Friday, November 16, 2018

Care of Trees—Enso theatre ensemble—SE Portland


                      Root of it All

    This two-character drama is written by E. Hunter Spreen and directed by Caitlin Lushington.  It is playing at the Shaking-the-Tree space, 823 SE Grant St., through December 2nd.  For more information, go to their site at www.ensotheatre.com

    What is it all about?  Why are we here?  Expansive questions…no simple answers.  But, to approach it All—Life “…be brave, be curious, be determined…” (Stephen Hawking).  In other words, perhaps, take a chance on Life and live it to the fullest, as if there are no tomorrows.  And consider, we, indeed, may only “…be such things as dreams are made on…” so make this one the grandest dream of all!

    As in the case of Georgia (Megan Gotz) and Travis (Jon Gennari), they meet (accidentally or pre-determined?) at a cocktail party.  They banter, stalk each other, explore the sexual possibilities and, finally, throw their hats into the ring called Love.  They probe each other, test the waters, grow together, evolve and explore the highs and lows…ebbing and flowing with whatever the tides…the Game of Life…may bring.  Tears and laughter cancel each other out, no points one way or the other for that, but the goal is scored when they complete the match together, a bit more worn, perhaps, but resolves in tact.  Both winners.

    This is a complicated and intricate plot of two souls finding their purpose.  Can’t really give you details without giving away aspects that an audience should discover.  And it is simply done, with a couple of chairs, a bed, some incidental props and visuals…but it will cover a lifetime for them.  I admire greatly these two actors, as they had to exposed their souls to reach the Truths embedded in this trek of two lives enmeshed.  Kudos to them!

    And, Lushington, has amazingly worked out a roadmap for their journey that, as sweeping as it is, doesn’t leave you floundering as to when and where they are.  She also seems to have a knack for guiding, not only the audience, but specific details of the emotional paths the actors should take.  This is a show for adults but it’s obvious it’s also a very personal exploration, a catharsis, perhaps, for the author and, possibly, viewers as well.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Stories of Hope—Playback Theater—SW Portland




“Hope Springs Eternal”

    This theater company only plays for one performance, about four times a year.  The space they use is called Resound NW, 1532 SW Jefferson St.  It’s a large room and was standing-room only for last night’s show, so I would advise getting there early.  Their next event is January 26th.  For more information, go to their site at http://www.playbacktheaterpdx.com

    In these troubled times, we truly do need that “H” word in our vocabulary.  And how to accomplish that?  Try, in essence, what this troupe does…as Harper Lee would exclaim, through Atticus Fitch, you need to put on another’s shoes and walk around in them a bit to understand other points of view.  This group is part Improv team and story-tellers, part cathartic and part therapeutic, in approach.  Their main thrust is to take stories from the audience, usually around a specific theme (in this case, Hope) and act out, or playback, your story.  Intriguing idea.

    A side note, I myself, in my early days of theatre at, at what was then called Southern Oregon College in Ashland, had a space on campus, run by a minister, in which a band of actors did Improv comedy in his “church,” a coffee house called, The Key (as he felt the key to harmony was dialogue).  It was a great training ground for an actor, as we collected ideas or words from the audience and then performed skits around them (such as they do here, in essence).  Afterwards, we would mingle with the audience and had some pretty healthy discussions about all sorts of topics.  What we all came away with, I believe, was a better understanding of ourselves and our neighbors.

    In this incarnation, a very talented troupe of 3 women and 1 male, an emcee/host and a guitarist, were able to successfully entertain, enlighten and educate a group of relative strangers to awaken to a world out there, that is better when shared with others, and then concerns we personally have might not seem so overwhelming.  I wish I could give you the names of the people involved but there was no printed material passed out so you’ll just have to go to their sits for that information.

   I, myself, have mentored young girls in theatre by trying to give them motivation and direction, since the educational system, at large, seems to de-emphasize the Arts in schools.  (The best program around this area to train youth in the performing arts, I believe, is Oregon Children’s Theatre and its classes, overseen by Dani Baldwin, Education Director).  “Attention must be paid…” if our Youth are expected to make things better, in this battered world we are leaving them.  And events, like Playback produces, are seeking out artistic avenues for expressions of ourselves and the young, might just tip the scale from behaving like lemmings, to leading the charge to positive possibilities for all.

   You owe it to yourselves to experience their wares and “mine the unknown.” If you do choose to participate, tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Diary of Anne Frank—Battle Ground Drama Club—Battle Ground, WA

Growing Pains

    This classic true story is written for the stage by Francis Goodrich & Albert Hackett (from the diary of Anne Frank) and is directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry.  It is playing in The Lair in the high school, 300 W. Main St., in Battle Ground, at 7 pm through November 17th.  For more information, contact the director, henry.stephan@battlegroundps.org

    There are old adages that go something like this:  It’s my way or the highway and, if we don’t correct the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.  Both proven true in this divided, derisive atmosphere we are now living in, as we adults, in our infantile behaviors, still have not learned to live in harmony with others and Nature.  And the losers in these decisions—our Youth…and their/our Future?  But there is a trickle of hope in this leaky faucet, with the MeToo Movement, and the Youth that openly oppose unregulated gun ownership, and those young folks suing the government over polluting the atmosphere for future generation.  You go, gang!

    This present production of a young teenage girl, who didn’t survive the Nazi regime, has taught us an enduring lesson, as one of the final entries in her diary proclaims that she still believed, in spite of all the horrors she witnessed, that people are basically good.  It should shame us all!  And it seems to be through the young that we see the world, from the eyes of the innocent, the real Truth of situations. 

    Such films/books as “The Summer of my German Soldier,” “Life is Beautiful,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and this story, are some examples of the young observing that “Jungle” we have created for ourselves.  On a personal note, while teaching some K-5 students during the close call for the election of the President, between Bush and Gore, I asked them what would they do if they were faced with that situation.  One child said, they should share the Office… “out of the mouth of babes…!”

    For almost two years Anne Frank (Alyssa Carr), a precocious teen, her older but shier sister, Margot (Anabelle Melton), their wise Father, Otto (Killian Griffin) and stern mother, Edith (Maria Wetzbarger), are holed up in hiding in an attic area of her father’s business.  They are joined by some friends, the gluttonous Mr. Van Daan (Nathan Lenz), his snobby wife, Mrs. Van Daan (Mackenzie Linville) and their somewhat reclusive son, Peter (Luke Henrikson), who eventually strikes up a relationship with Anne.

