Monday, February 2, 2015

Threesome—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District



Revealing One’s Identity

This world premiere of a comedy-drama by Yussef El Guindi is directed by Chris Coleman (PCS’s Artistic Director).  It plays at their space at 128 NW 11th Ave. through March 8th.  For more information, please go to their site at www.pcs.org or call 503-445-3700.

This is a very complex subject, as it deals with identity, gender, and sexuality, among other things.  It must be the year for such subjects, as Theatre Vertigo and Post 5 both have plays also dealing with these issues.  In this case it also deals with nationality and culture, specifically Egyptian and Muslim upbringing.  It deals with issues of who one is and how they were brought up.

Boys, from my own perspective, when growing up, were expected to excel in Sports; be fanatical about cars (and all things mechanical); treat women as necessary sexual objects, not other human beings; be an avid hunter and fisherman; be pro-military and fire arms; hangout with the guys; be the main breadwinner; and never show weakness or appear to be sentimental.

Girls were taught to be homemakers, cooking, sewing, cleaning & raising children; played with dolls; were taught to wear dresses and put on make-up; could be involved with artistic endeavors; and had to be taken care of by the males.  Of course these roles varied from culture to culture.  In my case, I never fit into the above male expectations as women were almost always my best friends.  And, odd as it may seem, I’m also heterosexual.  Go figure.

The title of the play, Threesome, seems a bit misleading, as it’s really not about a ménage-de-trois, but about exploring, in some depth, the responsibilities involved in a relationship, and how to keep love alive without losing your own identity as a male or female.  In this case, the three people involved are Leila (Alia Attallah), a novelist, Rashid (Dominic Rains), a photographer and her lover, and Doug (Quinn Franzen), a book designer.

They meet hesitantly, for reasons unclear, to see if a three-way, sexual encounter will be another step in their relationship.  It becomes clear early on, though, these personalities have totally different expectations as to what is expected.  Is this “revenge” sex by Leila because she suspects her boyfriend has had liaisons with other women?  Is Doug looking for love and acceptance from strangers, something he never experienced during childhood?  Is Rashid really willing to go the distance to please his girlfriend?  All good questions explored in a semi-comic way in the first act.

But, by the second act, things turn very intense and dramatic during a photography session for Leila’s book.  It is an encounter that will have them all questioning who they are and what is the meaning of love, relationships, upbringing and the nature of revealing reality and exploring personal fantasies.  The author really leaves no stone unturned in this searing drama and the nature of this beast we call Human.

Coleman has been daring in allowing these important questions to see the light of day.  It is not an easy story to watch and should create some fascinating dialogues long after it is over.  And it is very frank and unrelenting in its portrayals, even allowing full nudity onstage.  Kudos to the author, El Guindi, Coleman, the director, and an absolutely amazing cast in presenting such sensitive and searching material to an audience.  Artists already bare their souls onstage when performing a show and this one bravely goes the extra mile, thoroughly crashing that “fourth wall” and letting the splinters fall where they may.

All the actors are just fine and I applaud them for courage in presenting this challenging work.  They go to the depths of their beings, as well as the characters’, to give us a “bloody, but unbowed” portrait of the human condition.  Attallah, in  particular, gives a gut-wrenching performance, as a very conflicted but brave woman, who bares all to let us see insights into a very real persona.  Rains and Franzen are equally compelling in exploring the male viewpoints of this very sensitive and elusive subject of identity.

As you might have guessed, this is not for everyone.  But, I recommend it.  If you do choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.