Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Angry Brigade—Third Rail Repertory Theatre—SE Portland

Revolting

This dark comedy is written by James Graham and directed by Rebecca Lingafelter and Isaac Lamb.  It is playing at the Imago space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (just off Burnside), through April 15th.  (Parking in this area is difficult, so plan your time accordingly.)  For more information, go to their site at www.thirdrailrep.org or call 503-546-6558.

Either definition of the above word is appropriate—ugly/disgusting or new change.  You assume when people consider a violent revolt, they have tried more peaceful, diplomatic means of solving differences.  Not always so, of course.  Teens go through a rebellious stage in which authority (parents, teachers, et. al.) are the “old ways” of thinking and thus, the new guard, progressive ways of looking at things, is preferred by the Young.

We, in America, went through a revolution when we broke away from England.  Also, the Civil War can be considered such a revolution, too.  In the States, during the 60’s & 70’s we had the Sexual revolution, protests against the Viet Nam war and Civil Rights marches, etc.  “We shall overcome….”  America survived it all and came out changed in many ways because of them.  Europe had its share of conflicts, too, over the last several years.

But the year of this story is the early 1970’s in London, as a group of bombings occurred from a group only known as the “Angry Brigade.”  They seemed out to destroy anything that even smelled of wealth, conservative politics and the government, big business, religious groups, the military and Scotland Yard, any kind of authority.  They also taunted the police and its special, secret force that was bent on capturing them.

The fastidious Smith (Nick Ferrucci) was in charge of the operation, which consisted of the straight-laced, Henderson (Kerry Ryan), the free-spirited, Morris (Ben Tissell), and the newbie, Parker (Quinlan Fitzgerald).  Their strategy to catch the culprits was…to get inside their heads, think like them, read the same books, listen to the same music, interview witnesses/informants, find the patterns they had that woven into the established society, etc.  Meanwhile these terrorists were taunting the police with letters and phone calls (not unlike the infamous, Jack the Ripper).  Eventually these policing methods would succeed and lead to the gang’s downfall.

But the second half of the story, covering the same time period, is told from the Brigades’ POV.  There is the leader of the group, John (Ferrucci, again), and his main squeeze, Hilary (Fitzferald, again) and two recruits, Anna (Ryan, again) and her main guy, Jim (Tissell, again).  Not surprisingly, they have had troubled childhoods with stern/abusive parents, being sent away to schools with strict discipline and felt they hadn’t had a chance to “sow their wild oats.” (One restrictive religion here encourages their Youth to spend the time to let off steam in the big cities, then, if convinced that is for them, they follow it.  If not, they return home and become part of the religious way of life.  Smart move.)

Why did they use the methods they did, bombings, to get their message across, is unclear.  But they wanted their message to be noticed and felt a loud bang would awaken the world, as it had in other countries.  Unfortunately, it’s true, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” and so, the only way they felt they would get noticed was…to make noise.  Can’t tell you more without revealing discoveries the audience should make.  And so, it’s in your lap, now.

The remarkable thing about this production is the style.  The first act, with the police, resembles a Monty Python skit, or the silent films’ Keystone Kops.  It is definitely played for laughs and, although a serious subject, it works, as the ingenuity of this motley crew eventually tracks down the culprits (perhaps, not unlike, Inspector Clouseau –Peter Sellers, as inept as he was, he usually got his man).  To offset this, the second half, although having its imaginary moments, is mostly serious, perhaps pointing out the enormous gap between generations, perspectives and ways of thinking and getting things accomplished.

These attitudes seem to be prevalent throughout the world and history.  It is said that if we haven’t solved the mistakes of the Past, we are bound to repeat them.  If we continue to judge others by our own views, we are doomed to be similarly judged by future generations.  Best choice of all, perhaps, don’t judge, just listen.

The cast of four is amazing, playing over a dozen characters.  It must have been a nightmare offstage as to, “who am I this time.”  All of them are pros and it’s evident in the approach they make in adopting other characters, usually with only bits of costumes to represent physically the other roles.  Kudos to them, and the directors, for keeping this on track and making sure the story comes through all the antics.  Also, great job by Peter Ksander, as the scenic designer.  His collapsible set is unique and is relevant to the themes of the play.

