Monday, July 24, 2017

Tartuffe—Masque Alfresco—Greater Portland Parks

Feathers & Fluff

This classic Commedia dell’arte satire from the 1600’s by Moliere, updated, adapted and directed by Fayra Teeters.  It is playing at various outdoor settings in Beaverton, Hillsboro and Lake Oswego through August 27th.  For more information, go to their site at www.masquealfresco.com

This era in American political history will undoubtedly go down as the lowest point (to date) in our existence.  It is full of bullies, con-men, hoodwinkers, egotists and out-and-out, liars.  The Good News is that there is nowhere to go but Up.  And so, as we swim in the dregs, with the sharks, in the bottom of the barrel, we choose to absorb the vino and laugh at the whole proceedings.  After all, In Vino est Gigglas!

This play, done in sort-of period costuming (Nan Frederick), has been adapted in language (Fayra Teeters) to fit the above-mentioned era, not an easy task but it seems to fit into our palms like a well-greased glove.  To bastardize the Bard, “We are such stuff as [Nightmares] are made on, and our little life is rounded with a [deep coma].”

In this story, Orgon (Jonas D. Israel) is a very rich land-owner in Paris.  He rules it with his attractive, trophy-wife, Elmire (Athena McElrath) and his cranky Mom (Karen Kalensky).  The inheritors of said property, besides wife and Mom, are his rebellious son, Damis (KJ McElrath) and Orgon’s defiant daughter, Mariane (Sami Pfeifer), who is engaged to Valere (Erik Montague), a troubadour, of sorts.  They also have a rather outspoken, sassy maid, Dorine (Jessica Reed), who keeps poking her nose into family business.  And there is also the practical brother-in-law, Cleante (Rian Turner), who is also faithful to Orgon.

Into their lives arrives the unscrupulous, Tartuffe (Kenneth Dembo).  Taken in as a homeless creature, who had seemed to just need the basics in life, quickly proclaims himself a prophet and feels it’s his duty to save this unfortunate family (with the bulk of the change going to him).  Orgon falls for his ploy hook, line and sinker and willingly gives Tartuffe anything he desires.  He even offers his daughter in marriage to this “goodly” man.  But Tartuffe’s roving eye seems to fall onto Orgon’s wife, who spurns his advances, until she realizes it may be the way to revive her husband from his religious stupor.

To reveal more would spoil the ending.  But, let’s just say the Courts, via Loyal (KJ McElrath, again)), and the Law, care of an officer (Montague, again), are heavily involved in the climax.  Any resemblance to current affairs and personas is purely…intentional.  This is outrageous, physical comedy, akin to our own Vaudeville at times, and with audience participation throw in for good measure.  A side note, check out the McElrath’s other enterprise, along similar lines at http://mcelrathcabaret.com as they are a talented duo in their other, artistic life, as well.  

Teeters certainly knows her politics and the barbs come fast and furious and keep the audience a-titter.  Also kudos must be given to her for the use of a small, outdoor space and still keeping the story intact.  The costumes (Frederick), especially the women, are quite lovely and add to the success of the show.  The entire cast is obviously having fun.  I especially liked Reed as the saucy maid (who has an operatic voice, as well) and, as in the Bard’s plays as well, the servants (or “domestic engineers”) are usually the wise clowns of the piece.  And Dembo, as the title character, leaves no scene “un-chewed,” which is entirely appropriate with this character.  He’s a scream, as well as the rest of the cast, as this type of material is not easy to do but they pull it off with glee.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Visit to a Small Planet—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

Alien Perspective

The comedy by the famous political/historical writer, Gore Vidal, is directed by the equally famous, local actor/director, Tobias Andersen.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St., in Lake Oswego, through August 13th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

What would we look like now to an alien being from a totally foreign environment?  My guess he would take one view of our situations on Earth and conclude we weren’t worth bothering about, because we seemed hell-bent on self destruction, and would deduce that they found no intelligent life here!  In the late 1950’s, the time-frame of this story, it might look slightly more subdued than that.  But, nevertheless, we would still spell doom.

