Sunday, August 13, 2017

hot ‘n’ throbbing—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland

“…Lives of Quiet Desperation”

This very explicit drama about abuse and obsession is written by Paula Vogel and directed by Matt Gibson.  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (just off Lombard…parking across the street in a church parking lot), through August 20th.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

According to Thoreau, the above title is what most people lead.  Which begs the question, why is this possible.  The easy answer is that we are conditioned, from birth onward, through heredity and nurturing, to eventually becoming the people we are.  In reality, the idea of Free Will may be only a vague memory.  Some of us are, in actuality, closer in kin to the lower order of animals and puppets than we are to an intellectual being that has the ability to make choices/changes in our lives.  The question then becomes, how do we break out of an oppressive/abusive cycle to being a compassionate, reasoning being.  That, folks, is the ultimate query and one in which “easy answers” are not forthcoming.

Control and Power over people and objects (or do people then become objects?) seems to be a quest by some—Master and Slave.  In this story, Charlene (Jaime Langton) is a writer of “erotic literature for women” in a noir style, or a type of pulp fiction.  She is even part of a film company that explores these issues.  Beware of saying she does porn or you’ll have a fight on your hands.  She even has a couple of “Muses” in the Voice Over (Adriana Gantzer), an alter-ego, a combination of adult, exotic dancer and sometimes Lisa, best friend to her daughter.  Then there is The Voice (Benjamin Philip), Director of her scenes in life, as well as a Noir-type of detective.  They will attempt to guide her.

She also has two children, teens, in various states of development.  Calvin (Chloe Duckart) is sexually repressed, a voyeur, seemingly unable to be part of the social crowd of his age and trying to be the “man of the house.”  Leslie Anne (Tabitha Ebert) desperately wants to take “a walk on the wild side,” but is unable to do that except in her imagination.  Both kids are at odds with their Mom, who they live with, and their estranged Dad, Clyde (Jason A. England), who is an abusive, alcoholic, unemployed ex-husband/father who pops in now and again, probably just to exert power over his charges.

And one, explosive night, everything comes to a head and it doesn’t really end well for anyone.  Obviously, I’m not going to tell you the outcome but know that this would be R-rated and the scenes of violence, although stylized, and language, are explicit!  Definitely not for Youth, although in today’s atmosphere, some mature young people might be able to glean from this story and, perhaps, see behavior in their friends/family that might mirror, in some ways, the situations portrayed here.  But this play is certainly not for the squeamish or those easily offended.

The actors are all first-rate and I applaud their courage for exposing such a difficult subject.  As “entertainment” I would not recommend this play.  But as a learning experience or as educational material, it is a must.  Vogel is a brutally honest playwright and I don’t doubt that she has had experience first-hand, in life, of the behaviors she writes about and so I applaud, too, her bravery.

Gibson is a classy director and I admire his choices.  The power in any scene is not what you see/hear, but what you imagine you see and hear.  For example, the original film of “Halloween” was criticized for being too bloody (even banned in Portland when it was released for TV) and yet there is virtually no blood evident in it (just some great music, writing, photography, acting and directing, all by Carpenter).  He did not create a reality, only the illusion of a reality.  And, so to, has Gibson, and done it very well!

If you choose to see this production, please tell them Dennis sent you.