I recommend this play but, keep in mind, it is adult subject matter.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, March 20, 2017

God of Carnage—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

“Oh, What Webs We Weave!”

This dark “comedy of manners without the manners!” is written by Yasmina Reza and directed by Antonio Sonera.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego, through April 9th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

“Are we ever interested in anything but ourselves?” one of the characters asks in this play.  And it seems to sum up, not only their state of being, but also trends that seem to be permeating our society at present:  Case in point, Selfie’s, the act of taking a picture of yourself and sending it on to others, could anything be more self-indulgent?!  Texting:  The act of typing a message to someone, instead of actually calling them on the phone, or visiting them, and speaking to them in person.  Video Games:  Playing on them for hours on end, instead of enjoying Nature or live human beings in the outside world.  The so-called progressive electronic age, instead of bringing people together, is actually pulling people apart.

And so it is in this story, in part, as Alan (Don Alder), the head of a pharmaceutical company, which seems to be on the shady side, is constantly on his cell phone, as a crisis is brewing all around him.   He, and his wife, Annette (Sarah Lucht), are at another couple’s home, Michael (David Sikking) and his wife, Veronica (Marilyn Stacey), trying to iron out a dispute regarding their sons.  It seems that Alan and Annette’s son, Ben, has knocked out a couple of teeth of Michael and Veronica’s son, Henry, for reasons not terribly complicated for kids but balloons into a major incident with the parents.

Some of the contributing factors in this pow-wow are, one of the characters gets sick on possibly some homemade food she had been served; a hamster, of one of the children, has been released in the wild, possibly to certain death; a drug that has been taken by Michael’s mother, might be tainted; some collectable items become soiled; and, the aforementioned cell phone of Alan’s, disrupt the proceedings.  What kids might consider part of growing up, is blown out of proportion by grown-ups to the point that they are tending to revert back to child-like behavior themselves.

But you need to see this for yourselves in order to appreciate/identify with (or not) those that should be our mentors/models and teachers of children, on how to behave as human beings.  “Lord of the Flies,” a book and movies of some years ago, traces a group of boys marooned on a desert island and, as time passes, how they emulate what they have observed of adult behavior, which is deadly and frightening.  “What you sow, so shall you reap,” might apply to both these stories.

This is an exceptionally professional cast, as all four of these actors have been active in the theatre arts for some years.  Like a roller-coaster, they traverse the bumping up and downs of marriage, parenting and relationships, railing against the gods for the fate life has dealt them but unable to lift one finger to help themselves.  These pros find the right balance of rage and silence to effectively play the scenes.  Alder, the self-absorbed businessman, having an affair with his phone (I’ve know many like him) is spot-on.  Lucht, as his luckless wife, a step way from despair, plays well the sadness in her life.  Sikking, as the seething volcano on the point of explosion, is super in his depiction of an unhappy man, possibly longing for a new start in life.  And Stacey, as his long-suffering wife, breaks your heart, as she sees the light in this darkness, amidst chaos, but has no way of reaching it on her own.

Sonera has chosen well his cast and together they have created a deceptively dark but slyly amusing production on how not to be an adult.  And, have to mention John Gerth’s simple but cleaver set, as it explains much about the characters in the set props and yet allows them plenty of room to explore their play-ground.  He is one of the best set designers in the Portland area and I’m always pleased to view his onstage artistry.

Oh, one word of warning, you may not want to be wearing any expensive clothing if you sit in the front row, but it depends on how far the…venom spews.  I do recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Playhouse Creatures—CoHo Productions—NW Portland

Age of Discovery

This journey to the Past, for women in the theatrical arts, is written by April De Angelis and directed by Alana Byington.  It is playing at their space, 2257 NW Raleigh St., through April 8th.  (Parking on weekend nights is a major challenge in this area, partly due to construction projects, so plan your time accordingly.)  For more information, go to their site at www.cohoproductions.org or call 503-220-2646.