This play was made into a silly, worthless film many years ago starring Jerry Lewis and most of the political edge was removed for his antics.  The actual stage version had the brilliant Cyril Richard (remember Captain Hook from the Mary Martin, “Peter Pan”) in the lead role.  This time out, we have Jeremy Southard as Kreton, the alien from a faraway galaxy (or dimension).  He seems a cross between Dick Shawn, Paul Lynde and Jonathan Winters.  He is more subtle than Lewis and that is probably more the way Vidal saw it.

Anyway, as to the story, we have him landing in a typical, middle-class home of the era, ala an Ozzie & Harriet-type of family.  There is the hubby, a TV commentator, Roger (Todd Hermanson), and his sanitized wife, bedecked with pearl necklace and hoop skirt, Reba (Julie Elizabeth Knell).  Of course they have a perky daughter, just ripe for the 60’s rebellion era, Ellen (Melissa Sondergeld), and her country, farm-boy sweetie, Conrad (Paul Harestad).  And let us not forget the feisty, family cat, Rosemary (Dusty), who has some uncanny abilities of her own.

Of course, we also have to have the political connection, as their best friend is a General in the Army, the puffy, Tom Powers (Erik James), and his trusty, meek Aide (Kaleb Hood).  And also, to round out things, we have a mysterious stranger, Delton 4 (Ethan LaFrance), adding to the confusion.  Mix them all together and you have the beginnings of a scary new world.  But how to set things right again is the question.

It seems that Kreton is not unlike some of the aliens Star Trek envisioned, like the enigmatic “Q,” having no concept of human emotions or purpose.  Once the alien perspective is added to this concoction, then weaknesses, prejudices, and strengths are revealed and lessons can be gleaned, that is, if all survive.  For more information, tune in to this episode.  And you’ve probably never seen anything funnier that a military man with laundry and his future vision for it.

The story may be a bit dated but it does truly reflect that era, as it should be.  Andersen is an actor’s director and it shows in the cast he has chosen, they all epitomize the artificial roles that were pictured on the boob tube of what we were supposed to be like.  And his handling of the comic bits, rather than being zany, as Lewis portrayed them, are subtler and eerily more creepy that way, as if they were skirting around the truth.

Southard does well in keeping his character in check, as it could have been over-blown but works much better this way.  James, a season veteran, is perfect as the General and his comic bits with the washing machine are priceless.  This is a show for the whole family.  And, although a comedy, it does have some serious digs as to how we view things, as seen through an outsider’s eyes.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Homer’s, The Odyssey—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

Home is Where the Heart is

This classic Greek tale of the aftermath of the Trojan Wars from Homer is translated by Robert Fitzgerald and adapted & directed by Mary Zimmerman  It is playing at the Allen Elizabethan outdoor Theatre, downtown Ashland, through October 14 (in repertory).  For more information, go to their site at www.osfashland.org or call 800-219-8161.

The author, Thomas Wolfe, has famously said, “You can’t go home again.”  A bit of a misnomer, as you can find the “place” but not the “spirit” that it represents.  What is so important about finding home is that you are searching for your roots, your innocence, childhood in all its glory, no responsibilities.  It represents more than a place but a state of mind.  So when Odysseus (Ulysses) begin his search, after winning the Trojan Wars, nothing will stop him from getting back to his family, not even the gods, or a trip through the Underworld (Hades/Hell).  And so this journey will take us all from the depths of despair to the summit of joy, to rekindle, recreate, revive this long dormant sense of one’s true purpose.

It seems that on his home soil of Ithaca, his patient wife, Penelope (Kate Hurster) and her reactive son, Telemachus (Benjamin Bonenfant), are still awaiting his return after many years.  But certain laws and customs must be followed, one of which is that a woman can’t inherit property & goods of her husband so must re-marry in order to regain her status (shades of “Beauty and the Beast”).  So several suitors, (akin to Aussie tribesmen or Samurai warriors) are anxiously awaiting her answer to their proposals, chief among them is Etenous (Jon Cates).

Meanwhile Odysseus (Christopher Donahue) has found a patron in the goddess, Athena (Christiana Clark), who takes on several guises throughout the story to aid in his journey.  But other goddesse,s like Calypso (Amy Newman) and Circe (Miriam A. Laube), have more than a passing interest in him and want to keep this traveler all for their own.  Other gods, chiefly, the petulant Poseidon (Danforth Comins), have grudges against him and attempt to thwart his attempt to reach home.  And proud Zeus (Daniel T. Parker), the chief god, seems ambivalent to the whole proceedings.

