Friday, September 22, 2017

Human Noise—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

Tortured Souls

This avant-garde rendering of staged stories by Raymond Carver is directed, choreographed and designed by Jerry Mouawad (co-founder of Imago) and produced by Carol Triffle (co-founder of Imago).  It is playing at their space, 17 SE 8th Ave., just off Burnside (street parking only, so plan your time accordingly), through September 30th.  For more information, go to their site, www.imagotheatre.com or call 503-231-9581.





The fleeting spaces between our ears/loins/veins

Is only so much fodder for the burning emptiness we call Life.

We cling to breath, wringing out the last vestiges

Of memories in the explosive strands of what once was,

And can never be again.

We disconnect in imaginative ways,

Passing others like ships on a foggy night, seeing figures,

But never really knowing which ones are the phantoms.

We grope/gripe/grovel

Love/hate/search

For the something we deserve, we demand,

Just out of reach of our understanding.

It is in this moment

We begin again.

To review many Imago shows in the conventional ways seems downright rude and unsatisfying.  I believe they never mean for us to pick through a production with inadequate words but to go with the flow of kinetic energy that dominates their works.  They mean for us to feel and, in doing so, connect with a deeper understanding of our worlds and what makes us tick.

But for the conventional sorts, there are four stories here, which all have similar connective tissues.  The first, “Neighbors,” involves one couple, Bill (Michael Streeter) and his wife, Arlene (Carol Triffle), who are to cat-sit for their neighbors, Jim (Nathan Wonder) and Harriet (Danielle Vermette), who will be out of town vacationing for an indeterminate length of time.  But Bill and Arlene’s lives somehow become strangely intertwined by the lives of these people, and they seem to become absorbed into the fabric of their neighbors’ existence.

The second story, “A Serious Talk,” involves two exes, Burt (Nathan Wonder) and Vera (Danielle Vermette) who seem drawn to each other during the holidays, in this case, Christmas.  They can’t seem to stay away from each other and yet are destructive toward one another. They cling to and tear at each other, often at the same time.

The third episode, “Gazebo,” a couple who manage a run-down motel, Holly (Emily Elizabeth Welch) and Duane (Bryan Smith), seem to be at the end of their ropes, as they have both become drunks and have a love/hate relationship.    Duane has had an affair with one of the maids, Juanita (Sara Fay Goldman) and although it seems to be over, he really can’t forget her.  The most telling moment of the union (and my favorite of all these stories) is when Holly recalls a time meeting an old couple on a farm and the tale of them and their Gazebo.  It is the missing piece of this jigsaw puzzle.

And, lastly is the poem, “Torture,” which again, has two lovers, Wonder and Goldman in South America, who are not good for each other, and they know it, but can’t seem to keep their hands off each other, either.  All these stories have broken people and relationships who seem to be trying to reinvent themselves and become something they aren’t.  The human condition is like that, it just doesn’t give up.

It should be mentioned, too, that Mouawad and Triffle both have movement/dance heavily involved with their shows, which simply adds to the depth and pleasure of experiencing them.  I don’t pretend to understand all the purposes of the motions but I sense that it works on a deeper level in appreciating the pieces and it succeeds in this production, too, thanks to Mouawad’s leadership.  Every one of the actors is fully vested in their portrayals and I believed the plight of every one of them.  The characters are all very human, flawed perhaps, but identifiable.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cabaret—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego

"All the World’s a Stage…”

This classic musical has music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb and is based on Christopher Isherwood’s short novel, “Berlin Diaries,” and the play, “I Am A Camera,” by John Van Druten.  It is directed by Ron Daum, musical direction by Beth Noelle (also keyboard), and choreography by Laura Hiszczynskyj.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (parking lot in the rear), through October 15th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

The above quote of my title, from the Bard, concludes that we are all performing a part in someone’s else’s  grand design and seemingly have no recourse but to play out our allotted roles to the bitter end, which is simply the absence of our material existence, “…sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”  This story seems to follow that dreary hypothesis to some extent.  But, “in the meantime, in-between time, ain’t we got fun.”  When you’ve got this, somewhat contradictory, volatile mix of these two ingredients, you’ve have, perhaps, “Cabaret.”