    Added to this mix is the fussy dentist, Mr. Dussel (Chase Wrightson), and the go-betweens for them to the outside world, Mr. Kraler (Mason Gardner), Otto’s partner and Miep (Trinity Weaver), a special friend through all this conflict (only Otto and Miep will survive for some years after).  And there are briefly some Nazi soldiers that invade their space, Jerry Balch, Tanner Opdahl, Kenny Harmon and Jaden Denfeld.  The play consists of how these differing individuals manage to live together in tight quarters for these several months.  The sad irony is that this group was on one of the last trains sent to the death camps and Anne died of disease just days before the camps were liberated.

    This is a powerful story (made even more topical by the hate killings in a temple just recently).  Keep in mind that these students were just born this century, so have no personal connection to these events themselves, only pointing out, once again, the powerful tool theatre is to education the young as to past and present historic and cultural events.  Henry is a master at teaching/directing Youth and should be given every support in future endeavors of this kind!  His wife, Sundance Wilson Henry, as the scenic and costume designer, always enhances his productions, too, as she does here.

    The cast seems really invested in this production, as they all create specific characterizations for their roles.  As the two major players, Carr, as Anne, really seems to embody the spirit of the real diarist, and Griffin, as her father, touches us all with his strong presence in this ensemble, and especially in his closing speech…more than a few tears were shed from the audience, I’m sure.

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

Monday, November 5, 2018

Pageant—Triangles Productions!--NW Portland




         Glitz, Glamour & Glory

    This musical spoof of beauty pageants has book and lyrics by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, music by Albert Evans, conceived by Robert Longbottom and directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at Darcelle XV CLUB, 208 NW 3rd Ave., Sundays, Nov. 11th and 18th at 2 pm.  For more information, go to their site at www.trianglepro.org or call 503-239-5919.

    Spoofs of this sort on beauty pageants are not new, there was a film some years ago with Bruce Dern called, “Smile,” and, unintentionally, perhaps, the actual contests themselves have become a sort of self-mockery, with charges of corruption, sexual abuse and, with the current MeToo Movement, perhaps, will fade into the sunset.  But these folks take another slant on it with music, songs (vocal direction, Kristi Foster), and dance (choreographer, Sara Mishler Martins), as well as liberal doses of salty humor.

    I hate to go into too much detail, as so much of the fun is how the audience and judges (chosen from the audience), respond to the outrageous antics.  There is, of course, the Emcee (James Sharinghousen)—eat your heart out, Bert Parks, he’s twice the entertainer that you pretended to be.  And, of course, there’s the stars of the show, the beauties, the finalist in a contest for Queen, it’s sponsored by a beauty products company (so liberal endorsements are freely given…er, demanded). 

    The Beauties, in this case are, Miss West Coast (Collin Carver), not the sharpest knife in the drawer; Mis Industrial NE (Pepe Raphael), a very animated, Hispanic-American, who is the live wire of this grouping; Miss Deep South (Shaun Hennessy), spouting Dixie at every opportunity; Miss Bible Belt (Joe Healy), conducting herself as if an old world, fire & brimstone revivalist;  Miss Great Plains (Jeremy Sloan), the lone model for rural America; and Miss Texas (Kevin Cook), the unabashedly, All-American ambassador.

    And like all good contests of this sort, the contestants had to exhibit certain winning traits to rise to the top and become its Queen.  The categories are:  formal dress (evening gowns); swimsuit; talent (watch for the puppet act, they are a scream); physical fitness (a very active dance number); and a musical chairs activity around a phone, in which the answerer of the hot-line must solve the problem of the caller—probably the most inventive of all the selections.  Really can’t tell you more without being a spoiler.

    This is a fun evening brought to you by the very creative, Don Horn and the perfect setting for this event, generously provided by Darcelle.  And kudos must also go to the clever lighting and sound man, Jason Coffey; terrific wig designs by Jane Holmes/See Jane and costumes (no credit given); and a special shout-out to the wait staff (Leo & Co.), who was a favorite with the audience.  Sharinghousen is always worth seeing in everything he does; Raphael was a hoot; the puppet act by Hennessy almost stole the show; but my over-all favorite was Carver, as the dimmest light bulb in the chandelier who, also, is very notable in every production he’s a part of!

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

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Inherit the Wind—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR



Planet of the Apes?

    The classic trial drama about the famous Scopes’ Monkey Trial of about 100 years ago in the Deep South, is written by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee and directed by Antonio Sonera.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St., in Lake Oswego.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org

    It’s amazing how many issues are broached in this story.  It addresses religion vs. science, separation of church and state, Evolutionists/Darwinists vs. Creationists, and the freedom of Man to think for himself and to speak his mind.  We are still in some of those struggles even today.

    The story of the proceedings up to the trial are as engaging as the trial itself.  Reportedly, it was all a publicity stunt to garner some revue for this small, Southern town, so they arranged to prosecute an educator for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution to school kids, then informing the two giants of the law world, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, who were to duke it out verbally in court, which means that tourists from all over the country, as well as the news media, including the famous critic, H. L Menken, would swamp this burg and give its economy a much-needed boost.  And the stunt worked beautifully.

    The movie of it starred Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Gene Kelly, as the three above-mention personas, and a TV adaption had Jason Robards, Kirk Douglas and Tony Randall portraying the same, both quite good.  (I even directed a production of it myself some years back at the Columbia Arts Center.)  And now we have this production, with two giants of the local theatre scene, Allen Nause as the Darrow in carnation, Henry Drummond and Todd Van Voris as the Bryan substitute, Matthew Harrison Brady, a match made in theatre heaven!

    The story has these two titans vying for the constitutional soul, perhaps, of Cates [Scopes] (Jim Vadala), who has dared to teach Darwin to young children in the Bible-belt part of the world.  His only real local support, his girlfriend, Rachel (Olivia Weiss), also happens to be the daughter of the town’s religious leader, Rev. Brown (David Sikking).  On the sidelines, reporting all this, is the newspaper critic, the cynical, Hornbeck (Ian Goodrich).

    But the real meat of the matter occurs in Act II, where Drummond is prevented from calling scientists to explain Darwin’s theories, so he’s forced to fight on the enemy’s own turf, and calls Brady himself to logically explain how things came about on this earth, using only the literal translation of the Bible.  Then the fireworks really begin.  And we, as a viewer/listener may have our own questions by the end of this confrontation.  At the crux of the matter is, perhaps, since God gave Man, Free Will and Reasoning Power, why should he be condemned for using them to think and speak as he chooses?