He will have friends like Menelaus (Howie Seago), Alcinous (Armando McClain) and his daughter, Nausicaa (Britney Simpson), an old friend, Eumaeus (Richard Howard), et al. that will aid him on his sojourn.  Others, like the Cyclops (Parker, again), the Sirens, the suitors, et. al., will try to distract him from his mission.  Like all fables, lessons will be learned but at a cost.  And the old adage, “there’s no place like home,” will ring true.

The is a very complex tale but, being that it is told in a story-telling fashion, the simplest of settings can be the most elaborate of surroundings because of the some very talented people in creating the atmosphere for us and allowing us to participate, by filling in the blanks by the use of our imagination (for those of us who still employ that element, instead of relying on artificial means of forcing images into our head).  Zimmerman has a monumental task of both adapting for the stage and directing this extremely complex story for us and has done an outstanding job of both!

Another major artist to be touted is the choreographer of the Suitors’ and Naucicaa’s dances, Kirstin Hara.  They are a show in themselves and add much to the success of this production!  Another small but touching scene is when Odysseus reunites with his old dog Argos.  Although amusing, at first, as it is a puppet, it soon becomes very touching (for me because dogs have been my best friends throughout my life) and so this one hits that teary note for me.

The actors are all very strong.  Donahue, as the lead character, is unique in his portrayal because he underplays much of it, which is very convincing and compelling.  It allows the audience to infuse their own feelings into his plight and therefore becomes more personal for us.  Clark plays many guises of mortal beings and, with essentially no change in appearance except her own talent, transforms before your eyes into another persona.  And, Howard, the pro, always shines in any show he does here and is very moving as the old retainer of the hero.

I highly recommend this show but know that it is over 3 hours long so be patient (and comfortable) as it is worth the time.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.



The Ashland Experience:  OSF


I have experienced this unique company since the late 60’s, when I became a member of the acting company for two years.  Bill Patton and the Founder, Dr. Angus Bowmer, were prominent then.  I came back over the years then as an audience member.  And, over the last five years, as a reviewer.  Of course, it went through some growing pains, evolved and now is a first-class company (and Tony winner for regional theatre).  The OSF family has grown by leaps and bounds over these years.  One thing this company has (that some professional companies do not) is Warmth.  It is a feeling that, whether an actor, backstage artist, usher or audience, you feel as though you belong…they’re family.

The experience you have is not only that you are you seeing first-rate productions but, through tours of the facilities, backstage talks, green shows, et. al., you are participating in an unforgettable event.  And when you observe the talent involved of designers, administration, Tutor Guild and actors, you have to be impressed.  Just consider that a relatively small ensemble (compared to the number of roles demanded in these productions) not only have to be fine actors to play any age, but also have to sing, dance, play musical instruments, fence, do acrobatics, and many other skills, so you can be assured that these folks are the best of the best and this company can rival any in the world—bar none!  Amen.

Henry IV, Part Two—Ashland Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

“What Price Glory?”

This is part of the history canon of the Bard’s plays, directed by Carl Cofield.  It is playing at the Thomas Theatre in repertory through October 28th.  For more information, go their site at www.osfashland.org or call 1-800-219-8161.

The above title could easily reflect on the price of fame, in today’s market, as well, when one is catapulted into another frame of reference, another perspective, asking what sacrifices must be made in order to inhabit this world?  If left to our own devices, what existence would we choose and if, in a position of Power, what mantles must be shed in order to cope, to maintain, that “brave, new world?”  In Hal/Harry/Henry’s worlds, civic duty must take precedence over individual pleasure.  But we are such fragile creatures, do we not lose part of our humanity, our soul, in that transformation?  “Must give us pause.”

All the familiar pawns are here as in Part One but evolution/revolution is spreading. It seems that King Henry (Jeffery King) may be in charge of his own clan, the English, Warwick (Tyrone Wilson), Westmorland (Robert Vincent Frank), Prince John (Jeremy Gallardo), and Clarence (Alejandra Escalante).  But the Scot’s and Welsh families have their own ideas of who should be in charge.  Even Henry’s son, Hal (Daniel José Molina) is, in actuality, the Prince of Wales. But since all those clans are inter-related by marriage and birth, in some way, it makes for some sticky situations.