The story is based on Isherwood’s (in this guise, the character of “Cliff”) memories of his time in Berlin in the 1930’s.  The main body of action follows Cliff (Jon Gennari), a naive American, wannabe, writer, who lands in Berlin at the inopportune time that Hitler is moving into politics and the Nazis are beginning to strong-arm the German people, especially the Jewish population, into their own obscene brand of a totalitarian government.
A young German, Ernst (Chad Dickerson), who desires to learn English, befriends him and introduces Cliff to life at the Kit Kat Club, a type of underground amusement parlor, where anything, and anyone, can be available, for a price.  The oily, Max (Adam Elliot Davis), the owner of the club is bedding down with his star attraction, Sally Bowles (Kelly Sina), a popular belter of racy tunes.  But the one who runs the show, is the Emcee (Chuck Ketter), the musical narrator/commentator of the Cabaret lifestyle, in which everyone has their roles to play.

Cliff is housed into one of the boarding houses near the club, in which Sally Bowles is also a resident.  The owner of the establishment is the fastidious, Fraulein Schneider (Maggie Chapin), who has a romantic relationship with one of her boarders, a Jewish fruit seller, the kindly, Herr Schultz (Ron Daum).  Also in residence is the naughty, Fraulein Kost (Sydney Webber), who has hot-and-cold running sailors in and out of her room.  Love will make its mark with the golden-agers, as well as with Cliff and Sally and, under normal circumstances, there would be happy endings. 

But this is not the time nor place for that.  Smuggling, corruption, decadence, prejudice and cruelty are the orders of the day here.  Their world is held up to a mirror, broken several times in many places.  This mock world will trample the good, make demi-gods of the bad, and reflect the ugliness of a not-too-distant time and place of yesteryear.  And, perhaps, heed the warning nowadays, if we haven’t solved the mistakes of the past, we are bound to repeat them.

Although the play could be considered a bit of a downer story-wise, it does reflect well of a by-gone era.  And the songs from this musical are outstanding, both in writing and delivery.  The chorus numbers with the gals and guys and the Emcee, Sally and Bobby (Ethan LaFrance), “Don’t Tell Mama,” “Two Ladies,” “Sitting Pretty,” “If You Could See Her” and, of course, “Cabaret,” are fun.  The chilling, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” by the company, is always a show-stopper.  And the dance numbers (Hiszczynskyj), “Telephone Dance,” “Tiller Girls/Kickline,” “Willkommen,” et. al., are well executed and exciting.

Both Daum and Chapin have beautiful and powerful voices, as can be evidenced by their rendition in their duets and solos.  Whenever the Emcee (Ketter) takes charge, they are showstoppers with him at the helm.  And Sina, as Sally, is amazing, both as an actor and singer.  Her powerful rendition of “Cabaret,” at the end, is haunting and heart-breaking, a searing moment.  The actors are in top form and they have voices to match.

Daum and Noelle, both seasoned pros, have produced a show that is thought-provoking, scary and professional in scope.  I predict his will be one of the top shows for this Season in theatre!  I highly recommend it.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Under the Influence—Funhouse Lounge—SE Portland

"Life is a Cabaret…”

This quirky musical is presented by Fuse Theatre Ensemble and the OUTwright Theatre Festival, written and composed by Ernie Lijoi (additional music by Kevin Laursen and Lawrence Rush) and directed, choreographed and designed by Sara Fay Goldman and Rusty Tennant (Artistic Director of Fuse) and musical direction/piano by Matt Insley.  It is playing at the Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th Ave. (street parking only), through September 30th.  (They also have a bar and serve pizza, and the infamous Clown Room, if you dare to enter.)  For more information, go to www.boxofficetickets.com

This sensational show simply sizzles with a scintillating smattering of sensual songs, scandals and sanctimonious scenes of scathing and startling screw-ups of a substandard species (yes, the play is ripe with word plays of this sort).
  Think, “The Wizard of Oz” meets “Cabaret” via “The Fantasticks” and “ease on down that road.”  Mind you, this is not for everyone as it is an “Equal Opportunity Offender.”  Of course, it really may only be just a “Trumped” up dream and “Fake News” but, you decide, if you chose to indulge yourself.

In a word, it’s Stupendous!  It’s bound for Broadway, or should be, as it’s deserving, in story, music, lyrics, dialogue and cast of bigger horizons to follow, all in the capable hands of Ernie Lijoi, who conceived the whole experience.  Could we have another “Hamilton” creator on our hands with this musical?  I think so. 