    This production is both powerful and touching and well-rendered onstage by Sonera.  All the supporting characters do well in filling in the landscape for this major battle.  Goodrich is convincing, as he paints for us the outsider’s perspective on these alarming events.  Vadala, a very talented actor in many productions, is appropriately baffled and at a loss for words, as the creator of this whirlwind of controversy.  And Weiss, as his love interest, is quite touching and believable as a woman caught between two worlds of thought and, although facing an awaking is, perhaps, the future product of a new way of thinking.
But the focus of this production is Nause and Van Voris and both are splendid! 

     They burn up the stage with their predictions of, perhaps, either biblical hellfire, or stoking the sparks of creativity.  It is a high mark in acting and should not be missed!  Van Voris, steadfast in his condemnation of even the thought of thinking “…those things he doesn’t think about.”  And Nause, using his wiles and wits, to expose hypocrisy and yet, willing to concede that there, indeed, may be “…more things in heaven and earth…than are dreampt of in [our] philosophy.”  Truly, it “must give us pause.”

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

Dreamgirls—Stumptown Stages—Downtown Portland


     Impossible Dreams?

    This dramatic musical has book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, music by Henry Krieger and directed and choreographed by Roger Welch, and musical direction by Adam Young.  It is playing at their space at The Brunish Theatre (4th floor), 1111 SW Broadway, through November 4th.  For more information go to their site at www.stumptownstages.org

    This is from a Tony award-winning play, which was made into quite an excellent movie.  What performer(s) hasn’t thought of making it to the top of their profession, with all the fame and fortune, glitter and glamour that seems to go with it.  It is a dream, devoutly to be desired.  Or is it just so much smoke and mirrors…an illusion for hungry artists?   Trappings all.  For all the glitz, there is the gutter, for all the peaks, there are the pits, always evident for those who slip.  And for all the gain, there is the pain.  It’s rarely ever easy and in the end, sacrifices must be made, which could include your friends, family, self-esteem, health and even, your Soul.  So, you must ask yourself the hard question, is it worth it?!

     In the case of the Dreams, Deena (Shahayla Ononalye), Lorrell (Kristin Robinson) and Effie (Julianne Johnson), they will take that journey down the “yellow-brick road” to find their great and powerful dream coming true, or is it just a silly, old man behind a curtain.  Time will tell.  And, perhaps, one should not forget the true treasures offered at the end of that rainbow:  Brains, Heart, Courage and no place like Home.  But to discover their importance, it is necessary to journey beyond and behind the rainbow, as the Dreamgirls do.

     These three, with their ever-faithful, but na├»ve composer, C. C. (Blake Stone), Effie’s brother, “ease on down” that road from humble beginnings to lofty expectations (and back again).  Their lowly desire is to win a contest at the famed Apollo Theatre and be booked for a week there.  The end result is they get is 10 weeks on the road as back-up singers with the huge star, Jimmy Early (Jarvis Sam).  The golden gates open a crack for them.

     They are welcomed with open arms by Jimmy and his sensible manager, Marty (Amber Cobb).  But into the fray struts the wicked, Curtis (John Devereaux).  His smooth talk and oily ways convince the ladies that he can make them stars.  All they have to do is submit to his control of their lives, both personal and financial, it turns out  In the beginning it is all an innocent Garden of Poppies but, with a snake loose, it will not last long.  Affairs, heartbreak, the replacement of one of the members by Michelle (Jalena Montrond) and betrayal, eventually leads this trio’s triumph into a spiral of sadness.  The end result will be for you to discover.

    The musical road they journey down goes through R&B, Pop, Soul and Disco…from easy listening tunes to hard dancing ones.  And some of the dialogue is sung, much like in an opera.  My favorite numbers were Cadillac Car, Steppin’ to the Bad Side, Dreamgirls and all of Effie’s solos, One Night Only, I Am Changing, and the show-stopping, …I’m Not Going.

    The music (Young) was intense, without overpowering the actors.  And the costumes (designer, Margaret Louise Chapman) were especially exciting, reflecting the changes in color and styles through the years.  Welch was smart in letting the actors and songs carry the story without a lot of elaborate sets, and the dance numbers were reflective of the times.  Well done.

    The performers are all excellent as singers and actors.  But two that stood out for me were Sam as Jimmy, who was a dancer (acrobat?) beyond all expectations and a terrific singer and actor, as well.  A too true character in the fight for the brass ring, never realizing you have to hold onto to it forever, or risk being outshone.  A bravo performance! 

    And one must give a lion’s share of the praise to Johnson in the key role as Effie.  She is extraordinary!  An icon herself as a performer and director, and she shows you why, here.  Her singing in all her numbers was a standout and she’s a pretty damn good actor, too.  And she also does a nice job of layering her performance, so that one does feel sympathy for her but sees her tough side, as well.  She deserved the roar of the crowd after her show-stopping numbers.  She is the heart of this well-conceived production…long may she pulsate!

 I recommend this show, if you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Shivers—Young Professionals Company—NE Portland




              Buried Secrets

    This World Premiere musical, ghost story is written, directed and choreographed by Matthew B. Zrebski.  It is playing at the Y/P Studio of Oregon Children’s Theatre, 1939 NE Sandy Blvd., through November 11th.  For more information, go to their site at www.octc.org/yp-company

    One’s “salad days” are full of discoveries and angst now, especially with the conventions of social media.  Personal relationships are done from afar, via texting, e-mails, cell phones, and the many other distracting ways of communicating, preventing us from actually touching another human being, or even the outside world, for that matter.  We are, perhaps, like the characters in this play, existing in a Hell of our own making.

    For those of you that might want to put this in some context with familiar surroundings, it does have some common elements to the musical, “Rent,” with a band of like-folks railing against their smothering atmosphere; or, the short story/play, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” with a child’s descent into madness, perhaps; or, the thriller, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” about a group of teens that are hiding a tragic secret.  All relevant, in some ways, to this story.

    A girl, Vix (Averyl Hartje) is seemingly trapped in a closet in a school by an unknow intruder and her lifeline to the outside world is her cell phone, or is that the purpose of her calls?  An outcast student, Gailen (Isaac Ellingson), is seemingly trying to make contact with each member of this band of brothers/sisters but for what purpose?  And three sets of teens are trapped in a snowstorm and all getting mysterious messages and phone calls, revealing intimate secrets of their lives.  Who’s responsible…and why?