His opposers, including Hastings (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), Mowbray (Lauren Modica), Bardolph (Richard Elmore), and Northumberland are equally adamant as to their cause.  Then we have the Boar’s Head Tavern crowd of misfits, miscreants and motley, mischief-makers.  Mistress Quickly (Michele Mais), being the major domo there and her fellow imbibers (including Hal), are Sir John Falstaff (Ted Lange, the understudy) holding his own court, with the likes of Poins (Goodfriend, again), Bardolph (Frank, again), Peto (Modica, again), Doll Tearsheet (Escalante, again) and a Page (Yi Shostrom).  The scenes with these scene-stealers comprise the humor in the show.

The warring factions of both comedy and tragedy are too complicated to get into in any detail but know that this is the middle play/act and, like all trilogies, is not quite as interesting, like the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars series, but there are some gems within this.  My favorite and the show-stopper, as far as I’m concerned, is when Falstaff attempts to hire recruits for his army.  By their names alone you can deduce how desperate he is in garnering troops.  Shallow (Elmore, again) and Silence (Modica, again), country justices, along with Falstaff find the lowest of the low, including the repulsive, Mouldy (Kimberly Scott), the dumb ox, Bullcalf (King, again), the disgusting, Wart (Gallardo, again), the elusive, Shadow (Nemuna Ceesay) and the dimwit, Feeble (Robin Goodrin Nordli).  Comedy at its best!  

All these varying elements will eventually clash, some will die or be captured, and some to survive for the next installment in Henry V (next season).  Perhaps the saddest, cruelest and oddest of happenings is the breaking down of the relationship between Falstaff and Hal.  Can’t tell you more without revealing character devices.  As always, they are all super in playing multiple roles but Elmore, a very seasoned professional, as Shallow, truly shines!  And a positive boost to Lange, as he had to, at the last minute, fill in for one of the lead characters, Falstaff.  He may have had book in hand but he never wavered in his confidence when playing the character and this speaks volumes about the talent this actor possesses!  He got a well-deserved, rousing hand at curtain call, a tribute to his tenacity.

It is amazing the creative use of a small, essentially bare stage can belie in the hands of a clever craftsman, the director, Cofield.  Not only does he manage to keep things moving but also embraces the hundreds of small factions of characters and places into an understandable pattern.  A monumental task, extremely well done.

I recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.



The Ashland Experience:  Ashland Hills/Springs


If you are looking for a comfortable place to stay while visiting the Bard’s stories, I highly recommend the Ashland Springs rooms, (downtown Ashland, just feet away from OSF) with their secured parking lot.  There is also their Ashland Hills suites, about 3 miles South of the downtown area, which also has a pool and hot tub.  Both these establishments offer a complimentary breakfast buffet, including bagels, muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, waffles, sausage patties, hot & cold cereals, coffee and juices, et. al.  It certainly will enhance your experience in this great little town.  For more information, go to their site at www.ashlandhillshotel.com or call 855-482-8310.  And, as always, if you do choose to stay at one of their fine places, tell them Dennis sent you.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

“Tale as Old as Time”

This classic musical has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice and book by Linda Woolverton, is directed by Eric Tucker, music direction and arrangements by J. Oconer Navarro and choreography by Erika Shong Shuch.  It is playing at the Allen Elizabethan outdoor Theatre, downtown Ashland, through October 15 (in repertory).  For more information, go to their site at www.osfashland.org or call 800-219-8161.

As in all fairy tales, there is a moral to be learned, and this one is no exception:  To seek out Truth, wherever it is hidden, and the Beauty of an individual, by looking deeper than the surface.  As a Reward, Love will out in the end, if your course is True, and you speak from the Heart.  Such is the lesson to be gleaned here.