It really is an amazing journey, as the main character of Anita (Sara Nightingale), like Dorothy, a sort of Every(hu)man, will travel down that yellow-bricked road (laden with booze, caffeine, nicotine, obsession, repression, depression, etc.) to find that elusive place called…home.  But the story is told as a flashback, complete with a Narrator, in the guise of the Emcee (Ithica Tell), who will take on other masks to reveal the tale.  She is aided by two minions, who play all the other characters in the story, Jessica Tidd and Ernie Lijoi.  And so she begins her travels of addiction to discover who she was/is/will be.

She begins by being under the hyper-influence of coffee, even to the makers of it (but watch out for the monkey poop); to the hazy world of alcohol; to her self-image and the anatomically incorrect Barbie-doll nemesis; to the cigarette-crazed society and her idol, Mr. Moose-man; as a Chocoholic; to the sex-obsessed stage of primeval development; and onto the religious factions on the far-right, goose-stepping to the tune of white purity is security.  Much of it is told in song and clever word play so wouldn’t be able to match that in expressing it in a review.  Also the songs were not listed so couldn’t focus on them, either, but know that they were all very good and well integrated into the story.

My favorite moments were the alt-right sections and the You’re a Nation anthem and Tell’s version of the “good ole boy” as their leader.  Also loved Tell as Mr. Moose-man, a combination of Mr. Rogers and Joe Camel (an excellent dark comedy about smoking is the film, “Thank You For Smoking”).  Nightingale’s rendition of her lovers in her Alphabet solo is priceless.  And Tidd and Lijoi, as the expanded chorus, are the life blood of the production and are extraordinary.  These are all pros at their professional best!

Tennant and Goldman have done a fabulous job of putting such a large subject onto such a small space.  It’s amazing how talent will out, no matter the circumstances.  Also the Swing (Alex Lugo) and lighting person (not listed).  And Insley is a true asset to the success of the show.  But the person of the hour is, without a doubt, the creator of this experience, Lijoi, a true genius!  His music is reminiscent of Kander and Ebb (Cabaret), as well as touches of Weber and Sondheim.  And his expertise with manipulating potent words and zippy dialogue is almost without equal. 

This is the show to see folks, if your constitution can handle it.  And, speaking of the Constitution, and since this is a highly-charged social/political script, I am reminded of three words from it that seem to have been forgotten for many years.  If we can reinstitute them into our Government, we might put ourselves back on track.  The words are, “We, the People…” not I or Special Interest Groups nor right, left or in-between, not one sect, sex or disenfranchised race or group.  We, meaning All!

Obviously, I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis proudly sent you!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence—CoHo Productions—NW Portland

“The Infernal Machine”

This mind-bending play is written by Madeleine George and directed by Philip Cuomo (CoHo’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, 2257 NW Raleigh St. (now only paid parking along some very busy streets), through September 30th.  For more information, go to their site at www.cohoproductions.org or call 503-220-2646.

The above title is a bit of an enigma, like the play, and can refer to both human and artificial intelligence, as well as to Time, and even Life, itself.  “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep,” as the Bard has said.  The play slips in and out of our universal clockwork, like a thief in the night,” giving no rhyme or reason for its existence (or for ours) and may even skip-jump dimensions as well suggesting, maybe, it all exists together.  After that introduction, if you think a reviewer could make sense on paper, what George has so smoothly done when gracing the stage with this material, you are mistaken.

What I can provide, though, is a bit of a thumb-nail sketch/outline of the events.  There is at least three separate time-periods that are visited during the two-hour course of the story, all of which have a “Watson” (Eric Martin Reid) as connecting tissue.  One Watson, in modern times, is an A/I (Artificial Intelligence), within the computer of Eliza (Sarah Ellis Smith), the designer, and has become a sort of lifeline to sanity.  She is estranged from her bombastic, politician husband, Merrick (Gavin Hoffman), who has become a stalker of her private life, via a somewhat inept, techno-expert, Watson (Reid), who does make a connection with her but not in the way Merrick anticipated…which morphs into another level of the story.