It wasn’t so many years ago that women finally gained some rights, e.g., to vote, inherit property, and even be part of the working class of people (although salary differences between them and men is still in dispute and sexual abuse/harassment is still an issue).  But, a couple hundred years ago, these signs appeared on many barroom and rooming house doors in America—“no dogs or actors allowed!”  So women, choosing the acting profession, had a double whammy.

In Shakespeare’s time, and before, they weren’t even allowed onstage (young men, whose voice had not yet change by puberty, had to play female parts in plays).  Those that did break these social and legal codes were often considered “tarts.”  Men even felt compelled to treat them as such and even watch them undress in their dressing rooms.  Nowadays, many theatres engage in cross-gender (as well as cross-cultural and age) casting.  But there were a handful of women then who dared to cross that imaginary line and appear onstage, because with the amount of make-up and wigs and elaborate costumes the characters wore, who could tell the difference?

Into this world we are thrust.  Doll (Jacklyn Maddux) begins by reminiscing with us about the days of the old, disused theatre she occupies, which was a vibrant place of activity.  She herself was only a “spear-carrier” and scene-changer or dresser for the company but got to know the cast very well.  There was the grand dame of the theatre world, Mrs. Betterton (Lorraine Bahr), also married to the boss, playing the lead females, like Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth.  She was considered the expert on the acting styles, various gestures and expression relaying different emotions (the silent film from the early 1900’s reflected this style, too).  She is onstage for the sake of Art itself, the Muse that drives performers.  But she was not without a softer side, giving people chances and imparting her techniques to them for their benefit.

Also, part of this world, are Mrs. Farley (McKenna Twedt, also co-producer) a bit of a snob and doing the job to attract the attention of men, a springboard to more mercenary goals.  Mrs. Marshall (Brenan Dwyer, also co-producer) is a more seasoned actor but is doing it for the money.  She is outspoken, a hard outer shell, exposing little mercy for others.  Nell Gywn (Dainichia Noreault) does come from the streets, doing “the nasty” with men for money.  She has zero experience on the stage but has a street savvy that protects her from falling completely on her face.  In short, she’s a survivor and ultimately breaks all the stage rules to discover a new way of entertaining onstage.

Then there is the musician/actor (Samie Pfeifer) who plays many instruments (and some offstage parts) but having no lines.  She is integral to the show, especially for the music she has composed for it.  An unspoken bit of something that speaks to the soul.  They all have their moments in the spotlight and they do shine!  More I cannot tell you without being a “spoiler,” but the journey is far from smooth and the outcome, still to be decided by future generations.  Note that almost all the ensemble onstage and behind the scenes is female and, according to CoHo’s Artistic Director, Philip Cuomo, people we can learn from, as to their professional methods.  The set by Kaye Blankenship is well-imagined, costumes by Jessica Carr, beautifully authentic, and fights by Kristen Munn, well-executed.  And, of course, the director, Byington, who cleverly has pieced it all together into a coherent story.

Kudos to the ladies of the “boards” and those that support them, and I would be remiss in not mentioning two prime contributors, in monies, of the “fairer” sex, Ellen Bye and the amazing, Ronni Lacroute.  I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lydia—Milagro—SE Portland

Borders With Shame

The Northwest Premiere of this drama is written by Octavio Solis and directed by Kinan Valdez.  It is playing at their space, 525 SE Stark St. (just off Grand Blvd.), through April 8th.  (Parking in this area is very difficult so would plan on ample time to find a space.).  For more information, go to their site at www.milagro.org or call 503-236-7253.

In E. B. White’s terrific book about King Arthur and Camelot, “The Once and Future King,” Merlin changes young Wart (later, Arthur), into an Eagle so that he can soar above all the earth.  In his flying he notes that lands have a lovely, patchwork design, animals run free and mingle with each other, and that there are no borders from the sky-view.  Only people build borders.  And, if borders, or walls, between lands/people are built, then freedom is restricted and the opportunity to intermingle with neighbors is considerably hampered.  In our Constitution it states that all men are created free…and justice for all.  Somehow, in this day and age, that sentiment has been considerably muddied.

