Sunday, October 12, 2014

In The Forest She Grew Fangs—defunkt theatre—SE Portland

“Here There Be Monsters”

This production plays at the Common Grounds coffee house at 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. through November 15th.  It was written by Stephen Spotswood and directed by Andrew Klaus-Vineyard.  For more information, go to their site at www.defunktheatre.com.

This is the 15th Season for this very successful black-box theatre and, if this play is any indication of things to come, then they will have many more years of good fortune.  This very loose, modernized adaptation of Little Red, Riding Hood (the original story, not the sanitized ones) has elements of Into The Woods and a very good, not often seen, film from the 70’s, Last Summer.  Simply put, it is about the angst of growing into adulthood and the sexual awakenings that occur.  Like I said, very simply put, for this journey goes much further, for the woods are lovely to look at but dark and deep, too.

Again, simply put, from a psychological viewpoint, tall trees and towers are symbols of the male and water or rivers are symbols of the female.  These elements definitely come into play in this story.  And, keep in mind, when viewing this show, things and people are not always as they appear.  Like Life, there are layers within layers and stories within stories.  And we are who we are because of our Past, not in spite of it.  We are Evolution in the making.

Lucy (Marisol Ceballos) is a typical, small-town girl, a bit of a wall-flower, a loner, who feels more at ease with the forest and streams.  She is picked-on and bullied by her classmates (Kitty Fuller, R. David Wyllie, and Annie Ganousis) and doesn’t seem to have a friend in the world.  She lives with her Granny, Ruth (Lauren Modica) who has a few demons of her own that torment her.  She is haunted by her own unhappy childhood memories of not being worth anything.

Into this less than idyllic world appears the new kid in town, Jenny (Tabitha Trosen).  She is “hot” and all the guys want to date her…and more.  But she has her own insecurities coming from the big city.  And she misses her abusive boyfriend, the one with “cold, granite abs and hot surf.”  And, of course, the nerdy guy in school, Hunter (Gabriel Isaac Lakey) is trying to work up the courage to ask her out.

But the forest and the river are the keys to all these longings and achings, and itches and twitches.  It is the ripening and budding of a strange, new world.  The unexplored country where no one returns unchanged.  It is seemingly a natural progression through troubled waters and tangled branches.  The outcome is never a foregone conclusion.  I really can’t tell you anymore of the plot because it needs to be experienced not summarized.  But it is an in-your-face (literally) experience and not for the faint of heart.  It is not a show for young children but it is something that should be seen by savvy teens.

Klaus-Vineyard, the director, has assembled quite an impressive team to produce this show.  And he has his cast, wisely, underplay their characters in a story that could easily have been over-acted.  And he has done it on a simple stage space, letting his outstanding visuals and his terrific cast and script tell the story.  The designers, Max Ward, Dan Minzer, Jesse Holt and Lori Sue Hoffman, are to be commended for creating such a surreal world in such a limited space.  I loved the actors disappearing into the fire and water effects.

Lakey does a convincing job of presenting a guy who is awkward in social situations and, I’m sure, we all know the sort.  Modica is excellent as Granny, especially in her monologues.  Quite honestly, I could have listened to her telling stories all night.  Trosen, as the “hottie” is definitely, just that.  But she manages to bring a depth and complexity to her character that makes her very believable to us and, thus, we can emphasize with her.  Well done.

And Ceballos, as the budding wallflower, is an extraordinary young actress.  This role is very demanding both physically and emotionally, a roller-coaster ride that never slows down.  She projects sexy, vulnerable and yet dangerous, a possible deadly combination for this vixen-like persona.  She has quite a future ahead of her in the artistic fields, I would predict!

Oh, and where are the Monsters, you may ask?  Guess what, folks, look in the mirror—they are here!

Also, it is sponsored by Contact Lines For Life for troubled souls, whether substance abuse or suicide prevention or bullying, etc., contact them at 1-800-282-7035 or info@LinesForLife.org  

I recommend this show but it is adult in content and language.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.