We also slip back in time to another “Waston,” this one having to do with the famous inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, in which he was his assistant.  He is a forgotten footnote in history, only valuable as a recorder of who Bell was, and the events leading up to the phone invention, as he finds out when being grilled by an interviewer, Eliza (Smith).  And one more “Watson,” in literary time, makes an appearance, that of the Doctor and supposed chronicler of the cases of Sherlock Holmes, who also discovers an eccentric inventor, Merrick (Hoffman), who is attempting some rather unorthodox experiments in which his wife, Eliza (Smith), would be involved.  Can’t give any more away of the story without exposing plot elements that should be discovered by the viewer.

Do all these stories connect?  Yes, actually they do, and explore something of the human condition, as well as our own artificial and imaginary worlds.  When we, as Creators, attempt to, ourselves, create a world we can control, do we not also let loose a Creation that may someday have a mind of its own and might surpass the intentions of its Creator, and become its own Creator?  Clearly, one must pause, at some point, to question our Purpose here on this tiny rock, within a vast universe of pebbles…only my take-away from it.  Yours, I’m sure, could be something quite different, and that’s as it should be with Art (in the “eye of the beholder”).

The cast is amazing, being able to jump time and space barriers with some quick costume changes and subtle, but effective, lighting (designer, Peter Ksander).  All three of the actors slip seemingly easily from one character to another and yet maintain a reality within that keeps the audience connected to them, and the story, as well.  Cuomo has managed to create an organic reality onstage that keeps ideas and plots connected, although seemingly disjointed in time and space.

Only one minor note on the script, I believe that play could have ended one scene earlier, as the finale to that scene was more powerful, in my opinion.  A couple audience members I talked to agreed.  But it’s a powerful, thought-provoking and chilling production and I recommend it.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An Octoroon—Artists Rep—SW Portland

Color Us Human

This dark comedy is written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Lava Alapai and D├ímaso Rodriguez.  It is playing at their space, SW Alder St. and 16th Ave., through October 1st.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org or call 503-241-1278.

I won’t go into any elaborate explanations of the history of the play or the origin of The Octoroon, as the playbill goes into that quite extensively and does it very well (by the article authors, Pancho Savery and Eliza Bent).  One of the characters in this story is just such an individual.  Much of the story takes place just before the Civil War in the Old South.  Some films that might give you some perspective on this are the classic musical, “Showboat,” and the drama, “Pinky” about a black person that could pass for white, or Disney’s “Song of the South” (politically incorrect now) as to children’s tales from a black storyteller about tar babies, etc.…well, I think you get the idea.


In this production, a variety of roles with regard to skin colors are explored, as we see use of whiteface, blackface and, in one case, redface (to depict a Native American character).  The old minstrel shows from the play’s original time period actually did use blackface, and I am reminded of early radio with the Amos and Andy cast being voiced by white actors.  This production begins in modern times, as the actors explain the premise of the story-telling, but soon shifts into the 1850’s South.

It is a melodrama in which the characters, much like a soap opera, are pretty obvious as to their intentions and women are pictured as the weaker sex.  George (Joseph Gibson) is a rich white man seeking to have his fortunes grow by buying a plantation and hoping to win the affections of Dora (Kailey Rhodes).  But there is also the evil M’Closky (Gibson, again), the overseer of the plantation, who has his eye on the ladies, too, including, Zoe (Alex Ramirez de Cruz).  (Watch for the scene in which M’Closky and George duel with each other, it’s a hoot).

Of course no one has consulted the field slaves, Grace (Ayanna Berkshire), pregnant with child and simple-mined, Paul (John San Nicolas), as to their feelings, as to being bought and possibly uprooted.  Nor have the gossipy house slaves, Minnie (Andrea Vernae) and Dido (Josie Seid) and the head slave, Pete (Nicolas, again) been consulted.  Other stereotypes that figure into this familiar plot are a drunken red-skin, (Michael Mendelson), a Captain of a steamboat, Ratts (Jimmy Garcia), needing slaves and a greedy, “sunburned” Auctioneer (Mendelson, again).  Believe me, the viewing of this production is a lot more entertaining than the telling of their story.

The main object for me of this play is giving me perspectives as to how the world might look through another’s eyes.  Or, as Scout’s lawyer father, Atticus, says in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” you can’t know how another person feels until you get inside their skin and walk around in it for awhile.  Wise words and very appropriate for this production.  Keep in mind, we all have the blood of our ancestors in us and probably all of them are from a mixed heritage at some point.  So then we are truly all brothers and sisters under the skin.