A few versions of this tale have been presented.  There is the very good musical, stage version by Disney based on his Oscar-nominated, animated movie.  There was also a TV, non-musical version of it some years back starring Klaus Kinski and Susan Sarandon.  But the best by far was the 1940’s, French version by Jean Cocteau.  And it is the only one to reflect the true message.  At the end (spoiler alert) when the Beast is transformed into the handsome Prince, Beauty is aghast and cries out, “Where is my Beast?!”  Folks, she fell in love with the Beast, as he was, therefore, no need to alter his appearance!

The musical is a lot more complicated than the original, short tale or any of its versions.  Belle (Jennie Greenberry), an eligible young lady of a village is being pursued by the biggest braggart in town, Gaston (James Ryen).  He and his faithful stooge, Le Fou (Kate Hurster) pretty well have the town under their thumbs.  That is except for Maurice (Michael J. Hume), an eccentric inventor and his lovely daughter, Belle.  But one day, on his way to the Fair, to sell his contraptions, Maurice gets lost and is trapped in a castle by the Beast (Jordan Barbour), who was once a Prince but has been turned into an animal because he lacked compassion toward a wandering traveler.  The only way to break the spell is to find someone who will love him just as he is.

If not, the transformation will be irreversible and he and his staff will fully become the objects they resemble.  There is the rotund clock, Cogsworth (Daniel T. Parker); his love interest, the operatic Mme. de la Grande Bouche (Britney Simpson), now a Wardrobe; the flighty, Lumiére (David Kelly), candle sticks; and his main squeeze, the sexy, Babette (Robin Goodrin Nordli), a feather duster; the matronly, Mrs. Potts (Kate Mulligan), a teapot; and her precocious son, Chip (Cayo Sharma), now a teacup.  When Beauty tracks her father down, she offers herself in exchange for him.

Now a prisoner herself, she must deal with the Beast and, with the help of his staff, she slowly changes his animalistic ways.  And he realizes, a caged bird does not sing, or love, so he must set her free.  In the end, Love wins out and the lesson may be, not to judge others by their outward appearance but look at what’s beneath.  The lyrics of the music enhance the story to an enormous degree, giving all the characters a full view of their feelings.

This is done in story-book fashion which allows the beautiful costumes (Ana Kuzmanic), the actors’ talents and, most importantly, the audience’s imagination, to participate in creating the tale.  Tucker manages to keep the play flowing by allowing the actors to illuminate the various settings in essentially the same physical atmosphere.  His vision of the Beast is also unique, as it is often played as a Lion but the story doesn’t say that, and so this beast has ram’s horns and resembles something out of Greek mythology.  And the show-stopping, “Be Our Guest,” is a delight in dance and music, as well as an outstanding cast of singers.

This is a happy experience for the whole family and to have it presented under the stars is an added bonus to the magic of the show.  As always, the cast is neigh-on perfect.  Greenberry is a lovely young lady, with a voice to match.  And her character is a proto-type to women’s rights, standing up to a male-dominated society, and putting a suitor in his place by commenting on who is the real beast here.  And, again, to tout that old adage, “there are no small parts…,” Jeremy Peter Johnson shines in the small role of, Monsieur D’Arque, the head of the asylum, as he struts and shakes his way about the stage, leaving no “scenery un-chewed.”

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.



The Ashland Experience:  Black Sheep

I am so happy to say my favorite restaurant has survived, as Susan, the owner, is retiring and left it in the hands of the Fates if it would continue.  Susan writes: 


“It is with great pleasurer and gratitude that I announce I have secured buyers for The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant!  I am honored to introduce the community to our new owners, Clarinda & John Merripen, who will be taking over management of the establishment at the end of July 2017 . . . so keep Flocking on . . .  here’s to another 25 years of The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant!  Long live The Black Sheep – Where – Where you Belong!

Cheers,
Susan Chester, Proprietor”


I have always enjoyed their food & drinks from the British Isles, as they are reasonably priced, a friendly atmosphere, especially Greg, who converses with you as if you were an old friend and Raquel, as charming as she is lovely and with a very impressive background in the hospitality industry, and a past favorite, Prairie, who was the initial reason I was a returning customer.

Also, so far, they are endeavoring to be open late for play-going customers.  This time out I tried their specialty, a pulled-pork pasty, with homemade coleslaw and potato salad and, of course, a Guinness to top it off.  Their special dessert was sweet concoction made with Earl Grey tea.  All of it first-rate and a tasty delight.  I highly recommend this place, just steps away from OSF on the plaza, look for the bright red door!  As always, if you do choose to visit, tell them Dennis sent you (and say “Hi” from me to any of the above mentioned folks).

