Monday, September 19, 2016

Full Gallop—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

Color Me Red

This one-woman show about Fashion designer, Diana Vreeland, starring Portland’s own superstar, Margie Boulé, was written by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson and directed and designed by Donald Horn (Triangle’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (off Sandy), through October 8th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

I do confess when I saw who this show was about, I was totally lost.  I had no idea who Diana Vreeland was.  But she was an icon in the fashion industry, as Editors of both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazines for many years.  She rubbed shoulders with other eccentric icons of her generations, such as Capote (writing), Warhol (art), as well as political figures and crowned heads of Europe.  She admitted she was lazy and felt no desire to work but she had an innate sense of style and color and that led to her position in the fashion world.

She traveled abroad frequently, entertained the upper crust to lavish parties in her Park Avenue apartment and lived well beyond her means.  But she was also happily married for many years and had children.  Her favorite color was Red because, as she put it, it was the “great clarifier.”  All other colors faded by comparison.  Her philosophy went something like this:  When at a loss, “Fake it!,” or faced with reflections on the past, “Don’t look back!”  She led a fluid lifestyle and was not a follower but a bold leader when it came to opinions and fashion, “a great believer in vulgarity,” and the perfect pitcher of a product or idea, give the Public “what they never knew they wanted.”  You could say she, indeed, did live life at “full gallop!”

The setting (beautifully designed by Horn) is her “red room” in her apartment, as she is preparing for one of her many parties, after a refreshing trip to Europe and having just been fired from Vogue.  She is dressed (curiously) in black and the only red she wears is a very vivid splash of red rouge on her cheeks.  It seems that Vreeland (Boulé) spends some of the time on the phone chatting with other “important” people or conversing with her maid, Yvonne (Alexandra Boulé-Buckley) on the intercom, for preparations for the party, which aren’t going well.  It seems she owes money all over and credit is not forthcoming.  Also her guest list is thinning out.  Into this mélange, she tells her stories.

I won’t elaborate more as Boulé is the superior storyteller.  And I can’t say I would bow to anybody else’s sense of a style (as my friends would readily attest to, I’m sure).  My sense of fashion is to simply be comfortable…that’s it.  I especially like Horn’s style of dress, too, as he’s always wearing shorts, is barefooted (no matter the weather) and has great locks and tan.  In other words, he doesn’t follow anybody else’s sense of style, either.  So, maybe that’s my message, just be comfortable in your own skin, and “let the world slide.”

What more accolades can you say about Boulé that hasn’t been said many times before?  She is a bona fide icon in the Portland area.  I first saw her at the Portland Civic Theatre (now gone) when she did the female lead in the musical, Little Shop of Horrors, back in the 80’s, I believe, and she rocked the place with her outstanding singing voice.  Since reviewing shows for the last five years, I have encountered her again onstage in other guises and even had the pleasure of chatting with her in person on occasion.  A couple of things one can say about an icon, such as she, is that you never tire of seeing them onstage, as they bring a special magic, allure, persona on the stage with them.  Also, in her case, she has the ability to “inhabit” a role, which few actors can, in which she transforms before your eyes into the person she portrays, and blurs out any previous images of that character.  In this case, she is more attractive than the real person, in my opinion, and therefore, that is the image of Vreeland you will take home with you.

And Horn and Boulé, have worked together more than once before, and it shows in the comfort in which you feel when encountering what these two have created.  Horn’s set is certainly one of the best, as he had to re-create a room that became famous during that period and it works beautifully.  Also, I have to give a special shout-out to Boulé-Buckley (I assume Margie’s daughter), as the voice of the maid.  By the end of the show, you have a picture of what this person might look like, listening to her pregnant pauses, her sighs, the attempt at a professional manner when speaking and the underlying frustration she must feel when dealing with such a “boss.”  I wish she would have taken a bow at the end, possibly in a maid’s costume, as I think the audience would have responded warmly.  Again, the old adage comes to mind, “there are no small parts...,”case in point.

I recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Gun Show—CoHo Productions—NW Portland

Fire Proof

This one-man show is written by E. M. Lewis, directed by Shawn Lee, starring Vin Shambry and co-produced by Lee and Shambry.  It is playing at the CoHo theatre space, 2257 NW Raleigh St. (parking is a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly), through October 1st.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-220-2646.

“The right to bear arms,” boy, does that open a can of worms.  But an even larger tin being unveiled of those squiggly things is, “thou shalt not kill.”  So, in one corner of our arena we have the Liberals in which, according to the audience in the talk-back afterwards (the majority), would just as soon get rid of all guns, but the Conservatives feel we should stick to our Constitution and allow everybody to have weapons.  The answer probably lies somewhere in-between.  But, what to do…what to do?!

The play focuses on an individual (Vin Shambry) growing up in rural Oregon, who was raised around guns, used for hunting (for their food) and I suppose, if necessary, defense.  They had to depend on one another because the closest help for any emergency was over an hour away.  Plus our country was started this way with Settlers having arms for hunting food and defending our land from the “savages”…whoops, got that wrong, didn’t I?  Seems we were the invaders, weren’t we?  You see, another “can of worms.”

Anyway it seems that the author, Lewis, and her boyfriend, Irving, later to be husband, had quite an arsenal of fire arms and loved to shoot just for the hell of it.  But, thrust forward a few years into the future, and we have this person now working in a book store and being confronted by an individual who robs the place and has a gun at her face.  All of a sudden your perspective changes as to “bearing arms.”  Obviously you don’t want that robber having the right to weapons, do you?!

“We remember awful things best,” according to Lewis.  She’s right.  The Media connects with this issue by reporting mostly the dirt, the underbelly of people and our society because, quite frankly, “good” doesn’t sell and, after all, first and foremost, the Media is all about making money and pushing their agenda.  Greed and Power, the Ruling Forces.  But, got sidetracked again or, maybe not, because I think the real intent of the author/creators of this piece, is to get us to relate, think and talk about these issues, and so I am (and so should you be).

But, power forward again, to now just 13 years ago, and tragedy hits even closer to home.  I’ll have to pause here on that note and say that you’ll have to see it to discover the outcome of her story.  In fact I’ve only skimmed over the stories because Lewis, and her alter-ego, Shambry, are such marvelous storytellers that my explanations pale in comparison.  This is, without a doubt, one from the heart and soul.  It is not to be ignored.  It is not to be trivialized.  It is to be heard, digested and solved!

My own personal story is only mildly connected.  My Dad and his family were from rural Virginia and grew up, probably, much the same way Lewis’s did.  My father raised his family expecting us to be hunters and fishermen, much like he was.  But, although he taught me how to shoot a rifle, I had no intention of killing an animal myself, as we could get meat, if we wanted it, just by going to the store, which means, of course, that someone else was killing the animals for us, but at least it wasn’t me pulling the trigger.

And I was a Conscious Objector, as I felt killing was wrong regardless of circumstances, during the Viet-Nam War and served two years working with emotionally-disturbed children, instead (my Dad loved the Service and almost became a career soldier).  But, my Father, God bless him, never lectured or judged me because of my beliefs and, for that, I believe he was a more tolerant person than most.

This all brings me to my point.  If we could take Hatred and mental disease out of the picture, then most of the rest of individuals might have the “right stuff” to be bearing arms.  But, how do we do that?  Tolerance for all beliefs, as long as we are not harming others, is the key.  A good mantra to follow might be “treat others as you would like to be treated.”  That might change one’s perception on violence and being armed.  Well, I’ve had my say.  Now it’s your turn.  Of course, that means you have to see the play, doesn’t it?!

Lewis’s script is, to say the least, thought-provoking.  A heart-felt, well-versed example of one person’s journey “to hell and back again.”  Lee keeps the play personal, as it should be.  And Shambry is an excellent translator of those thoughts and emotions.  You feel you may be sitting in a room alone with him as he tells his tales.  All people have stories, and stories within stories, and we are interwoven into the fabric of all of them.  A final thought for those who have become too complacent, as is mentioned in the play:  “We have met the Enemy and He is Us!”