    The pairing of the students are Tala (Ella Carson), a very determined girl, who has a boyfriend, Lionel (David VanDyke), who wants to take their relationship to the “next level.”  Then, there is the gay drug dealer, Shea (Xavier Warner), who has a budding relationship with, Brock (Asher Ross), an emotionally, fragile individual.  And, finally, there is Ravyn (Julia Meyers), a popular girl in school who has formed a bond with Mindy (Kai Tomizawa), a girl going through more than one personal crisis in her life.

    In the end, they will all confront their fears, and secrets will be unearthed.  But, I cannot tell you more without being a spoiler.  Zrebski has written an extraordinary play with songs that give each person their moment to shine…and the do sparkle beautifully!  This is a story that could easily be sent to other educational institutes to be performed, as well as having a life as an Off-Broadway production.

    The set is simple but effective and the visuals (Lucas Welsh) add much to the production.  The acting and singing is first-rate (after all, they are Y/P students, who are always at the top of the class, in my book!).  The women, Carson, Meyers, Hartje and Tomizawa, especially, have powerful voices and nailed their songs.  This is a production with some very heavy material, zeroing in on the modern teens, so be aware of the frankness of these situations.

    And a special shout-out to Dani Baldwin, Education Director at OCT and Y/P, and her staff.  Her students, because of the learning they get here, are the most prepared, in my opinion, for not only a possible career in the Arts, but also Life itself.  They learn to work as a team and build self-confidence, all while groping and grasping for the Gold in a safe environment.  Even the far-off stars are not beyond their reach!

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

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Map of Virtue—Theatre Vertigo—SE Portland




          Bird-Speak

    This Halloween-appropriate story is written by Erin Courtney and directed by Emilie Landmann.  It is playing at the Shoebox Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through November 17th.  For more information, go to their site at www.theatrevertigo.org

    We all have memories of past events we wish we could erase, and choices we’ve made that we wish we hadn’t.  We have all come to those Crossroads in Life where we look back and wonder…what if….  The elusive Frost enigmas, The Road Not Taken, emerges.  But the fact remains, we are who we are today Because of those choices, not in Spite of them.  And so, as we near that time of year once again, when evil is strongest, this story fits right in.

    A warning, though, this has elements in common, I believe, with the masking in Texas Chains-saw Massacre, the enigma of Blair Witch Project, and even the non-sense verses of Dr. Seuss.  It is not for everyone, as there are many adult situations and scary scenes involved.  But, again, Tis the Season….

    The tale is told from a Bird’s (Jacquelle Davis) perspective, as she appears in their lives from a dramatic event and continues to influence their stories until, perhaps, like the Phoenix, she’s consumed by fire (to rise again from the ashes?).  The Bird passes from Mark (Samson Syharath), in an odd way, to Sarah (Paige Rogers), then starts appearing in some of her paintings.  And Mark keeps reappearing in her life and she and her husband, Nate (Joel Patrick Durham) form a friendship.

    Before long they all party together and meet up with a strange woman, June (Kaia Maarja Hillier), who takes them to her house in the woods, where they meet her very strange friend, Ray (Gary Strong), a child-like man and many ugly things occur there (like in any good horror film).  But will Victor (London Bauman), who has a connection to one of these folks, be able to find them in time and save the day?  You’ll just have to see it for yourselves…if you dare!

    I haven’t been able to tell you much of the story without being a spoiler but, believe me, if this is your sort of genre, you’ll enjoy it.  In fact, the story has all the elements of making a good thriller film.  The set (Kyra Bishop Sanford) is simple but very effective for this tale and director, Landmann, has varied the suspense with some meaningful pauses, which only heightens the terror.  And she has chosen a very good cast, all of whom are enough to creep you out at the appropriate moments.

    I recommend this play but, as mentioned, only for the most discriminating tastes.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Monday, October 22, 2018

Deathtrap—Bag & Baggage Productions—Hillsboro, OR

          Playing For Thrills


    This classic thriller by Ira Levin is directed by Scott Palmer (B&B’s Founding Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space in The Vault Theatre, 253 E. Main St., in Hillsboro, through October 31st.  For more information, go to their site at www.bagnbaggage.org

    Levin is not a stranger to this genre, having been most famous for “Rosemary’s Baby,” and “The Stepford Wives.”  My own personal favorite of his, though, is the little known, “Veronica’s Room,” (which I directed some years ago).  Levin had his own share of failures, too, and so Sydney, the main character, does have the same haunting problems but, gratefully, not with the same solutions.

    Mystery, Horror, Thrillers are all genre’s I’m fond of because, as Ray Bradbury put it best when he said, that those kinds of books/films deal with the Unknown, our Fears and, if we can conquer them, through these literary means, then we can survive anything.  “Deathtrap” is more of a very dark comedy or melodrama then it is an outright thriller, but it does have its share of twists and turns and downright shocking moments.  And so, sit back and relax (if you dare) and enjoy…er, experience, this Halloween mayhem offering.

    Sydney (Lawrence Siulagi) was a successful Broadway playwright of thrillers but now seems to be in a slump.  With his candle dimming, he just can’t seem to come across an idea for another blockbuster.  His wife, Myra (Morgan Cox), has long stood by his side.  Finally, an idea arrives…in the mail, from a former student, Clifford (Andrew Beck), with a play called, “Deathtrap.”  It’s his first play and he has hopes of his mentor liking it but who, it turns out, not only likes the script, but is hoping to collaborate on it with him, possibly leading him back to the limelight.

    But just when things seem to be going swimmingly for this union, his next-door neighbor, Helga (Mandana Khoshnevisan), a psychic, shows up with predictions of gloom and doom for these artistic folks.  And, sure enough, one of them does meet their demise.  Not only that, but the couple’s own lawyer and a friend, Porter (Eric St. Cyr), shows up unexpectedly with news that their financial situation also may be in jeopardy.  I’ve had to be very sketchy because the spoilers could run rampant if I gave away any more information, so come see it for yourselves for the payoff(s).

    One of the first things I noticed when entering the theatre was the terrific set (Tyler Buswell), which was pretty amazing, as it contains many artifacts from various methods of murder over the years.  First-rate!  And Palmer, always a visual and organic director, has used the space well.  He also understands character and has a super cast, always playing the characters slightly off-key, which is appropriate for a thriller.