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Romeo and Juliet Project—Enso Theatre Ensemble—SE Portland

“Star-Crossed Lovers”
The Romeo and Juliet Project—Enso Theatre Ensemble—SE Portland
“Star-Crossed Lovers”
This production is adapted from the Bard by Madeline Shier and Caitlin Lushington and directed by Lushington.  It is playing at The Shaking the Tree space, 823 SE Grant St., through July 9th.  www.ensotheatre.comFor more information, go to their site at

This classic play has been adapted for the stage many times, as well as film.  Among the best was the 1930’s one with Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer as the loves, Zefferelli’s with Lenard Whitney and Olivia Hussey and then the re-imagined film by Baz Lurman with Leonardo DeCaprio and Clare Danes.  And one reason that Shakespeare is so popular is that his stories/messages are universal, fitting any culture or age.  As proof, look at the astounding, modern-day musical of it, West Side Story.

And now we have this adaptation, which thrusts it forward into an alternate universe in this electronic age.  The production is done with modern dress and a minimalist set.  It relies on dance-like movements to aid the story and some beautifully stylized fight scenes, choreographed by Alwynn Accuardi, aided and mentored by, the best in the biz, in my opinion, Kristen Mun.  This is a fast-paced, very animated show clocking in at just under two hours.   The diverse, cross-gender casting has most them all playing two or three roles.

The story, in brief, for those of you who don’t know it, is that two feuding, wealthy families, the Capulets (Juliet, Tybalt, Nurse, et. al.) and Montagues (Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio, et. al.) have managed to keep an uneasy peace in their town of Verona.  That is until two of their young pups, Juliet (Amelia Hillery) and Romeo (Claire Aldridge) see, not an adversary across from them, but a human being.  And the fact that they both are in their teens and are fearless, they see nothing wrong in declaring their love.  But, unfortunately, the respective parents, Lady Capulet (Cyndi Rhoads) and Lord Montague (Ross Laguzza), are vigorously opposed to such a union, as is a rather violent cousin of the Capulets, Tybalt (Rhansen Mars), an expert swordsman, the Prince of Cats.

Friends of Romeo’s, Mercutio (Sky Nelson), a rather coarse, loud-mouth, semi-mentor of his and Benvolio (Peyton McCandless), a cousin, also see a problem in these star-crossed lovers’ union.  These  teens, with their raging hormones, are not without their supporters, though, as the worldly Nurse (McCandless, again) is Juliet’s confidant and go-between for them.  And there is Friar Laurence (Laguzza, again) a tutor of sorts to Romeo, who tries to help their plight which, instead, backfires.  But the Capulet’s have their own suitor in mind for their daughter, Paris (Mars, again), a rather vain young dandy. Needless to say this will not end well for anyone.  To witness the outcome, you must see it for yourself.  “What Fools these Mortals be!”

The staging, by Lushington, is particularly engaging.  The actors, at times, not only play different characters but also become part of the set and even a dream-like sequence.  The death scenes of Mercutio and Tybalt are not so much violent, as they reflect a surprise and even sadness in them, as to what they’ve caused because of their rashness and brashness.  It is a story of today’s age, as well, of intolerance and man’s continued inhumanity to his fellow man.  “When will they ever learn?”  A fitting coda to that query might be, in view of current situations, “Quote the Raven, ‘Nevermore!’”

Hillery, a high-schooler, does very well as Juliet and even is the right age for the part.  Aldridge, as Romeo, is equally good.  Both embodying expressively the angst of youth that leads to the tragic conclusion.  Nelson and Mars, as the explosive rivals, are both excellent, giving some fresh perspectives to these well-worn roles, showing that blind bravado can have painful conclusions.  And Laguzza shines in the role of the Friar, giving us a conflicted man who tries to lighten the path in a dark environment.  The whole cast does very well in making topical an ancient subject and doing justice to the poetic language, as well.

Only hiccup I see is that they are in a cavernous space and when the exchanges get loud, some of the lines are lost because of an echoing effect in a large, empty space.  Toning down those very vocal areas and being more articulate at those times might help.