I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Trevor—Artists Repertory Theatre—SW Portland

To Soothe the Savage Beast
This play is written by Nick Jones and directed by Dámasco Rodriguez (Artists Rep.’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, SW Alder St. & 16th Ave., through October 9th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-241-1278 for more information.

It is alluded to by some scientists that, at one time, millions of years ago, we were once Beasts of the forests (and/or fish of the sea), thus, our origins.  Animals in the Wild seem to conform to a set pattern of behavior, but without a certain reasoning power and free will, which Man has.  But, indeed, if we have come from the Wild and are thrust into another environment, can we be expected to act other than our original Nature?  It is said, you can take the Beast out of the Wild but not the Wild out of the Beast.  In this play, that is exactly the dilemma, possibly for both species.

When I first arrived to review the show, since there was a picture of a lovable little chimp on the front page of the program, I was wondering how the devil they got a live animal to behave onstage through a whole show.  It also seemed that kids might love this show, too, with such a cute, Disney-like creature in it.  My bad.  I was totally wrong about both.  Trevor, the adult chimp, is enacted by an actor, John San Nicolas, and it is based on a true story which has a very tragic end for all concerned.  So, bottom line, this is not for the kiddies!

Trevor (John San Nicolas), an 11-year old chimp, had been adopted as a baby by Jerome and Sandra Morris (Sarah Lucht).  Jerome has since passed away so it is now up to Sandra to raised the young animal, which she does but as a child, letting him have free roaming of the house and yard, teaching sign language to him as a form of communication, allowing him to drive, letting him be a “media darling,” being in films, even, in his mind, forming an unhealthy attachment to one of his co-stars, Morgan Fairchild (Jana Lee Hamblin).  And, as a baby, this was considered “cute” behavior by the community.

But we also see Trevor’s side of the story as he interacts with these hairless beasts.  If you’ve seen the stage version of The Elephant Man, a real person with a horribly deformed body, the actor portrays him with a flawless body, letting us see the inner person.  So it is with this character.  San Nicolas goes through the physical motions of a chimp but speaks to us of the thoughts he’s having as these humans attempt some sort of verbal and non-verbal communication with him and each other.

There is the cop on the beat, Jim (Jason Glick), who tries to be sympathetic as he’s known this family for years.  There is the new neighbor, Ashley (Vonessa Martin), with a newborn, who wants to be tolerant but is uneasy with a wild animal running loose in the neighborhood.  There is Jerry (Joseph Gibson), with Animal Control, who feels he understands wild animals and their needs which, in his opinion, is to be with other creatures of his kind.  And, of course, there is lonely Sandra (Lucht) who, with all good intentions, perhaps, is trying to domesticate Trevor and treat him as if he were human.

But Trevor really does have his own thoughts and dreams.  He imagines a relationship with Fairchild, in which they are an “item” as the Media would say.  He imagines himself a big film star with offers just pouring in that want him in their movies and commercials.  And, best of all, he has a mentor in Oliver (Michael Mendelson), an older chimp who was a film star and now is imparting his wisdom upon Trevor, the most important lesson being, learn to behave as they expect you to, “soothe the savage beast” within.  Quell the fire inside and learn to accept your fate.  But that’s not Trevor…!

I have avoided telling you too much of the specifics of the story as you really must witness it for yourself to get the full drift.  As mentioned, the story does not turn out well for most of the characters involved.  But the real story is even more tragic.

It is well known that chimps and other animals have had a life on the big screen, such as Cheeta in the Tarzan movies, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Trigger, Morris, et. al.  But it is not known feelings and thoughts they may have had during those transformative years.  This play, in part, may give you some insight into these areas.  It may not be a pretty sight but it is, I believe, an honest one.
The most amazing part of this show is how Jones has managed to capture the possible inner workings of an animal’s mind and translated them into human words.  And I quite willingly accept his voice on the matter.  And San Nicolas is a marvelous instrument of these inner demons and dreams the character has.  Lucht also is a tragic figure who is so wrapped up in Trevor’s world she tends to forget where she comes from.  Is she trying to transform him or is he trying to transform her?!  And Mendelson, as Trevor’s guru, is quite a treat, as Oliver himself is not fully committed to either world but does know the basic truth, to survive you must behave.