Pope Francis has said that we should be building bridges between peoples, not walls, so that we can better understand the world in which we live and those that dwell on it.  If we create barriers around our country, based on ethnicity and religion, are we not dishonoring our forefathers who escaped an oppressive regime for similar reasons and found America?!  If we create a barrier around a land, how long will it be before we build a wall around ourselves and our feelings of compassion and love, keeping others at bay…or has that already begun?

Into the beginnings of this world, in the 1970’s in Texas town bordering on Mexico, is thrust the Flores family, themselves immigrants from Mexico.  There is the Papa, Claudio (Tony Green), who is a drunk, abusive to his kids and has cornered himself off from their world.  There is Mama, Rosa (Nurys Herrera), who has been sequestered from her husband’s love for a long time and must, almost solely, tend to her family’s needs.  There is the older brother, Rene (Rega Lupo), who has “trouble” as his middle name, as his idea of a good time is “homo-bashing” and drinking.  And the younger boy, Misha (Matthew Sepeda), the sensitive one, who wants to be a writer, a poet and has a special fondness for his sister, Ceci (Maya Malán-Gonzáles), who has been brain-damaged from a mysterious accident, never fully explained.

Into this world are also a cousin, Alvaro (Ricardo Vazquez), who once was a soldier fighting in Nam, now a border guard returning illegal aliens to Mexico.  It is, at best, a dysfunctional family.  Into this world appears Lydia (Marian Mendez), who will become a sort of “spiritual catalyst,” catapulting this family into an awakening that will either drive them deeper into their pits they have dug for themselves and borders that have constructed, or free them, forcing the “dirty laundry” to be displayed for all to see.  The one wild card in this whole arrangement is that Ceci is able to expose her true thoughts and feelings to the audience many times throughout the story, in which she is no longer stifled because of her infirmary, but is able to soar above it all and in a language which only Lydia seems able to understand.

To tell you more would ruin discoveries that an audience should make but, be aware, it is a frank and gut-wrenching journey, in which one will be moved, perhaps disgusted, but ultimately exposed to a raw truth which had been festering like a boil for a long time.  This event forces an awaking, perhaps rude, but necessary for a family to move forward.  It does not mean, necessarily, that all will live “happily-ever-after” but, perhaps, hopefully…ever after.

Valdez has pulled no punches when telling this story and his actors, all well cast, also seem up to the challenge of pulling out all the emotional stops when relating this painful saga of family angst.  Mendez does well in portraying the enigmatic, Lydia, always keep us guessing as to her motives and background.  Green, a frequent and welcome actor on the boards of theatre, is very effective as a volcano with a soft spot.  The rest of the family, consisting of Vazquez, Herrera, Lupo and Sepeda are spot-on as they present a roller coaster of emotions in their characters.

And special kudos to Malán-González in the dual roles of the severely injured, Ceci, and her more verbal counterpart.  She is extraordinary as an actor, as both incarnations are equally exceptional!  Hope to see more of her on the stage.  Also, it is quite a difficult lighting challenge but Katelan Braymer, the designer, is up to the test and does quite an amazing job of keeping everything straight for us, as the story frequently jumps from reality, to dream world, to the past and back to the present.  Kudos to her, as well.

Also, many theatres across the Nation are involved with the Ghostlight Project, letting them be a beacon for all those wishing a safe haven, a sanctuary:   http://dennissparksreviews.blogspot.com/2017/01/ghostlight-projectportland.html

I do recommend this show but be aware it is very adult and frank in presentation.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bronte—Bag & Baggage Productions—Hillsboro, OR

Three Classic Sisters

This tale of the Bronte family is written by Polly Teale and directed by Michelle Milne.  It is playing at the Brookwood Library, 2850 NE Brookwood Parkway in Hillsboro, through March 19th.  For more information, go to their site at www.bagnbaggage.org or call 503-345-9590.