    Siulagi is terrific as the aging writer and Beck, as the novice, is equally as good, both playing off each other to dramatic conclusions that are quite effective.  Cox and Cyr are fine as supporters of Sydney’s.  And Khoshnevisan is perfect as the eccentric, nosy neighbor.  She always lights up the stage when on and is, again, a marvel here, too.

    I recommend this play but, be aware, there are some brutal scenes.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ella Enchanted—Oregon Children’s Theatre—Downtown Portland




            A Celebration of Me!

    This lovely, family musical, based on the Cinderella fairy tale, is adapted for the stage by Karen Zacarias, with music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, from the book by Gail Carson Levine.  It is directed & choreographed by Jessica Wallenfels and music direction by Darcy White.  It is playing at the Newmark Theatre space, 1111 SW Broadway, through November 18th.  For more information, go to their site at www.octc.org

    This classic fairy tale has been widely adapted from, among others, the animated Disney classic, to the live musical from Roger & Hammerstein, to the likes of Jerry Lewis.  My own special favorite is “Ever After,” a non-musical version with Drew Barrymore.  It is a timeless tale that promotes that, even an ordinary citizen might aspire to the guarded royalty of a kingdom (al la recent events in England). 

    But in this version, it hinges also on the coat-tails of the MeToo Movement, as well, giving more weight to a woman standing up for her rights and not being bullied around.  Also, it touches on the need for understanding different languages in order to begin to embrace other cultures.  A grand and entertaining learning experience for all.

    The story begins its downward spiral when Ella’s (Sophia Takla) daffy fairy god-mother, Lucinda (Sam Bangs), arrives at her birth and bestows upon her the gift of Obedience, to anyone and everything she is ordered to do.  Her sensible Mother (Claire Rigsby), is not quite so please with this “gift” but her autocratic father, Sir Peter (Christopher Kehoe), is very impressed. 

    The tale goes from bad to worse, as her mother dies in Ella’s childhood and her father takes up with the unscrupulous, Dame Olga (Rigsby, again), who has two bratty daughters, the scheming Olive (Riley Holmes) and her sister, Hattie (Samantha Garcia).  They are sent to a Finishing School where her step-sisters use her “gift” to bully her and when home, she becomes a mere servant in the household.

    But her life is not all misery, as she has met a friend in Prince Charmont (Skylar Derthick), who is a nice enough lad and is glad to have a friend.  Together they encounter Ogres and Giants and eventually become closer.  I think you know the rest of the story about The Ball, and the transformation of Ella, and the errant slipper.  But the ending does have an unusual twist (which I can’t reveal, of course) but let me say that it is very topical in these times.

    The songs are all quite pleasant and fit the story, but nothing you’d be humming to yourself afterwards.  The cast is exceptionally good and, as singers, even a notch higher.  Rigsby and Bangs have very expressive voices, as well as characters.  Kehoe has a great comic bit as the Prince’s Squire.  And Takla, as the lead character, has a voice that would raise the roof and her acting, in some complicated scenes, is amazing.  A gold star for this young lady!

    Also kudos should be given to the creator of the Ogres and, especially, the Giants, which, I assume, was the creation of, in part , Wallenfels, who did a super job with directing this epic, and Emily Horton, who managed the costumes and puppets.  Also, praise for the stagehands that keep the numerous scene changes flowing smoothly.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2018

¡alebrijes! dia de muertos—Milagro—SE Portland



  Raising Spirits

    This original production, for the Day of the Dead celebrations, is written and directed by Georgina Escobar and is playing at their space, 525 SE Stark St., through November 11th.  For more information, go to their site at www.milagro.org

    All cultures have their own ways of respecting those that have passed on.  Some believe they pass on to a type of Heaven; others hold onto the thought that we will be reincarnated into another life; some feel their presence is always around us, et. al.  The American Halloween is an off-shoot of that, as we disguise ourselves with costumes and masks to fool evil spirits that roam the night.  As a kid, the most potent image I had was the classical piece, “Night on Bald Mountain,” that was animated by Disney in “Fantasia.”  Very scary.

    But now, to this story, presented as an adult fairy tale, and so we begin:  Once Upon a Time…there were three guardian spirits (or, perhaps, Muses, in the artistic vernacular) that were searching for their master, Pedro (Robi Arce), an artist, who was in love with the elusive, Lillian (Yesenia Lopez), who was betrothed to another. 

    But, back to his totems, or spirit guides…they consisted of Florinda (Tara Hershberger), a dedicated duck, whose duty was to keep him grounded; Bartolome (Matthew Sepeda), a crafty cat, a symbol of his mortality; and Felipe (Giovanni Alva), a restless rooster, reminding him that another day will always dawn.  Just one little hitch in their plans—Pedro is trapped in the world between life and death, and Le Muerte (Patrica Alvitez), Death, has her own plans on keeping him in her domain.

    How this all turns out, of course, you’ll have to discover for yourselves when you see it.  But, like all good fairy tales, they lived…hopefully…ever after.  “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”  Passion, Hope, Imagination, Love, Artistry…all important aspects of a well-realized Life.  You notice that Fame and Fortune never appeared in this missive, so take that to heart.

    This is truly an enlightening show, considering the elements going on in our present world situations.  And, although the language and situations may seem different from this fellow’s “gringo” culture, it is good to know there is much to learn about this wide world, in which one should embrace other perspectives.  Or, as my friend, Dave, who came with me to see this show said, “I’m not sure I understand it, but I’m enjoying the heck out of it, anyway  And so say I.
The production is a whirlwind of excitement in song, music, puppets, masks, stylized movement, dance…a magical embrace that goes beyond cultures to reach the heart and soul of the dreamers still left in this chaotic atmosphere.  “There is nothing to fear, but Fear itself.”

    There is many to thank for this imaginative piece, beginning with the director and writer, Escobar, flinging ideas, like stardust, onto an unsuspecting crowd to add to their lives.  The cast is all first-rate, having to be versatile in many mediums but up to the task in all their glory.  Original music by Luis Guerra, scenic design by Emily Wilken, Lighting by Trevor Sargent, costumes by Jessica Bobillot, Props by Sarah Andrews, Puppets by Mindy Escobar-Leanse, et. al., all pros in their fields, who added greatly to the success of this production.
I recommend this show.  

