Saturday, April 28, 2018

It’s Only a Play—Twilight Theater—N. Portland

“Another Opening, Another Show…”

     This searing comedy about theatre folks is written by Terrence McNally and directed by Jason A. England.  It is playing at their space, 7515 N, Brandon Ave. (upstairs), just off Lombard (small parking lot across the street), through May 13th.  For more information, go to their site at

     Theatre folks are, indeed, a strange lot.  I should know, I’ve been involved in all aspects of theatre arts for over 40 years and, I must confess, as disjointed as the characters are in this play, it is a true portrait of us in the artistic fields.  And, like a rubber ball, no matter the set-backs, we always come bouncing home.  We are the dreamers for a world that may have lost their imaginations.  We are the deed-holders to a land of possibilities.  We are the trailblazers for Truth (for that is an artist’s ultimate goal) in a “swamp” full of lies and deceptions.  I envy those Young people who are testing the waters in the Arts and finding, with support, they will not sink.  May you ever keep those passions burning, for you are the future, you are our “sticking place” for hope and better tomorrows.

     Okay, I admit, a bit flowery but that is the curse and blessing of artists, to wear their heart on their sleeves.  And, keep in mind, that as sad or funny as these characters are, they all had those kinds of drives, at one time, and still have them within.  The setting is a swanky party of Julia (Jennifer Logan), the novice and not-too-bright producer of the budding playwright, Peter (Rick Barr), once a semi-darling of Broadway.  The real gathering of the intimate ensemble is upstairs in a bedroom of her house, where folks are awaiting the outcome of the reviews. 

     Also included, in this merging of spirits, are the author’s best friend, James (Jeff Gibberson), a gay, conceited actor who has deserted the “boards” for the safety of the “boob tube” in a TV series. Also, on hand for the waiting game, is the leading lady, a refugee from the silver screen, and jail, the drug-addicted, Virginia (Deone Jennings), still wearing an ankle-bracelet as part of her monitoring.  Of course, the director is here, too, Frank (Conor Nolan), a very eccentric young Englishman who seems obsessed in deliberately creating chaos onstage and yet the critics love him.

     And then we have the (uninvited) critic, Ira (Stan Yeend), that has crashed the party, who has a love/hate relationship with all of them, but also has an ulterior motive for being here.  And, finally, there is the star wanna-be, Gus (Adam Randall), who is posing as a coat-check employee just to rub shoulders with the celebs.  They will all collide, crash, make-up and then start all over again.  Beneath it all, there is a rather serious message about the state of theatre nowadays and the loss of theatrical heritage with the destruction of theatre spaces to build just one more condo or parking lot for this concrete and electronic jungle we’ve all created.  Developer, One, History, Zero.  “When will we ever learn…!”

     There are some moving speeches by Ira, Peter and James, well done, as to the state of the Arts.  And McNally, a die-heart playwright himself, has tapped into that secret world of performers and given us a searing, moving, humorous portrait of a resillent band of survivors.  And England certainly has a good eye for casting, as well as a keen understanding of the play’s material.
And the actors are all first-rate in their performances, tackling the complex roles with a humorous sincerity.  Special notice to the egocentric actor, James, played to perfection by Gibberson, who balances his character between droll farce and woeful insight.  Jennings was equally as good as the burned-out actor who must evoke sympathy from an audience and yet be a warning against indulgence in false accolades.  Both these performers, as well as the others, do an exceptional job of bringing this story to life.

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

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