Rodriguez has done an outstanding job of allowing the humor to build through the first act, disarming the audience, and then lets things explode in the second act.  He has been careful not to let his two chimp actors overlap too far into the animals’ world but just gives us enough of a suggestion and lets the lines/actors create the rest.  “Less is more” and it works here.

I recommend this play but, be warned, it is not, as mentioned, a “family” show.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Boeing Boeing—Twilight Theater—N. Portland

Love on the Fly

The comedy is written by Marc Camoletti and directed by Matt Gibson.  It is playing at their space at 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (just off Lombard), through September 24th.  Keep in mind it is neighborhood parking mostly but there is a small church lot across from the theatre that can be accessed.  For more information, go to their site at

I have to be honest with you, when I heard about this production, I remembered the movie from years ago with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis as being sexist even then, and felt it would be even more “politically incorrect” now.  And I would be right, it would except for a couple of important details.  It is presented as a farce (broadly-drawn, exaggerated characters, full of improbable situations and self-mockery) not the typical situational comedy (realism with humor), and the female roles are very strong individuals, who actually get the upper hand by the end.  Thus, it works as this, and my objections to the script are put on the back burner.

It seems that Bernard (Rob Harris) is living the “life of Riley” in Paris during the 60’s.  He has hot and cold running Stewardesses (now called Flight Attendants) figured into his life style according to the flight schedules of different airlines (three ladies to be exact).  He’s engaged to every one of them and, of course, each is unaware of the other.  Of course, his outspoken, no-nonsense, French maid and cook, Berthe (Amanda Clark), has to keep everything straight from her end.

This all goes swimmingly, as the strong-minded, practical lady from America, Gloria (Megan Keathley), has a schedule that is in contrast to the passionate, hot-tempered one from Italy, Gabriella (Erin Bickler), which again, is in opposition from the schedule of the angry, bossy one from Germany, Gretchen (Jenny Newbry).  But then a couple of things happen that throw a monkey-wrench into the whole works.  Boeing develops a faster engine, which means that trips are now shorter, and his old school chum, Robert (Zero Feeney), stops by for a visit.

Robert is looking to settle down and get married.  His opposite, Bernard, has no intention of ever going down that blissful path.  And, of course, each of the ladies has their own agenda.  As you can see, this has little chance of turning out to be a smooth flight for anyone but, like Pandora’s proverbial box, the one remaining element left is Hope, which springs eternal, it is said, and therefore, has a way of gently nudging factions toward more positive solutions.  See it to find out the outcome.

The reason this is a cut above most comedies is not the plot but the absolutely marvelous physical comedy, maniacal expressions, pregnant pauses, rapid-fire delivery of lines and the tireless cast that has to perform in precision such crucial timing to make it all work.  Gibson has done an outstanding job of dealing with the comic timing and picking a cast that can deliver the goods.

Harris, cloning somewhat the physical gyrations of Dick Van Dyke, arms and legs akimbo, facial tics and building frustrations, are perfect for his character.  Feeney, patient and resilient, a “stranger in a strange land,” a John Goodman type is likewise effective in his befuddlement and seemingly utter ignorance of “what makes the world go round.”  All three of the “fly-girls” are very attractive and, quite honestly, rule the roost.  And, like the fellows, are very adept at comic timing.  My favorite, though, by a slight margin, is Clark as the maid.  The “wise clown,” as the Bard might say, the patient observer who has answers to questions nobody asks.  With her saucer eyes and straight-forward approach to situations, one would have thought one of the guys might have fallen for her (I would have) but such is the fate of observers, “always a brides-maid, never a bride.”

