Monday, January 28, 2013

The Huntsmen—Portland Playhouse—NE Portland


Extreme Angst

The Huntsmen by Quincy Long and directed by Kathleen Dimmick is playing at the Portland Playhouse until February 17th.  The theatre is housed in an old church at 602 NE Prescott St.  For further information on times and dates and their Season, contact them at www.portlandplayhouse.org and/or call 503-488-5822.

Oh, for the good ole days, we often say to ourselves.  Things were much simpler then, in our Youth.  The lead character, Devon (Dean Linnard) in this play, would sharply disagree, I’m sure, in a very cutting way.  We may be such “stuff as dreams are made on,” but when the lines between reality and fantasy blur, it’s time to…burst into song?!

The story of this misfit, alienated teenager does not easily follow a linear path.  This young fellow may simply be experiencing growing pains (at best) or be a sociopath with homicidal tendencies (at worst).  He kills a fellow classmate (or does he?) that laughs at his inability to perform sex; then his father (Michael O’Connell) for wanting to turn him in (or does he?); then a series of strangers, for either real or imagined wrongs, until he is a full-fledged serial killer (or is he?)  The dilemma is real, the truth may not be.

Through it all, this inarticulate boy, seems to find his true voice only in song.  Is he really bad (or mad) or just…misunderstood?  Is his relationship in this dysfunctional family with his father and mother (Sharonlee Mclean) and her authoritarian boyfriend (Gavin Gregory) the root of all this evil within him?  Will the music he hears really, eventually “soothe the savage beast?”  Questions asked but with no definitive answer forthcoming.

The style of the play is somewhat reminiscent of the 50’s avant-garde writers such as Pinter, Beckett and even, early Albee.  They only barely touched on plot-driven stories and, only then, for the audience’s convenience.  Their tales took place in the mind.  A “no man’s land,” a kaleidoscope of kinetic energy, signifying…nothing (or everything) depending on the viewer’s interpretation.  Is Hamlet (a teenager, too) mad, or is his convenient “madness” just a good excuse for acting out his growing pains.  The same question might be asked here, also.

The arc of the story does seem to follow an odd sort of logical line.  Most of Mr. Jones’s chronology of events, albeit chaotic at times, flows reasonably smoothly.  The only bump in the road is his connection with a music mogul and his blind daughter (Crystal Munoz).  Although a well-acted bit, it seems to come out of nowhere and, thus, has nowhere to go.  The music, (possibly a throw-back to the 50’s) is sung acappella by the cast.  The meaning is muddy at times but many people do define their Youth by the music that was popular at the time.  But, overall, it’s a riveting story, well-played by an excellent cast, doing multiple roles.

Mr. Linnard is extraordinary as the teenager who is the focus of the story.  His hesitant delivery of lines, his inarticulateness, his snapshot view of events, all lend to an awareness of obvious frustration with himself and his environment.  He is truly a joy to watch.  And Mr. O’Connell as the father and the music mogul, et. al., lends a sense of scary reality of recognizable characters from life.  He makes it look easy as he slips from one role to another.

The rest of the cast is equally as good, playing all the other roles, as well as a singing “Greek Chorus,” commentators of the action.  Add Jared Miller, (very good as the Detective), perhaps the one voice of reason (and possibly the audience’s viewpoint) who tries to make sense of the proceedings.  The direction by Ms. Dimmick keeps the play moving at a brisk pace, much like a stream of consciousness, attempting to put us inside the head of storyteller.

Portland Playhouse consistently does innovative productions, never failing to engage, engross and entertain an audience.  They are definitely one of the five best theatres in the Portland area!  I recommend this play.  If you do go, please tell them that Dennis sent you.