Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gruesome Playground Injuries—Adventure Theatre—SE Portland

Walking Wounded

This play is independently produced (but underwritten by the blessed, Ronnie Lacroute and the Willakenzie Estates), written by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Scott Yarbrough.  It is playing at the Adventure Theatre space, 1050 SE Clinton St. at 7:30 pm through August 15th.  For ticket info, go to http://gruesomepdx.browntickets.com or info at info@actionadventure.org

This is a traditional black box setting with no fancy sets or lighting, no A/C, chairs on risers for seating, set, costumes and make-up changes performed by the actors themselves onstage, with just the author’s words, the actors’ (director’s) talents and the audience’s imagination to keep you entertained.  And isn’t it glorious?!  That is story-telling, my friends, at its purest and the basis for all plays.

It is not far removed from those old MGM musicals where Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland got the kids in town together to put on a play in someone’s barn.  “If you build it, they will come.”  God bless artists like Tabitha Trosen & Jim Vadala (the two actors in the show), Yarbrough (the director), Ronnie & Company, as well as the crew, for taking us theatre folks back to our roots and exposing the skeleton of theatre and its artists.  With all the so-called “advances” of this electronic age in this concrete jungle, it is good to see the natural garden from whence it sprang.

The play is set-up into eight scenes.  They are not linear but the ages of the characters at each juncture are given next to the scene number.  The play begins when the two characters, Doug (Jim Vadala), a bit of a loveable dope but very accident prone and his best friend, Kayleen (Tabitha Trosen), a sweet but troubled lass, as eight-year-olds’ in a Catholic boarding school.  The play then follows them for the next thirty years in a non-linear fashion.


I really can’t give away too much of the plot because it is for the audience to discover.  But it is an odd, quirky love story about two people who really care about each other but are just damaged enough inside that it prevents them completely reaching out to the other for nourishment to the soul.  We discover that Kayleen may have healing powers, that she was probably abused as a child so intimacy is not a strong point with her and that she does have some possible mental problems that coincide with her emotional traumas.

Doug’s “scars” are more on the outside, as he manages to encounter every sort of natural and personal  injury that one could think of.  He is well-meaning, loyal and lovable in his own way but seems unable to connect with the so-called “real” world.  Kayleen seems his only conduit to it.  Together they are an unlikely pair for a love story but, as viewers, one finds ourselves identifying and caring about these two, lost individuals.  It is not because their story may be like ours, but because the lack of being able to make any lasting connection to another human being, is very much within our modern psyche now.

The story by Joseph must have elements of truth within him, or people he knows, because it is too bizarre to have been totally made up.  I’m not sure I see the lack of a linear flow as a needed asset to the story-telling but it seems to work in an odd way.  Yarbrough’s direction is lean and he wisely leaves it up to the story and his terrific actors to tell the tale.  His choice of having the actors do all the changes themselves onstage really does make you feel a kinship with them on their journey.

The bulk of the success of this show is due to the two amazing actors at the helm.  I have seen them both before and they are always an asset to a show.  But here, they rule!  Vadala is a character actor and that is an asset to this part, as his mobility to make himself look ugly, only endears us more to his plight.  Not unlike the late, great Robin Williams, who could make you laugh or cry, and sometimes both at the same time.  I’m sure we’ll see more of his visage in future productions.

Trosen has that rare ability to transition from a leading-lady persona to a character part.  She is very attractive but does not allow that to distract us from the fact that she can also be a damaged soul as well.  Meryl Streep has that same kind of asset, as she has an outer beauty but also shows the vulnerability inside of any human being.  Trosen, in her monologue scene, is wonderful and certainly brought a tear to my eye.  She is simply an amazing talent and I certainly expect to see more of her!

As mentioned, this is an independent production, so it certainly can use your financial support but also needs an audience base to expose these fine talents involved.  I know from first-hand how difficult it is to sometimes get small projects noticed and I applaud their efforts to have the courage to go forward with their passion and conviction.  Brave on!

So, I highly recommend that you see this show and discover some extraordinary talents in a raw setting that will transport you.  Keep in mind this is adult in language and situations.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.