One comment about the accents, though, my friend, John, who came with me and I consider somewhat a linguistic expert, found them quite authentic.  But, we both agreed, there were times when you couldn’t understand them, not a matter of volume but of enunciation.  Authenticity may be important but not at the expense of losing words.  It didn’t happen a lot but enough that it was noticeable.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Graduate—Bag & Baggage—Hillsboro, OR

“The Sounds of Silence”

This comedy-drama is based on the movie by Calder Willingham & Buck Henry and from the novel by Charles Webb and adapted for the stage by Terry Johnson.  It is directed by B&B’s Artistic Director, Scott Palmer, and runs at the Venetian Theater, 253 E. Main St. in Hillsboro, through October 2nd.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-345-9590.

Yes, that Graduate, from the movie of the late 60’s with Dustin Hoffman and directed by Mike Nichols, commenting on and encompassing the revolutionary 60’s.  It was a time for change…in music, drugs, wars, cultures, sex, politics and mores.  Much good would evolve from all of this but also a certain loneliness and desperation.  This story encapsulates some of that but lingers on the last two elements I’ve just mentioned.  An introduction to a brave, new, but alienated world.  Currently we are a by-product of that movement, a world where we cling to machines to guide our course and make our choices, instead of our natural senses!

The story, in a way, is simple, but not all that easy to explain.  A young man, Benjamin (Eric St. Cyr), has just recently been hatched from school and his wealthy parents, Mr. & Mrs. Braddock (Michael Rouches & Kim Bogus), with not a clue in the world as to who is or what he will do with his life.  He endeavors to branch out on his own and discover the world through the eyes of the common folk.  He lasts about two weeks on his own and then is back in his parents’ cocoon.

He learns about sex from his father’s best friend, Mr. Robinson’s (David Heath), wife (Kymberli Colbourne).  The Mrs. is a lush, cold, is not in love with her husband (but his money is a good compensator) and only got married because she was pregnant with their daughter, Elaine (Arianne Jacques), out of wedlock and in those days abortion was not an viable option.

Ben continues to meet clandestinely with her (for reasons not entirely clear) and then meets their daughter and they begin dating.  Ben pursues her (again, for reasons not entirely clear) without the approval of her Mom.  Ben is faced, not with crossroads in his life, but with dead-ends with nowhere else to go.  He is lost with no apparent purpose than to follow his blind instincts.

Eventually Elaine breaks it off and decides (for reasons not entirely clear…you’re beginning to see a pattern here, aren’t you?) to marry someone else.  But, in a climactic scene at their wedding, truths are revealed, people take stands and an uneasy alliance is forged.  The novel and this play are much darker than the film, as it was probably intended, with a message of alienation being a major theme.

A couple of players, part of their company, Andrew Beck and Cassie Greer, play a series of supporting characters that flesh out the story.  Beck is especially drool as a hotel clerk, in one of his many incarnations, and Greer has a very revealing part in which she is quite appealing.  The modular set by Megan Wilkerson is also a key player, being sterile and flexible, fitting the mood of the play.

And Palmer, as always, brings his genius to the stage, not only in his unusual choices for shows but in his clean and thoughtful presentations of the material, as he does here.  I would think he is too young to have lived through this era but, being the talented creator that he is, he certainly understands it artistically.

The acting, as always, is first-rate in his shows.  Bogus and Rouches as the distant parents are icily on the mark.  Heath, as the cuckold husband, is exciting to watch as he sputters and spouts his self-righteous, poseur indignations like a bantam rooster.  Jacques, a veteran of their shows, is always a treat onstage.  She gives depth, to what could have been just a throw-away role, by allowing us to see that she may be just as shallow and lost as Ben is.  “Blind leading the blind,” perhaps.

