Originally published Friday, August 2, 2013 at 5:07 AM

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Good bets for summer theater in Seattle

There are some shows running now and soon at local theaters you may have overlooked — an improv evening based on Seattle history, a revue of Tom Lehrer songs, and more.

Seattle Times theater critic

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Up and running, or opening soon, are a variety of summer-theater diversions you may have overlooked — a comic improv take on local history, a revue of satirical song, an interactive outdoor romp for families and an adult musical that takes you back to the Roaring ’20s: Here’s the scoop:

“Skid Road”

Now celebrating its 30th year making improv mirth, Unexpected Productions is reaching back to the 19th-century annals of Old Seattle for their new show.

With suggestions gleaned from the audience, the cast concocts scenes from the seamier side of Seattle history, when “prostitutes, profiteers and degenerates” flocked to the fledgling burg in its early days.

Some historical figures putting in cameos: Arthur Denny, who led the pioneering Denny Party and became the new city’s wealthiest citizen; Mary Ann Conklin (aka Mother Damnable), madam of a classy brothel; and David S. “Doc” Maynard, the city’s first physician, Indian agent and justice of the peace.

This is not a history lesson for children. The show promises a “foul-mouthed, rougher-than-life” take on the gritty origins of our city, where “criminals and drunkards schemed, connived, fought and yet still somehow managed to create a city.”

And what was the actual Skid Road? The street that is now Yesler Way, but began as a route sawmills used to roll and bump logs down from the hills to Pioneer Square.

Through Aug. 10 at Market Theatre, Seattle; (800-838-3006; www.unexpectedproductions.org).

“The Adventures of Owl & Pussycat”

More suited to an all-ages crowd, this romp by the theater simple troupe mashes up poetry, songs, puppets and sassy humor to act out what happened “between the lines” of a famed Edward Lear poem — the one about a cat and an owl who take off together on a seafaring adventure in “a beautiful pea green boat.” Participation is encouraged, with actors and audience brainstorming to complete the tale.

The show is offered free (with cookies) at 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at Carl English Botanical Gardens at the Ballard Locks. Also 1 p.m. Aug. 11 at Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park in Kent, and Aug. 18 at West Seattle’s Westcrest Park (www.theatersimple.org).

“The Wild Party”

Decadence, 1920s-style, is the subject of Joseph Moncure March’s book-length 1928 poem, “The Wild Party.”

When it came out the rhymed narrative was, literally, banned in Boston for its depiction of a licentious vaudevillian couple who throw a bash that ends in an eruption of jealousy and murder.

Recently, the tale was revisited by cartoonist Art Spiegelman (who illustrated a reprint of March’s book), and by composers Michael LaChiusa and Andrew Lippa, who each based stage musicals on it.

Sound Theatre Company presents Lippa’s version of “Party,” which employs jazz, gospel and vaudeville-style tunes.

Thurs.-Aug.25 at Seattle Center Armory Theatre (800-838-3006; www.soundtheatrecompany.org).

“Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”

Arne Zaslove’s revue of the tongue-in-cheek songs by Tom Lehrer debuted last November, and has returned in a spiffed-up version playing in Fremont.

A four-member cast performs an array of Lehrer’s parodic odes, which shrewdly and humorously mock American politics and culture of the Cold War era — including “Hanukkah in Santa Monica,” “Smut,” “National Brotherhood Week” and “Send the Marines.” The show runs for two more weekends at West of Lenin theater space.

Through Aug. 11 at West of Lenin, Seattle (800-838-3006; www.westoflenin.com) .

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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