    If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Small Mouth Sounds—Artists Rep—SW Portland


“Silence is Golden”


     This rather unusual premise for a story is written by Bess Wohl and directed by Shawn Lee.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through November 4th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

     “Noises compete, grasshopper, as silence retreats.”  Sometimes silence can be deafening, as it is in this story.  We are so wrapped up in our worlds of computers, texting, and artificial noises, that we fail to communicate through a simple hug or smile, or a knowing look of encouragement.  Our world may have been created with a (Big) Bang and it’s likely it will end the same way.  What we have wrought, so shall we reap…unless we find that Quiet Place, not only on the outer crusts of this planet, but in the inner stillness of our being.

     This play explores Silence in unusual ways.  The one who expounds the most, the Teacher (Mary McDonald-Lewis), really may have the least to impart to her students at this retreat, all there to take a break from the world and/or find some sort of peace.  The main element to be adhered to is silence in this EST-type of surroundings. 

     The verbose, Joan (Susannah Mars) and her lover, the more refined, Judy (Ayanna Berkshire), seem to be there to work out some personal issue.  The gregarious, Alicia (Kelly Godell), is a product of words but seems intent on translating them into some forgotten knowledge that has escaped her to this point.  Ned (Darius Pierce) is a socially awkward individual, trying to find inroads to adapting socially to an unfamiliar world to him.

     Rodney (John San Nicolas) is a video guru of finding one’s path through yoga, but senses there is something important he has yet to learn.  And Jan (Michael Mendelson), a quiet person to begin with, but is reaching out to try and encompass a larger world he is not familiar with.  All searchers, and their journeys will conflict, connect and invade their very psyches before this trip is completed.  More I cannot tell you without spoiling the discoveries.

     This is almost completely a who’s who of the Artists Rep’s family and a talented ensemble they are as a cast.  Godell, as a bit of a flake, is perfect in her utter unawareness (I know people like her).  Mars is wonderful as a well-meaning friend who acts before she thinks about it.  Berkshire has a noble stillness to her being, pent up inside but wanting to expand.  San Nicolas is perfect as the smirking know-it-all until the mask begins to fall.  Mendelson is a gem as his character displays a quiet intensity as the newbie who yearns for understanding and acceptance.  McDonald-Lewis is a great voice actor who is so good you can almost see her, as she muddles through the “lessons.”  And Pierce is amazing in his naturalness in his monologue, as he exposes himself, and you truly feel for all the pained people in this world who are struggling to just be heard and understood.  It is an insightful trek for all of us and Lee has carefully led us successfully on this safari.

I recommend this play (nudity in one scene) and if you choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Marat/Sade—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland



Tiptoe Through the Crazies

     This psycho-drama/dark comedy/musical is written by Peter Weiss and directed by Dorinda Toner (Twilight’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (corner of Lombard, small parking lot across the street), through October 28th.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

     There should be a disclaimer (of sorts) in the program to the fact that “any resemblance to real life situations or people is purely…intentional!”  To say this is topical is truly an understatement.  Of course, this story is set in the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s in Paris, the time of the guillotine, French Revolution (Jean-Paul Marat, dissenter), the Inquisition, the Marquis de Sade (and his unique take on pleasure and pain) and Napoleon. 

     As you can see, it was not the romantic era of the 1920’s, when Paris was the hub of such artists/writers as Hemingway, Dali, Fitzgerald, Toklas, et. al.  These were revolutionaries of a different ilk…or were they?!  The most lasting kind of change comes with evolution over time, such as the young folks now opposing gun violence and pollution, and the MeToo Movement demanding respect and equality for women.  “Times, they are a-changin’.”

     This story, though, takes place in an asylum, where the new regime, Coulmier (Stan Yeend) and company, believe that play therapy will make inroads to understanding the mentally disturbed.  De Sade (Randy Patterson) being an inmate and writer, takes on the task of directing this band of misfits into an important saga of Marat (Greg Prosser) and the French Revolution, before he is stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday (Eva Andrews).  Among Marat’s followers are an ex-priest, Roux (Samuel Alexander Hawkins), his nurse Simonne (Jennifer Madison Logan), as well as, at one time, Corday and her horny boyfriend, Duperret (Skye McLaren Walton).

     To enable things to blaze along, there is a type of Greek Chorus (Kaitlynn Baugh, Maddy Gourlay, Jeremy Abe and Blaine Vincent III), singing ditties to enlighten us to the guts of the tale.  And to keep us all on track, (in verse, no less), is the Herald (Jeff Gibberson), a type of Host/Narrator/Jester.  Put this all together with ribald songs, stylized dance/movement, grizzly humor, lusty situations, murder, a touch of depravity, a dose of despair…shake it all about and you have this…Marat/Sade.  If this sounds like a show for discriminating adults only, you’d be dead right!

     This is not an easy production to produce, even for the most seasoned of troupes, but Toner and cast have done a pretty amazing job with it.  The set is simple but effective, as is the mood lighting, and the 20 plus roles, all are quite well handled.  The major roles mentioned, give a chilling account of incidents in history that echo even today in our current situations.  This is a timeless piece and is given a very good showing by a talented group, especially Toner.  Standing a notch higher in acting, is Gibberson, as our guide.  His use of timing, pauses, and subtle nuances are quite remarkable.  I’ve touted him in the past and he is certainly a talent to be reckoned with.

     I recommend this show but heed the subject matter.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Hurl—Corrib Theatre—New Expressive Works


Photo by Adam Liberman
“The Game’s Afoot”


     The U. S. Premiere of this serio-comedy is written by Charlie O’Neill and directed by Tracy Cameron Francis.  It is playing at their current space, 810 SE Belmont, through October 28th.  For more information, go to their site at www.corribtheatre.org or call 503-389-0579.

     We are all our brother’s keepers and the earth is jointly our home.  With all the controversy now as to immigrant issues, not only here but world-wide, this is a very timely story.  Why a government would choose to foster violence and poverty in their own country, and have their own people fleeing from their homeland, is beyond me.  But it seems to be a growing epidemic on this good earth.  The solution should be to stamp out the root causes of such disruption but, until then, we need to be a comfort and refuge to those seeking asylum.

     This story takes place in the present day in the west of Ireland.  It seems that immigrants from Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, etc. have also arrived on the shores of Ireland.  Besides being driven out of their own countries, they all feel the need to make themselves indispensable to their adopted homeland.  Enter a one-time priest, a bit of a tippler, Lofty (Clara-Liis Hillier), who may have lost his way in God’s Eyes, but still has the love of a game called Hurling (a type of hockey on a field).