I admit I knew very little about the Bronte’s before I saw the show and barely knew the novels they wrote, or anything about their history.  A friend of mine, Christine, who hails from Yorkshire and had been to the house, also didn’t know a lot about them.  It seems their stories and histories may still be as reclusive as they were as a family.  I now know, from seeing this play, a lot more about them, their family and how they created their stories.

A personal note:  The sisters talk often about the drive, the need to create, write, as if it were a type of obsession.  It is.  I can attest, having written some plays and stories myself, the Muse of Artists is a very demanding being.  An Artist often lives vicariously, always observing, as if looking at Life from the outside.  When they create, it is a kind of validation that they were indeed upon this Earth.  It represents a sort of legacy, perhaps, for a life not really lived in the “normal” sense of the word.  They are loners and their world/reality is inside them.

Such is the existence of the three Bronte sisters.  There is the somewhat bossy, Charlotte (Cassie Greer), the eldest and most well-known of them.  Her book, “Jane Eyre,” is considered one of the great, gothic novels.  The polite, Anne’s (Jessi Walters) writings were not as well known and she traveled outside their home more, often with their roguish brother, Branwell (Joey Copsey).  And Emily (Morgan Cox), the author of “Wuthering Heights,” considered a classic romance, was the most reclusive of the three, very private, and would be considered a pessimist.  Their mother died when they were very young.  And they lived most of their lives with their father, Patrick (Peter Schuyler), a man of the cloth and rather strict.

They also grew up in a society where they were required to wear very uncomfortable undergarments and hoop skirts, making movement and sitting rather awkward.  Emily, though, to her credit, refused such trappings and so wore more comfortable attire, without these restrictions.  Relationships with the opposite sex was also very restrictive and had to be chaperoned.  “Passion” was not a word that was casually used, but their writing certainly exposed those yearnings, e.g., Cathy (Jenny Newbry) for Heathcliff (Copsey, again) or Eyre (Greer, again) for Rochester (Schuyler, again).

Also, for the times, published writings were not considered appropriate for females, so they had to adopt male counter-parts initially before their books could be published.  The only accepted professions for women were servants, nannies, nurses, tutors/teachers or governesses.  Anne and Charlotte tried some of these and so their novels reflect them.  They were also poets in which they could freely express themselves.  Their brother, possibly because of living in their shadows his whole life, eventually turned to drugs, alcohol, whoring and gambling as his solace.  Their father had encouraged them all their lives to read, in which they discovered faraway places and a larger world and people that they then incorporated into their writings.

They all died before they were forty and it is rumored that Charlotte altered and/or destroyed some of her sisters’ writings after they had passed on.  Only one of them, Charlotte, was married briefly for a time toward the end of her life.  Most of what they knew of their world and passions were from their imaginations and so, to this day, modern readers are still captivated by these musing of theirs.

This production was originally to be staged in a larger venue but, because of circumstances beyond their control, was re-imagined as a promenade-style (the audience travels with the actors to various locations within the library, as they tell their story) type of theatre in a library.  This may have been a blessing in disguise, as it works beautifully.  Milne takes us on a tour of books as backgrounds and allows our imaginations, as well, to soar with the actors, to this olden time in history and to classic literature.  Bravo to her and her cast!

This could not have been easy for the cast as they are mingling with the audience, sometimes only a breath away, but they are all pros and it shows.  All of them play multiple roles and/or time periods in their upbringing and so add to the complexity of their performances.  Again, Greer, cements my estimation in her as one of the best actors in the area, as she is super in playing this multi-faceted character of Charlotte.  Walters, another regular with this company, does her usual fine job as the peacemaker of the bunch.  Cox is intriguing as the most secretive of the sisters, letting you feel her disappointment with the world at large.

Copsey is full of bravado, playing with gusto the most animated of the family, as well as other characters.  Likewise, for Schuyler, with his myriad of creations, all well done.  And Newbvry, as the fictional women in their lives, lets you feel the freedom from reality and sanity that gives vent to the sisters’ Imaginings.  And, not to forget, Tylor Neist, as the background violinist, playing music from this period.  It’s a welcome addition to the success of this show.  Also Melissa Heller, with her appropriate period costumes, adds to the atmosphere of the piece.

