Monday, April 3, 2017

Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore—Portland Center Stage--Pearl District

Deconstruction of “Tami Lisa”

This World Premiere of this one-woman show is written by, and stars, Lauren Weedman, and is directed by Rose Riordan.  It is playing at their space in The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through April 30th (finding parking is a major problem in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information, go to their site at www.pcs.org or call 503-3700.

The title of Weedman’s show may not only refer only to a physical location but also her emotional/mental state as well.  It is somewhat reminiscent of Bette Midler’s great pseudo-bio film of Janis Joplin called, The Rose.  It speaks volumes about an entertainer’s fragile state of being, as one tries to cope with Fame.  Fame is unrelenting in its demands on a person, as you try to please everyone, fans, friends, managers, crew, et. al.,  and end up often on that slippery slope, relying on drugs and alcohol for your solace, ending up deconstructing yourself.

“Stop the World, I Want To Get Off,” Weedman’s character, Tami Lisa, her alter-ego, a country-pop star singer, seems to be screaming.  In front of a crowd of fans she introduces guests, including Lucinda Williams, her husband, Roman (also a singer), her babysitter, et. al. and even attempts to chat with her band, who are all totally tongue-tied.  She attempts to channel songs from her contemporaries, such as Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Helen Reddy, Neil Sedaka, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond and many others, which she succeeds at with gusto.  All the time running a non-stop patter for fear that, if coming up for air, she might see the vacuum she actually lives in called Her Life.  “Life is something that happens while you’re waiting to die,” might be her mantra.

Also, while she is on this rapid-fire journey through the show, she attempts to tell jokes that her writers have dug up from past comedians, all very lame.  She also reads and answers questions from the audience, also a dead-end.  It seems that she is ready for anything Life has to thrust at her, except Life itself.  In her journey of attempting to express herself and please others, she has forgotten to carve out a little corner of the world for herself.  She is a “hard-looking woman,” trying to find herself through others.  In the end, when all is said and done, she may discover that the only persona she needs to satisfy, is the one looking back at her in the glass.  When ‘tis done, Peace will follow.

The energy Weedman exudes in this ceaseless, spontaneous trajectory through the cosmos is remarkable!  She is a force-of-nature and unstoppable, as her talent explodes, playing all the various supporting characters in her entourage, as well as singing, dancing and playing her way through a myriad of songs.  She is an unmovable force in a very moving performance.  And, as I understood at this show, she actually wasn’t feeling all that well.  Now, that’s a professional, as not for one second did I sense she wasn’t giving 100% on that stage!

Riordan , I’m sure, has been a good sounding board for Weedman and kept an objective eye on the pacing of the show, and it’s evident in its success.  My own personal observation, as well as two friends who were with me (who also enjoyed the production immensely), is that the show might be even more dynamic on a more intimate stage.  But, with that aside, it is spectacular.  Also credit should be given to the two, backstage musicians, Tim Sonnefeld (guitar) and Ji Tanzer (percussion), who provided live music for the show.

I recommend this show, especially for Weedman’s whirlwind performance.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.