     And so, it seems his destiny may be to lead this band of misfits into the arena, in which they might be able to show their mettle and determination.  In this motley crew is Musa (James Dixon), Fatmata (Falynn Burton) and an assorted ensemble of rainbow-colored individuals (Kenneth Dembo, Heath Hyun Houghton, Wynee Hu and Alec Cameron Lugo) that may create history and be allowed to shine their true hues on the turf.

But not everybody is happy with such an explosion of color in this country, mainly Rusty (Cynthia Shur Petts), who does everything possible to block their progress.  But when these noble vagabonds begin to make some headway at the games, he is willing to try any sort of devious methods to stop their progress.  The story has elements from the films, Hoop Dreams, Rocky, Hoosiers, et al.  But it also embraces the more universal issues of self-worth, humane behavior and respect for the individual, regardless of background, color or beliefs.

     The show has been located on an essentially bare stage, a playing field, with only some benches and hurling sticks as props, which had to have been a nightmare to choreograph for the cast, and director, Francis, who shines as well.  The cast also plays multiple characters, as well as their own team and the opposing side!  Quite a feat but these actors are all pros, as I have seen them in other incarnations before, always successful. 

     Also, kudos to the lighting designer, Sarah Hughey, who had to create mood and setting with a handful of lights and did it very well.  An exciting show, boosted a notch upward by cross-gender and cross-cultural casting, which is as it should be.  
     I highly recommend this ensemble work and, if you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wakey Wakey—Portland Playhouse—NE Portland




     “Rise & Shine”

     This exploratory story of the human psyche is written by Will Eno and directed by Gretchen Corbett.  It is playing at their space, 602 NE Prescott St. (parkin lot 2 blocks North on 6th), through October 21st.  For more information, go to their site at www.portlandplayhouse.org or call 503-488-5822.

     Since this seems to be a “sensory” story, involving all the senses of a man on the verge of something, perhaps, extraordinary.  Using, maybe, the same path the main character of Guy (Michael O’Connell) does, I am confronted/invaded by possibly like memories of past events, such as the last few moments of Kubrick’s, “2001:  A Space Odyssey;” or the old man’s recurring vision of his family across an uncrossable stream in Bergman’s classic, “Wild Strawberries;” or my own visions of laying, as a child, on a hillside, and watching trains in the valley rushing by and imaging stories in my head of the people on them and knowing that someday I would be a writer.

     Guy is a man in a wheelchair (that he appears not to need) and sharing with us memories of a lifetime through visuals, sounds, music, a type of cue cards, as triggers of memories, perhaps, and inviting us to likewise notice and embrace our world around us before Time, The Great Equalizer, catches up with us.  Looking for meanings in lost phrases, ruing over regrets…letting go, seems to be the key advice for those wishing to move forward.

     Then, into his world appears Lisa (Nikki Weaver), a type of nurse/guardian, perhaps, or possibly more to the point, a gatekeeper.  She is a comforter for him…patiently watching, soothing, picking up pieces of lost thoughts.  Guy seems to be enveloped in little things, strains of familiar tunes, sounds and sights of nature, but always in the act of waiting…waiting for what?  The next act in a drama that is just out of reach; another stab at a life lived and…misplaced; peace at the end of the tunnel?  Or is his purpose, perhaps, to pass the torch on to us, with full understanding that endings are never final, nor beginnings, pre-determined.

     Corbett is definitely an actor’s director, as she has managed to infuse little nuances into all the little nooks and crannies of Guy’s moments.  And O’Connell is a perfect choice for the role, as he is so natural (as is Weaver) that you feel you are sitting right there in the room with him, as he shares his thoughts with you.  Eno has written an introspective story, and yet it seems to resonate with everyone…a rare gift as a writer
.  
     I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ordinary Days—Broadway Rose—Tigard, OR




       “The Big Picture”

     This charming musical has music and lyrics by Adam Gwon, is directed by Isaac Lamb and music direction and piano by Eric Nordin.  It is playing at their space, 12850 SW Grant Ave. in Tigard.  For more information, go to their site at www.broadwayrose.org or call 503-620-5262.

     We are all interconnected and we all have our stories to tell.  Sometimes full of regrets…sometimes of joy, sometimes both…but we do matter because our stories are stories within other peoples’ stories.  And so, the big picture may not be for the big buck or the fame…but to make a lot of small, positive differences in other folks’ lives.  We all have our roles to play, as the Bard would say, so best make the best of it before “…our little lives are rounded with a sleep.”

     In this production, all four roles are sung throughout, virtually no spoken dialogue and so their songs are the story.  Essentially there are two stories of two pairs of people going on.  There is Deb (Quinland Fitzgerald), a small-town girl moving to the Big Apple to make a Big mark in life in a Big way.  But, instead, ends up in graduate school, still searching for that elusive…something out there. 

     Along the way she meets Warren (Seth M. Renne), who seems to live life vicariously.  He makes leaflets with witty sayings, which he passes out to people on the street, and fronts for an artist who’s in jail and who has a fab apartment that overlooks the whole of the city.  He also collects bits and pieces of people’s lives that have been discarded, like old photos, scraps of notes, and a fateful notebook that will lead him to Deb…and their relationship then evolves.

     Then, there is Jason (Benjamin Tissell), another newbie to the big city, who hooks up with Claire (Kailey Rhodes) and since they both seems to sense an attraction, they move in together.  But attraction alone is only going to last so long, as they both have past histories that will invade their personal spaces.  Also, living together shows up the little differences between people, as to their own personal stuff, as to what they like in entertainment, as to goals, even little things like choices in wine or type of foods they like and friends they have.  So, as they say, the honeymoon phase dwindles in face of cold, hard reality.

     All these lives will connect in a very odd but clever way.  I cannot tell you more without being a spoiler.  But what seems like chaos at first in staging (only a set of stairs building, tower-like, to a piano at the top of it, designer, Emily Wilken), becomes a whole world and because of the lyrics (Gwon), terrific voices (the cast), the amazing piano-man (Nordin), some subtle but clever lighting (Carl Faber) and a very talented director (Lamb), who blends it all, amazing well, into a lovely story of love, loss and life.  Reality is in the “…eye of the beholder” here, and so it is with this world, as simple elements, on the surface, magically become a whole world of connecting and conflicting events.

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rhinoceros—The Shout House—SE Portland


“The Lemmings Are Coming…!”