I recommend this play but you should get your tickets soon, as they are almost sold out for the run.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Feathers and Teeth—Artists Repertory Company—SW Portland

“Here There Be Monsters!”

This dark comedy in the horror genre is written by Charise Castro Smith and directed by Dámaso Rodriguez (Artists Rep.’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, SW Alder St. & 16th Ave., through April 2nd.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org or call 503-241-1278.

Well, now one is stepping into one of my favorite genres to read and watch, the horror/fantasy genre.  The story has some relationship to one of the short segments in Stephen King/George Romero’s film, “Creepshow,” in which there is a mysterious trunk in the basement, which just might have something unholy living in it.  Also, it reminds me of the Jodie Foster film of some years ago, “The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane,” in which she wasn’t just the sweet little thing you thought her to be.  Good references to make if you are seeing this play.

As far as people’s seeming fascinating with this genre and the best way to present it, Ray Bradbury (my favorite author), may have said it best in a magazine article some years ago entitled, “Death Warmed Over,” in which he postulates that, the best way to scare people is to never fully reveal the horror in a story or film, because what a reader/audience can imagine is far worse than anything a writer/filmmaker can show.  It is simply, the Fear of the Unknown.  Also, when, or if, it is conquered, an audience/reader can then translate that to their battles in overcoming their own demons.

Val Lewton, from the 40’s & 50’s filmmaking, was one of the best apostles of this method, using only sounds and shadows to convey terror.  And Hitchcock thought throwing in humor at times into suspense films gave the audience a needed time to recharge their batteries for the next scare.  The original film of Carpenter’s, “Halloween,” is a great example Bradbury’s theory, as when it was first shown on television, Portland opted to ban the film from their stations because it was too bloody.  In reality, there is only a small trace of blood at the beginning and never used again.  Also, the villain is masked in most of the film, again relying on an audience’s imagination to fill in the horror, as well as the blood.  This play has almost all of those classic elements.

And so, to begin this dark fairy tale, my clever children, as you are all nestled in your favorite chair or in bed:  Once Upon a Time there was a fair maiden, named, Chris (Agatha Day Olson)…well, to be honest, she may have been a “maiden” but she was anything but fair, as she was a bratty little teen.  And she lived in a giant castle…really a simple, suburban home in the Mid-west of the 70’s…where she lived with her rigid father, Arthur (Darius Pierce)…actually a bit of a milk-toast…and her beauteous mother, Carol (Sara Hennessy)…semi-step-mom, really, as they weren’t married and her real mother, Ellie (Sarah Taylor) died of cancer.

Anyway, they all lived peacefully…Not…in their abode until the day, daddy dearest, ran over a dragon…well, anyway, something nasty in their driveway, an animal, presumably, with feathers and teeth!  A  knight was soon to the rescue…actually, a neighbor boy, a cub scout, Hugo (Dámaso J. Rodriguez), with a thick, Germanic accent…and together they plotted to rid themselves of the evil—that is, until the creature (Nelda Reyes) seemed to be communicating with them.  A warning, though, if you are out to slay dragons, best be sure of who/what they are.  And, as most fairy tales end, they all lived happily ever after…and if you believe that, I got a bridge I can sell ya!

Well, obviously I can’t tell you much about the plot, as it has many twists and turns, and just when you thought you had it figured out, it twists again once more.  This is a grand story, fitting for a place in horror history.  And Rodriguez has a sterling cast for it that rides that thin balance between fright and frivolity.  Also, the visuals/graphics (designer, Andrés Alcalá) are super and added to the success of the production.

Olson has certainly grown up considerably, both physically and in character development, since her time as Helen Keller in their “The Miracle Worker.”  She certainly takes charge of the scenes here and relishes in them.  Hennessy, too, traverses a whole range of emotions and is equally convincing in portraying these horrific developments.  Pierce does a grand job of finding just the right balance of dark humor, coupled with genuine terror and playing a rather ineffectual, father image.  Young Rodriguez does a fine job of playing this oddly, heroic character but with a sense of befuddlement, and it works.

