Sunday, June 2, 2013

Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls—Theatre Vertigo—SE Portland

An Endless Dream
This production is written by Naomi Ilzuka and directed by Jen Wineman.  It will be playing at their space at 3430 SE Belmont St. until June 8th.  For further information go to their website at www.theatrevertigo.org

Have you ever had one of those dreams, which had all sorts of odd things going on, and people in them that you really don’t know, but think you do, and it all makes perfect sense, until you wake up.  Now picture a dream like that, only you don’t wake up.  It just keeps going on and changing and you try to make sense out of it but you can’t.  That is generally the flavor of this show.

There is no plot, as such, but just characters weaving their way through an undefined universe.  There is Will (Joel Harmon) wandering aimlessly through life trying to find love and is eaten by some animals, but suddenly morphs into a gay stockbroker, Richard, filthy rich and also looking for love and meaning in life.  Then there is Will’s former girlfriend, Vivian (Brooke Calcagno) who get dumped by him and finds love eventually with Wendy (Beth Thompson), a very verbose actress, who will sleep with anyone of either sex.

But before Vivian finds her mate, she takes over as a teacher at a school in the Big Apple and then moves to Alaska to grow plants and, oh, yes, she has a child named Billy (Tom Mounsey) who grows at an alarming rate.  And Will’s new girlfriend (before he gets eaten), Joy (Zoe Rudman), also looks for love in all the wrong places.  And Myrna (Britt Harris), a teacher, abandon’s her vocation and decides to become Santa Claus.

Meanwhile, Peter (Mario Calcagno), a fussy pet store (with no mammals) employee becomes disillusioned with his job and becomes an airline clerk and then a lifeguard and then finally, a lizard.  And Jason (R. David Wyllie), a surfer dude, also moves to Alaska.  Martin (Tyler Ryan), his dog, ends up by being hit by a car and is transformed into a human, who moves to Alaska, too.  And Derek (also Tom Mounsey) Jason’s ex-roommate (and responsible for his dog’s demise) is a writer and just might be the author of this whole dream (he’s also eaten by a snake, as are others).

I hope that cleared up the plot for everyone.  No.  Join the club.  So, ignore the plot and look at what’s left.  The thread or connecting element seems to be evolution.  And there is a model for this type of play.  Albee has his Seascape, Caryl Churchill’s, Cloud 9, Wilder’s The Skin of our Teeth and, of course, Rhinoceros.  All dealing with, from whence we came, lizards/dinosaurs/the Sea/other mammals, and to where we may be evolving, to our roots, from whence we began.

This may not be enough fodder to hold your attention but it does make for some thought-provoking discussions.  And a play is meant to be visual and the mechanics of the set changes are quite intriguing (designer, Ryan Nicolai).  And the direction by Wineman keeps the play moving at a quick pace.  But, although the script may leave a lot to be desired in the traditional sense, the actors are a pure delight.

Almost the entire cast is made up of the Theatre Vertigo ensemble.  And the ease in which they relate to each other onstage makes it obvious they are in tune with each other.  Every one of them is good.  My favorites were Harmon as Richard, who had wealth but it was meaningless without love and direction.  His character also had the best advice for humankind, “Talk less and be nicer to each other.”  And also loved Calcagno as Peter.  His insecurity with his prospects of and in Life was hilarious.  And so, he may have accepted the “changing” with open arms, or paws.

The writer should have taken some of her own advice, as Richard says, “a little meaning is a good thing.”  Whatever conclusions are drawn here are totally up to the viewer.  If you are looking for a traditional play, this is not it.  But if you want to see some very good actors having the time of their life, welcome.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

A side note, this is the last production in this space by Theatre Vertigo.  Next season they move to the Shoebox Theatre at 2110 SE 10th Ave.  Likewise, Profile Theatre will be performing out of the Artist’s Rep space next season.  Support them in any way you can, as they both are worthy companies.