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