Thursday, April 13, 2017

This Random World—Portland Actors Conservatory—SW Portland

Proof of Life

This surrealistic comedy is written by Steven Dietz and directed by Beth Harper (PAC’s Artistic Director and Founder).  It is playing at their space, 1436 SW Montgomery St., through April 23rd (it is only street parking, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information, go to their site at www.pac.edu or call 503-274-1717.

This story has similarities to the very good play that has been done in this area, “Almost Maine,” as it’s seemingly about random incidents/people that are, in reality, connected in some ways.  They are also about the search for love, life and a person’s purpose in it.  Some believe that Life itself is a random act and that there is no Supreme Force that has created or guiding it/them.  Others believe we are here for a Purpose and that our spirit will keep coming back until we achieve it.

But one thing is evident in Dietz’s interpretation, is that we are all interconnected and part of each other’s stories, as they are part of ours.  “No man is an island” and so we must find out how we plug into the circuits of Life and the World surrounding it.  With some, it may be a unique talent or skill or craft.  With others, it may be helping them to achieve their purpose and light their way.  But, bottom line, we must strive to make our mark, develop our legacy, so that we have proof we were here and have lived.

In this microcosm of the world, we meet Scottie (Kathleen Worley), a woman nearing the end of her life, whose sole passion now is traveling the world to see all that she may have missed.  She does this with her companion of a number of years, Bernadette (Melissa Buchta) who, one senses, is a bit world-weary at this point and so offers her sister, Rhonda (Tyharra Cozier), as her traveling buddy this time on her excursion to Japan, to find an elusive garden of contemplation.  It seems Scottie has a specific ritual to perform in order to complete her Life’s journey.

One quirk in Scottie’s existence, though, is that she refuses to inform her children of these excursions into the unknown because she feels that they would just worry needlessly and might hamper her plans.  Her daughter, Beth (Kristin Barrett), is a traveler, too, and is off this time to climbing mountains in Nepal (possibly, like her mother, to find a certain solace missing in everyday life).  Her son, Tim (Jacob Beaver), is of a different breed, in that he can’t seem to hold a job or even a girlfriend.  But his last one, Claire (Christa Helms), who has just been dumped by her boyfriend, Gary (John D’Aversa), still carries a torch for Tim.  Believe it or not, there is a point to all these seemingly random characters.

Oddly, all these people connect with each other and, as I’ve mentioned before, to the other’s story.  To discover the connection, you’ll have to see the play.  And, being the play does go all over the world, the designer, Max Ward, has cleverly created a sort of “screen play,” in which the removal or addition of screens changes the setting.  Also Ward has created a mist/rain effect for the end of the show, which is quite compelling.  Harper has taken a very intriguing and complicated story and streamlined it so that it is understandable.  And she, being a fine teacher, too, has led her students, in the majority of roles, into an intricate journey of the artistic mind, letting less, in their emoting, actually being more satisfying.

The cast were all good and Worley, an icon in local theatre for many years, is both winsome and thoughtful in a carefully modulated performance.  She always has been a talent to be reckoned with as a director/teacher herself, as well as an actor.  There are no false moves in any of these performances and the story, like a good mystery, will keep you fascinated till the end.

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