A personal note, the art work on the walls this weekend, are original water-colors by Sarah Andrews, who has her own newly-minted theatre company, Crave Theatre.  Her works are haunting and a bit disturbing.  They suggest an influence of war, politics, pain and alienation and they are for sale.  Worth a deep look.  For more information on them, call 503-931-5664.

I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
.

Frankenstein—Modern Prometheans—E. Portland


“What a Piece of Work is Man…”

This new adaptation of the classic horror tale by Mary Shelley is adapted for the stage and directed by Paul Cosca.  It is playing at The Mister Theater, 1847 E. Burnside St., through July 2nd.  For more information, go to their site at www.modernprometheans.org or call 406-214-0695.

This famous tale from Shelley’s episodic novel has been adapted, spoofed and re-imagined many times for the screen.  Among the earliest is a silent one with Charles Ogle, as a crossed-eyed monster; then there is the famous (and still best) ones with Karloff as the creature; then a radio adaptation; Lee in Hammer’s take on it; a rather poor TV remake with Sarrazan as the creation; Corman’s cheapie; Gothic; Branagh’s with De Niro (great actor but can’t top Karloff in this); Burton’s animated, Frankenweenie, as well as Depp as Edward Scissorhands; The Bride, with Sting as the Doctor; the spoofs of Brooks,’ Young Frankenstein; the musical of Rocky Horror; and lately, the two Sherlock Holmes,’ of the American series and BBC’s mini-series, with the two actors alternating leads in a stage presentation, et. al.  Whew!

And now we have 5 actors (playing about 10 characters) on a mostly bare stage, spreading the story over several locations, with only minimum costumes changes and some clever lighting, to create the atmosphere.  Not only that, but the director and adaptor (Paul Cosca), also plays the title character of Dr. Victor Frankenstein!  I admit that when I agreed to see this, I was skeptical of this being successful as a stage presentation.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  The acting is quite good, the adaptation, although condensed somewhat, does capture the essence of the story, and Cosca manages the three major jobs very well.  It told in a story-telling fashion, which I like, in which the audience is employed to contribute their imagination to the process (something sadly lacking in today’s computerized landscape).

The tale should be familiar to anyone that has viewed any of the above films of the story.  But to give you a flavor of it, it has to do with a young boy, witnessing the death of his beloved mother, wishing he could forestall death and the degeneration process, so he becomes a doctor.  Somewhere along the line he loses his original focus and become obsessed with creating life itself.  He spurns those who love him including the love-of-his-life, the enchanting, Elizabeth (Nicole Rayner), his supportive father, Alphonse (Kraig Williams) and his gentle, best friend, Henry (Kyle Urban), as well as the blessings of the university.

And so he stitches together cadavers, and extracts a brain from a dying youth.  The Creature (Thomas Zalutko) does indeed live but doesn’t seem too happy to be existing in such an alien environment and so goes on a rampage.  Eventually he learns language and friendship from a blind man in the forest but his hideous looks frighten the rest of the household, so he must fend for himself, withdrawing to remote regions.  Victor traces his creation to have a showdown.  The Creature demands that Victor now create a mate for him, in exchange they will disappear forever.  If Victor fails, then he will wreck havoc on all of Victor’s loved ones.  I will stop there, as not to give away the climax, but know that it isn’t pleasant.

As I said, the cast is quite good with special kudos going to Cosca as the creator of Victor, as well as the script and production.  Probably the most difficult character to create, though, is the Creature, as one has to decide whether he is mad, or sad, or just terribly misunderstood.  It is never fully explained in the original story why the Creature chooses to kill (although in the Karloff depiction, it is because he has the brains from a madman).

Zalutko does a credible job of picturing him as a “stranger in a strange land,” who has no moral scope or training to give him direction.  And so, like a child, he has temper tantrums whenever he doesn’t get his own way.  The question then becomes, who is really the monster/villain of the piece, the parent/creator who produces a child, then abandons him to the elements to forge his own way, or the child/creature, who is forced to flounder in a primeval soup of conflicting conducts of behavior?!  It is a dilemma that you should decide.
I recommend this production.  If you choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.