Monday, May 18, 2015

Storefront Revue: The Babes Are Back!!—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

“…When Will They Ever Learn…?
This musical revue is written by Donnie and directed by Donald Horn with music direction by Jonathan Quesenberry.  It plays at their space at The Sanctuary on Sandy Plaza at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. through May 30th.  For more information, go to their site at www.trianglepro.org or call 503-239-5919.

The importance of theatre for a community is that it expands the mind and imagination to “boldly go” to places beyond pedestrian understanding.  The importance of theatre to a performer is that it breeds self-confidence and builds character.  And so why is it always such a struggle to keep it alive?!  When will we ever learn that what we make of this world on the outside depends on who we are inside, and The Arts are a cornerstone to that.

Art and communication go hand in hand all the way back to the Stone Age, if you will, and cave paintings.  We have a need to express ourselves.  The Northwest has a long history of theatre.  Seattle has been a thriving community of the Arts.  And the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, now it is 80th year, is still going stronger than ever!  Portland, too, has a long history and a pretty impressive array of theatres in the larger Portland area now, maybe as many as 100.  But that did not happen without some major overhauls over the years…an evolution and revolution of the theatre scene.

Storefront, as I remember it, was in the Paris theatre near W. Burnside, their “real” home, as I see it.  But it started from Tom Hill (Kurt Raimer) at Portland State and the American Conservatory Theatre, doing Guerrilla theatre on the streets, consisting of political themes, then expanded to North Portland with Anne Gerety (Lisamarie Harrison) with skits and songs (and drugs and booze and sex) into a Rent Party in a house.  Ric Young (David Swadis) became one of the key designers and directors at this point.

Getting into the school system and receiving Grants was key to their evolving.  They moved to The Old Church and finally to their permanent home near W. Burnside.  Here they had their longest-running and lasting success in Angry Housewives.  Eventually they got in over their heads when they jointly decided to expand to the Winningstad Theatre to get more exposure, but this spelled the beginning of the end for them, too.

This Revue not only brushes over the history of the group but includes some skits and songs that made them famous.  They were outrageous, politically incorrect, and damned talented!  They took on issues of the Kent State murders, the political leaders and the Viet-Nam war.  Then Aids raised its ugly head and took away one of their talented leaders, Ric Young.  Some correlations could be made in the type of theatre they did with SNL, Monty Python, Darcelle’s and the play, Hair.

Theatre is an Art that is obsessive and possessive; passionate and compassionate; all-consuming and all-absorbing.  You are born with it but Art is a cruel mistress and, if it finds you worthy, will guide your course.  Storefront had these attributes in its members.  Donnie’s recollections of that brave new world is spot-on.  And his cast and orchestra are mostly too young to remember that era but they are dynamite when performing it.  Kudos, as always, to the incomparable Quesenberry and his band of renown—atta-Jonnie!  The ladies are a standout in “Eat Your Fucking Corn Flakes” from Angry Housewives.  And the black-light striptease is genius.

The cast is made up of some wonderful performers, some I’ve given kudos to in the past, such as Danielle Purdy, heartbreakingly funny is her solo of waiting for 18 years for her boyfriend to call.  She is one of the best performers in this area (and looks just fine in a black slip).  Also, Lindsay Nicole Schramm is a hoot in character roles, as she was in Rocky Horror….  Harrison and Raimer are good at playing the leaders of the pack who are dismayed as the troop evolves into a different realm of discovery.  Joey Cote’, Matthew Belles and Leah Seligman fill out the ensemble and give extra relish to an already satisfying meal.  And Swadis is terrific as Young, giving full flavor to this delicious artist, too soon taken from us.

As my friend, Mr. Paull, pointed out, Storefront was like a Petri dish in a lab, waiting to be nourished to survive... to see a germ of an idea, blossom.  And for awhile, it did.  But now others have taken up the reins, such as Triangle and Defunkt and Post 5, et. al. to carry on the traditions as set down by Storefront.  From the ashes, a Phoenix will rise, but it is good to be carried back to a moment in time when it all began.  “Lest we forget…!”

I recommend this play as a must for all theatre lovers.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.