The cast is amazing, especially Gibson who is very articulate in his three diverse roles.  And the costumes (Wanda Walden), especially Dora’s, are quite eye-catching.  Rodriguez and Alapai have done a super job of bringing all the varying elements together and it gives a good indication of the type of thought-provoking productions we are likely to see in their coming Season.

I recommend this production but, be aware, it definitely will raise eyebrows with some people, which is a good thing.  Also, catch the art work inspired by this production as it, too, is quite interesting.  If you do choose to see it, please tell then Dennis sent you.

Rx—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland

Happiness is…?

This dark comedy is written by Kate Fodor and directed by Jo Strom Lane and Samuel Ruble.  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (just off Lombard, near Denver), through September 24th (free parking in the small church lot across the street.)  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

Fill in the above statement as to your own opinion.  Best answer I’ve heard to date is from a “Charlie Brown” character:  “Happiness is a warm puppy.”  Pretty darn close in my opinion.  Of course, to many, that answer is a bit more varied and complicated.  And in this electronic jungle of social media and pill popping, the answer seems to lie, not within (as it should be) but out there, somewhere, in the Great Wasteland of drugs, psycho-babble, cyber-babble and “Fake News.”  Are we at the crossroads of Armageddon?  Probably not but maybe we deserve it.  Maybe the mantra we should be following, instead of the petty twitters of dunceland, is a short quote from the medical profession:  “First--do no harm…!”  Everything after that may be that elusive…Happiness we seek.

This play is about such a miracle drug which would relieve anxiety and create a type of euphoria or happiness in people.  The drug folks are headed by the dynamic, Allison (Jayne Furlong), who is all talk and…well, all talk.  She is aided by her marketing cohort, the earnest, Richard (Timothy Busch). And there is, of course, the all-important, doctor who invented it all, the introverted, Phil (Zero Feeney) and another doctor, the absent-minded, Ed (Marquis “Tony” Dominque), looking also for that magic panacea.   And, for some odd reason, “Dolly Parton” (Jessica Wode) and her “9 to 5” anthem, is the inspiration for the whole fiasco.   But, in order to prove the pill’s worth, they need test subjects.

And so we meet the anxiety-ridden editor of a factory farming journal, Meena (Leslie Inmon), who is the ideal candidate because she love/hates her job; is confused/sure of her worth; is popular/ignored by others; and cries for solace in the bargain basement of a department store, where she also meets a mousy, retired housewife, Francis (Rhona Klein), who dreams, like Meena, of getting away from it all.  In other words, Meena is a perfect guinea pig…er, subject for their experiments…er, tests.  She also has a loyal cohort in the guise of Simon (Christopher Murphy), a faithful minion.  And so all these troubled souls will merge together to form a more im-perfect union.  Can’t tell you more without giving away plot devices.

The cast and directors really do well with the characters and some difficult staging.  The leads, Inmon, Feeney and Furlong are quite effective in their roles:  Furlong as the sexy but driven head of a company, Feeney as the as the meek but conflicted medical expert and Inmon as the neurotic subject caught in the middle.  Also good was Dominque is a couple of supporting roles, who also has stood out in past Twilight shows.  All of them making the best of a cluttered script.

The fault, then, lies not in the portrayers of the material but the way the material is put together.  Of a two hour show the script demands scene changes on the average of about every two minutes (sans the last scene, which is probably over five minutes, and is quite good).  There is no doubt the subject and story is worth telling but the script resembles more of a TV or movie type of presentation.  I marveled at the stage hands (Denver Lane, Harrison Allred, et. al.) who were very efficient and quick in their scene changes but that does not excuse the writer from making it so difficult for actors, crew and audiences alike to have to wade through what is potentially a good story.  Again, the failings are not of the troupe, who are quite good, but of the muddled script itself.

I marginally recommend this production, mainly because of the efforts of the company which produced it, but the script needs work.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Hand to God—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

“…Got No Strings On Me”

This dark comedy is written by Robert Askins and directed and designed by Donald Horn (Triangle’s Artistic Director and Founder, 28 years ago!).  It is playing at their space in The Sanctuary, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd., through September 30th (free parking in the lot, west of the bldg.).  For more information, go to their site at www.trianglepro.org or call 503-239-5919.