     This avant-garde, dark comedy was written by Eugene Ionesco (translated by Derek Prouse), produced by Cleaver Enough theatre and directed, as a staged reading, by Valerie Asbell (Founder of Cleaver Enough).  Because of many unforeseen circumstances, this two-three week run of a full production ended up as only one night as a staged reading.  For more information on future plans of the company, go to their site at www.cleverenough.org

     Imagine a circumstance where an incompetent, egomaniacal boob stands up in front of you, spewing out utter nonsense and promising to fulfill this blather if he were King.  Then imagine a circumstance where this nitwit is offered just such a position, and his herds of followers bow to his every whim, and blindly accept every blathering he utters.  Soon they are espousing his “holey” words as truth, even as the world they knew and loved collapses around them.  In the end, he leads them to a cliff and proclaims they should all jump.  In this setting, those beings are called lemmings, in this incarnation of them in this play, they are called Rhinos.

     And, even though, this play was written many years ago, it still has a prophetic ring nowadays, which is, in part, why Asbell chose this show.  In it, we see the beginning of a collapse of a society in which to survive, one must conform.  Berenger (Andrew Hallas) is a bit of a lazy, drunken no-good-nik.  His friend, Jean (Alex Albrecht), on the other hand, is a fastidious neat-nik.  But changes are about to occur.  An illness (snort) overtakes Jean and he begins to change into what the village has been recently over-run by, an ignorant beast.

     In time, the Jean he knew, has evaporated.  Only a co-worker, Dudard (Rian Turner) and Berenger’s girlfriend, Daisy (Emily Smith), seem uninfected, but soon the grunting (snort, snort) of these mindless minions sounds like a sweet lullaby to them.  In the end, he might be the last man standing against this onslaught of ignorance and blind conformity with no self-identity left.  If such a silly event should occur in real life, of course, we’d all be smart enough to see through such nonsense, wouldn’t we?!  (snort, grunt…!)

     It’s unfortunate that this difficult and timely show will not see the light of day at this point because the cast is quite good (others of the townspeople consist of KJ McElrath, Terry Lybecker, Leilani Oleari, Kate Belden, Brent McMorris, Katy Philip, Neil Wade Freer, John Bryant, Troy Sawyer, Athena McElrath, Shaun Patrick Hennessey, and Mark Milner).  This is not an easy show, even for a seasoned production company, to do, so it is daring for a novice theatre to tackle it.  But Ashbell has done a very fine job of casting it and has some clever touches in the interpretation and presentation of it.  They do deserve a chance to shine, so hope they continue to scour the town for an appropriate space to perform and backing for their shows.  Hope to see more of them in the future!
--DJS

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whiskey Dixie & the Big Wet Country—Imago Theatre—SE Portland


Jest Lookin’ Fer Lovin’


     This original, “raunchy outlaw-country musical,” is written by and starring singer/actor, Amanda Richards and directed by Serah Pope, with music direction by Steve Moore and choreography by Jaime Langton.  It is playing at the Imago space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off (Burnside) through October 13th.  Parking is a challenge in this area so plan your time accordingly.  For more information, go to their site at www.whiskeydixiemusical.com

     Dreams may come, and dreams may go…but a hard man is always good to find.  That might be the mantra of this show.  It is full of plays on words, double meanings, mime, some Rap, even a nod to the MeToo Movement and a whole lotta country music.  But, to be clear, here is their take on the play: “This is Rated R for graphic language, sexual content, graphic subject matter, mention of sexual assault, guns, violence, tasteless jokes, politically incorrect stuff and some other messed up shit.”  If you are still reading this at this point, “play on…and cursed be the coward that cries—enough!”

     We all have dreams, many of which will probably go unrealized, or be modified to such an extent that we hardly recognize them anymore.  But dreaming is a part of our nature and so we trudge onward, perhaps looking for Mr. Goodbar in all the wrong places.  Whiskey’s (Richards) dream is to be a big-time Country singer (“Country singers are for indoors, Western singers are for outdoors”) in Nashville and be on the Conan O’Brien show.  The latter part of that dream is realized as she gets an invite from him.

     But that means leaving her friends, who are like family, and her favorite, small-town bar.  They may not be the cream of the crop of society but they are her buds.  There is the braggart and womanizer, Jerry (Tyler Shilstone), who is the King of Tit Hill and lets everyone know it.  He even takes a greenhorn lover, Paul (Mac Kimmerle), under his wing to teach him some of the finer points in satisfying a lady.  Roger (Dennis Fitzpatrick) is essentially the town drunk, who says and does all the wrong things.

     Other folks of this watering hole are Barbara (Anita Clark) who is always up for a good time.  Then there is the newbie in town, Gladys (Diana Marie), who will soon be introduced to the rules of the game.  Also, there is the indispensable, Trish (Brandie Sylfae), the bartender, who quietly sees it all but, like a simmering volcano, does have her erupting point.  And, finally, near the winding down of her departure, the owner’s grandson, Dick (John Brunner), becomes the new owner and, with his mother, Mary Ann (Michele Brouse-Peoples) may upset the familiar surroundings of this haven for societal misfits.  Will Whiskey follow her dreams, or stay and face some of the hard facts of life?  Come see it for yourself, if you dare?!

     Richards has done an outstanding job of wearing several hats (lead actor, writer and producer) of this show, so it must be a labor of love and it shows.  The songs, although R-rated, are musically quite engaging and very well performed by a talented cast.  (I can’t tell you the names of any of them because there was no listing in the program.)  Both Richards and Brunner take honors as the most accomplished of the bunch of singers.  My personal favorite, though, in acting, was Sylfae, as the bartender, and her explosive monologue at the end was terrifically delivered.  Pope has done a good job of casting the show and keeping the action moving on a very clever set.  And Langton (a fine performer and actor in her own right) has captured the dancing of the country bar to a tee.  Also, Moore, with his band (Chad McAllister, Christine McAllister and Joey Harmon) gave an authenticity to the setting and never overpowered the actors.

     It is curious, though, although Richards is targeting a specific audience by making it raunchy (the enthusiastic crowd proved that with their cheers and applause), underneath it all, there is a very good and human story that, even without all the blatant, sexual overtones, was quite compelling.  This is obviously not a play for everyone but I thought the whole production deserves a thumbs up.

     On a personal note, though, I was somewhat handicapped by being in the last row—H, and, although it is tiered seating for the audience, G & H rows are on the same level.  And I was sitting behind a large man wearing a hat and the spotlight was directly behind me, so anything that took place center stage, I had to crane my neck to one side or the other to see the action.  When you have a reviewer, its usually customary to assign them a favorable seat for the best view of the show.  As I said, a personal note and advice as to not let them seat you in Row H.

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