Sunday, May 4, 2014

Driving Under the Influence—Twilight Theater Co.—N. Portland



The Road to Nowhere…
 
This comedy-drama is written by Nick Zagone and directed by J.J. Harris (Company’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at The Annex at 5262 N. Lombard through May 11th.  For more information, go to their site at http://twilighttheatercompany.org or call 503-847-9838.  (Just a reminder, it only seats about 50+ people and Friday night’s show was sold out.)

…And how to get there:  Turn right at the Mint Julep sign, glide on through Coors Light, stop at Long Island Iced Tea, follow the street downhill till you hit Pot, watch out for the Punch, pop a Tick-Tac (or two), then beware of the Acid Reflux at the end of the road (see the program to clarify).  That about gives you the progression of these characters from teens to adulthood.  The title refers to the fact that we may not be in charge of steering our own lives.


This show is done on an essentially bare stage with a few props.  So the show is totally in the hands of the cast (only a few feet from you), the script and your own imagination…and they all must be plugged into the same socket for the story to succeed.  Thankfully, it all works admirably!

The cast is super, one of the best ensembles I’ve seen!  The script is funny and touching.  And the audience seemed totally vested in the characters and story.  In other words, they “got it.”  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you too much of the story, as there are discoveries the audience must make along the way.  But I can give you a run-down of the characters, as they are all pretty much identifiable to all of us.

Roberta (Juli Keele) is Miss Popular when she starts out, wearing the latest grunge clothes and sleeping with whomever to retain her popularity.  But her road turns sharply in the opposite direction by the end of her trip.  Becca (Amanda Mehl) is the aspiring actress, dressed in black with make-up to match, the typical outsider.  She does see her dreams come true.  Rose (Kurin Matter) is the ditzy blonde, all looks no brains.  And her social climbing pays off politically.

Hammish (Travis Martin) is definitely the leader of the pack.  He purports to be the most savvy about women and attempts to control everybody’s lives.  His business sense propels him forward as an adult.  Brad (Jonathan Miles) is the nerd of the bunch and a loser when it comes to the opposite sex.  But the outside world becomes even hazier, as he attempts to find his own world in the fog.  Tom (Sam Bridgnell) is the follower, just out for a good time, as long as you don’t have to think too much.  But his loose style turns inside out as an adult.

Robert (Sam Anderson) is talked about throughout but actually only appears in one scene.  He is the local Indie film-maker, doing the cheapie, “Slasher” films.  His wife, Michelle (Tabitha Trosen), also just in one scene, is a treasure trove of knowledge about Award-winning movies.  Their fates are challenged when they come face-to-face with our primitive landscapes.

The cast is uniformly excellent, having a solid view of their characters and playing them to the max.  Harris has done a fine job of interpreting this work, giving it a simple staging, and leading his actors.  He is also responsible for the North End Players group.  I hope he continues with his good work and utilizes this cast of young actors again.

The only flaw I found in the script is the one scene in which there are only two characters and it’s the only time they appear.  It doesn’t gel in rhythm or style with the rest of the scenes.  Although both actors are fine, it seems like it’s out of place here.  These two characters are talked about throughout the show and most of the info in their scene is discussed by others, so there is no need for the scene.  I believe it would make the story more powerful if we never saw them, so the audience could conjure up their own image of who they are.  Just a thought…


I would recommend this show but it is very adult in subject matter and language, so be warned.  If you do choose to see it, tell them Dennis sent you.