Yes, it has to do with puppets…No, it is not for kids (or ultra-sensitive adults)!  The main character has more in common with Norman Bates in “Psycho;” the book (William Goldman and movie, w/Anthony Hopkins) “Magic;” Stevenson’s, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde;” Regan in “The Exorcist;” and Rod Serling’s mad puppeteer (Cliff Robertson) on a Twilight Zone episode (or the original, Michael Redgrave in the 40’s film, “Dead of Night”).  So, Jason (Caleb Sohigian), in this play, would be in good company and identify somewhat with these individuals, as they all had an alter-ego (in Jason’s case, Tyrone) who was out for no-good.  But, as Horn says, “I believe we all have a bit of Tyrone in us—if we recognize it, we can control it and be a better person because of it.”

We are, in my opinion, like that little car in the center circus ring that, when it opens, a thousand clowns pour out and we are in wonder as to how all those clowns could fit into that tiny vehicle.  But, if we picture our body as that wee auto and consider all the different facets of ourselves that emerge, depending on the company, then we can see that it is not too hard to consider other “personalities” within ourselves.  And, if one of them is slightly “mad” and/or hidden, as in the cases mentioned above, and something triggers that lunatic side, then we have a problem, as well as behavior characteristics that society would frown on.

The setting is a Christian school ministry in Texas, in which children are taught about God and his teachings through sock puppets.  Margery (Sarah Lucht), a recent widow, is the head instructor and Jason’s mom.  She has been charged by her strict pastor, Greg (Mark Schwann), to present stories from the Bible, with this puppetry program, to the congregation.  But her students are an odd lot.  Jessica (Olivia Weiss) seems to be a sexual and socially repressed girl.  But one of her teammates, Timothy (Colton Ruschenisky), a hunk, is totally the opposite, bursting at the seams (quite literally) with unrealized manhood. And then there is Jason, her disconnected son, who may have taken a detour into the dark side, as Tyrone, his alter-ego, sock-it-to-me, puppet, may be taking him on more than just a “walk on the wild side” but may have found a residency there, too.

Really can’t tell you too much more about the plot without giving away secrets, so will just have to content yourself with the fact that it does, as Horn expresses, “...bring up questions about death and dealing; love and what it really means to love; sex and how sometimes it is used wrongly; and how we see ourselves with others.”  And this does not just focus on the main character but on all of them, as they all have their crosses to bear.  It may seem like a sick world we live in now, but like any illness it can be cured and one of the first steps should be, like Horn postulates, referring to theatre as an outlet (and Sanctuary), “…we present shows that are about the human conditionwe are bringing up questions, putting them on the stage, so they can be discussed.”  Perhaps it can be viewed as a type of therapy, both for the actors and audience as well.

His actors, as always, are very professional in their approach and are perfect for the roles.  Lucht is a seasoned veteran and her performance here explores the depths of being a woman, as well as a parent, teacher and with “feet of clay.”  Weiss is a young performer, who I’ve seen before, is continuing to grow and expand in her characters, as she does here.  Schwann gives depth to what could have been just a one-dimensional character, as you want to shake your fist at him in one instance, then feel sorry for him in the next.  Ruschenisky comes off as a brash, pushy kid but you also see a more vulnerable side, as he wrestles with conflicting emotions within.

And Sohigian is quite a revelation.  He takes a character than could easily be exaggerated and pulls it close to the breast, which makes him all the more believable.  Playing monsters are the easy part, one just has to rant and rave, but portraying the “monster” inside, portraying him as another “side of the same coin,” gives a frightening reality to it.  His voice and expressions, often overlapping each other, as he exposes himself, are never overdone, quite a feat for a performer and a tribute to the actor!

A shout-out should also be given to Murri Lazaroff-Babin as the fight and combat choreographer.  There are a number of physical confrontations in the shows and his stylized picturing of them is very effective.  And Horn, as always, gives us something to think about.  His approach to this one seems to be to keep it grounded, organic, so it never breaks the walls of a heighten reality.  I always learn something new from his shows, both artistically and educationally.  “May he live long and prosper!”

The quotes of Horn are from a response to a letter sent by a disgruntled patron, accusing Horn of “Christian bashing” (this is without seeing the show, of course).  The full response can be seen on his website.

As mentioned, this is not for those who are offended by strong language and adult situations (or, maybe, they are just the people who need to see it).  I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you