One comment about the script is that this is such a complicated story with many twists, as mentioned, the actors need to be sure that all the plot elements are clear.  At times, enunciation was a bit muddy, so best be aware of concentrating on the clarity of the story at all times.

I recommend this show but, be aware, that it does have horror as a theme and, although well offset with humor, still might be not suitable for everyone.  If you do choose to see the play, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Normal Heart—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland

“Love is Love is Love is Love…”

This classic drama about the AIDS crisis of the 80’s is written by Larry Kramer and directed by Jason A. England.  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave., just off Lombard (limited parking in the Church lot across the street), through March 26th.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

The AIDS epidemic could have been greatly reduced when it became apparent that we had a crisis on our hands in the early 80’s.  But since it only seemed to be spread in the Gay community, then it was swept under the carpet like so much dust.  It was also a life style that much of society was not prepared to recognize, lest they be deemed a “closet” Gay.  The same held true for politicians and the government when trying to find monies and support.  I suppose they figured if you just closed your eyes to it, it would go away.

Also, there were those that felt that being Gay was a disease and could be cured by prayer and pain (just recently a “camp” leader was sentenced to prison for running such a place).  Some in high government offices still believe this is true.  And there were the extreme “Bible-thumpers” that believed this was a punishment by God toward Gays for sinning against him.  These holier-than-thou personages picked and chose passages from the Good Book that fit their own belief system and then tailored that toward their own personal agenda.  They must have forgotten the passages that read, “Judge not, lest ye be judged!” or “Love thy neighbor!”

But, back again to the 80’s.  It seems that Ned (Marvin Gray), an outspoken writer with the NY Times, has noticed that many of his friends are getting ill with a disease that the medical profession, including Dr. Brookner (Jennifer Clevenger), is unidentified and, therefore, cannot be treated by conventional methods.  He also notices that it seems to be hitting just those that lead a Gay lifestyle, like his friend Bruce (Michael J. Teufel), a V.P. of a bank and Mickey (Ronald A. Jorgensen), a Health writer for the Times.  All Gay but only Ned is “out.”

Ned enlists the aid of his straight brother, Ben (David Alan Morrison), a lawyer, to work on the legal end of things but he won’t commit to putting his name as a supporter of their cause.  Ned also forms a committee with his friends, Tommy (Greg Shilling) and Grady (Josiah Green), to solicit funds and spread the word.  The furthest they can get with the mayor’s office is a basement-room meeting with one of his assistants, Hiram (Kris Wallsmith), also a “closet” Gay, but with only minor success.  Meanwhile, Ned has also met the love-of-his-life in Felix (Johnnie Torres), who may become part of the statistics in the long run.  The story is an emotional roller-coaster and a gut-wrenching experience and should be seen/heard to get the full picture.

It should be noted that the Theatre Arts have created a sanctuary in their ongoing Ghostlight Project for all those who seek a safe haven from persecution:  http://dennissparksreviews.blogspot.com/2017/01/ghostlight-projectportland.html  https://www.facebook.com/TheatreReviewsByDennisSparks/   Also there is the Cascade Aids Project for those wanting to volunteer, just talk, get tested and/or donate to the Cause:  www.cascadeaids.org

The performances of all these actors are searing and leave one with no refuge to hide from the experience and responsibility that is presented.  “Attention must be paid!”  The director has created a first-rate cast and left “no stone unturned” in reaching for one’s very essence, and then pulling it forward so that the dilemma is fully realized.  Every one of these actors is fully vested in the message of getting the word out and it shows in their “performances.”  I believe we all have the God-given right to Live as we choose and be Happy.  In this day and age, those rights seem to be diminishing, and so we should be vigilant to any restrictions placed on us that are simply prejudicial because of our beliefs, cultures, sexual orientations, et. al.  We are all human but we should also try to be humane, as well.

I recommend this show but, be aware, it is much more than entertainment, as the subject matter is heart-breaking and deeply personal.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.