Colbourne as Mrs. Robinson is colder, more calculate and nastier than Bancroft was and she plays it as if she is very aware of who she is and the destruction she is causing and just doesn’t give a damn.  At times, there is a spark of regret, perhaps humanity, in her gyrations but, like a fading ember, it is quickly doused.  She’s terrific.  St. Cyr may not be Hoffman but more fully captures the intended character better.  His absent-minded approach to life is akin to a book waiting to be written upon but, in his case, it is in invisible ink.  In other words, he hasn’t a clue, which gives him an overall sadness.  He does a fine job of conveying a hitchhiker lost on a highway, with life whizzing by and no one to pick him up.

I recommend this play.  It does have brief nudity and sexual situations so be warned if that offends you.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Antigone Project—Profile Theatre—SW Portland

A Step Out of Time
This collection of short plays, based on the myth of Antigone and her family, are written by Karen Hartman (Hang Ten), Tanya Barfield (Medallion), Caridad Svich (Antigone Arkhe), Lynn Nottage (A Stone’s Throw) and Chiori Miyagawa (Red Again).  They are all directed by Dawn Monique Williams.  It is playing at the Artistic Rep. space, SW Alder St. & 16th Ave., through September 11th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-242-0080.

Conceive of a world of deceit, greed, corruption, misuse of power, revolution, suppression of women, prejudice and incest.  A world of the past, oh, yes.  A world of today, hell, yes!  Someone once said that if we fail to learn from past mistakes, then we are condemned to repeat them.  And, thus, we have the Antigone Project, marrying these two worlds.

In the first play, the world of surfing, we have Antigone (Andrea White) and her sister, Ismene (Cecily Overman) complaining about the lack of freedom, being of royal blood, but having a moment to admire the freedom and form of a surfer (Seth Rule).  Ismene, being the more conservative of the two sisters, wants to marry and settle down.  Anitgone, “loyal to change,” wants to escape.

In the second play Antoinette (Lauren Modica) is pleading with a General (Chris Murray) to have the body of her brother, who was killed in battle, returned to her so she can bury him.  Also she has proof he fought bravely and wishes to have him bestowed with a medal.  Only one problem, they are black and those kind of favors are not issued to “her kind.”

In the third play we have the age old battle between History and Truth.  It is said that History is written by the Victors.  And so we have a tour guide, an Archivist (Alex Leigh Ramirez), trying to hang onto the “perceived” Past arguing with the spirit of the Historical Past, Antigone (Andrea Whittle), as to what really happened.  The Truth lies somewhere between the two.

In the fourth play we are ensconced in a world of veils and tradition somewhere in the Middle East.  Antigone (Modica, again) has had a child out of wedlock and perhaps will be stoned for her offense.  Her sister, Ismene (White, again), still a conservative, is willing to plead in her behalf, so Antigone tells her of the encounter with her young man (Rule, again).  But in a patriarchal society there is rarely room for sympathy.

In the fifth play, we are in the Underworld, where Antigone (Overman, again) is mated with her love, Harold (Murray, again), as the discover books with histories written as to each soul.  Meanwhile her sister, Irene (White, again), is still in the land of the living and frantically trying to escape from the war-torn country in which she resides.  But, all may not be lost, as they discover, perhaps, the silver lining to the clouds on which they have lived under.

To discover the outcomes of these shows you, of course, will have to see them.  Knowing some of the history of Antigone would be helpful but not necessary, as the connections to the current state of affairs are what are important.  This is a clever idea, connecting past history with current events, conceived by Miyagawa and Sabrina Peck and with the participation of String Theatre and Emily Gregory.  And Williams has done a good job of keeping the settings simple and the casting of her very talented and versatile cast.

The plays all have merit.  I was particularly impressed with the rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue in Medallion, reminiscent of Mamet and Stoppard.  And, also haunting, is the suppressed and oppressed story of women under a male society (one sort of longs for the day of the mythical Amazon society of women, in contrast) in A Stone’s Throw.  And, like Pandora’s Box, the final lines of Red Again bring the promise of something more.

All the cast was very well suited to their roles but Modica, especially, in her two major roles, was very dynamic.  And Rule has a naturalist style to his acting that is refreshing.  These plays only run through the weekend so if you are going to see them, best do it soon.  Parking is also a challenge around the Sports Center when there is a game, so best get their early and park in Artist Rep.’s lot (only $5) for the evening.

I recommend these plays.  If you do choose to see them, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hughie—Imago theatre—SE Portland

“Only the Lonely”

This one-act drama by the classic playwright, Eugene O’Neill, is directed and designed by Jerry Mouawad and produced by Carol Triffle (Founders of Imago).  It is playing at their space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off Burnside), through September 18th.  Parking is a challenge in this area so best get their early.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-231-9581.  And don’t forget that La Belle (three years in the making), a story of Beauty and the Beast, opens in December, so best get tickets early, as I can assure you, it will be a sell-out.

This has comparisons to characters in Damon Runyon’s world of Guys and Dolls, the street hustlers/gamblers with no real futures; a bit of Chekov’s Swan Song, with an old actor expounding on his craft to a bored Stage Manager; Ibsen’s, The Stronger, with a woman domineering a conversation with her friend; Beckett’s, Waiting for Godot, as it concerns two people trapped in a world, with one needing the other for an audience in order to survive; and even some of Rod Serling’s characters/stories of pool sharks, jockeys, boxers and losers.  Just a hint of what you’ll be looking at when you see this show.

Erie (Todd Van Voris), named after his birth in town in PA by his very uninventive parents, flops in a seedy hotel somewhere in NYC during the era of bootleggers and gamblers.  He’s one of them and prides himself on his luck with the whores, cards and the horses (not necessarily in that order).  He had befriended the former night clerk at this dive, Hughie, but he has up and died suddenly and a part of Erie went with him.  So now Erie must break in the new clerk, Charlie (Sean Doran), as to the expectations of the role he should play in Erie’s life.

Hughie always loved to listen to Erie’s stories of his dames, his luck with the nags and dice and his adventures with the Mob.  And, boy, could Erie tell a story!  Hughie was Erie’s good luck charm, he gave him confidence, a reason for being and now, without him, well, it just isn’t the same anymore.  Charlie, the new night clerk, seems to be lost in a world of his own, a dull cipher wedged between the roar of the El trains and the drone of Erie’s escapades.  But, “attention must be paid,” to this wandering echo of lost hopes in the concrete jungle.

It is as if Erie is really only talking to himself, trying to rebuild his world with a new “Hughie.”  Even the look of Charlie is pale, cadaverous, moaning empty platitudes in response, waiting for Erie to get his rhythm back and re-mold his world back into something…recognizable.  Erie’s very existence might depend upon it.  We all need champions in our corner to propel us forward but, perhaps, the most important one is the person who stares back at us from the glass in the mornings.  How will it all turn out?  Well, you’ll just have to see for yourselves, won’t you?!

Mouawad’s shows are always worth watching, as he always seems to have another layer or two beneath the ones obviously visible.  And when he delves into the works of O’Neill and Pinter, et. al., whose plots are already multi-layered, then it is a real treat for the mind and eyes.  My own take on this work is exposed in the paragraph above but, as always, there are more layers to investigate, depending on your eyes as well.  I love his set, as you feel you could walk on it and back into the world of many years ago.  And the subtle lighting, exploring the mood changes, by Jeff Forbes, the pale make-up on Doran and the intrusive sound of the El trains by Kyle Delamarter, all contribute to a sense of things being not quite in sync, a step out of time.

Doran as the pasty patsy, Charlie, is understandably bland, fading into the woodwork, a book yet to be writ upon, but with a sense of an ember smoldering inside.  He is a perfect foil for Van Voris.  And I simply couldn’t say enough good things about Van Voris!  He is certainly one of the premiere actors in this area.  He plays Erie like he might be a sculptor, pacing around, throwing barbs, bellowing and bulling to get just the right shape to his creation.  A passionate creator that needs an audience to feel whole.  Pacino, Robards, et. al. have all put their mark on the role and, to be honest, Van Voris, I feel, can put his star right up next to theirs, unashamedly!

I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.