Sunday, December 9, 2018

It’s a Wonderful Life—Artists Rep—NW Portland




      Miracle at Bedford Falls 

    This live radio production is adapted for the stage, from the classic film, by Joe 
Landry and directed by Beth Harper.  It is playing at the NWCT space, 1819 NW Everett St. (parking is a real challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly), through December 30th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

    Miracles, Magic and Dreams coming true, seem to be in short supply these days.  At one time you could reach out your Imagination and find exotic creatures—unicorns, dragons, mermaids, etc., and magical places—Neverland, Shangra-La, Camelot, et. al., just around the corner, when in need of a safe place to store your dreams.  But we may have looked too far afield, when they could be found in our own Americana and Folklore.  We have here our own Grover’s Mills, Sleepy Hollow, Walton Mountain, and, yes, Bedford Falls, to rest our minds from the weary burden of that dreaded state called—Reality.

    Once Upon a Time…there was a sleepy, little town, of no real consequence, that was having their lives swallowed up by the twin beasts of Progress and Greed, in the guise of a demon named, Potter (David Bodin).  But one man stood in his way of total domination, George Bailey (Chris Harder).  He owned the Building and Loan Bank, in which many of the mortgages of the town-folk were stored.

    But early on, George really had no real plans of running a business.  He was going to earn a college degree, then travel the world.  But Reality raised its ugly head and he was forced, through several circumstances, to stay and run the family bank.  He married a school sweetheart named, Mary (Susannah Mars), had kids…but the loss of his dreams and the burden of everyday life was taking its toll on him and so he is faced with jumping from a bridge and ending it all.

    But miracles sometimes do happen and an angel named, Clarence (Jimmy Garcia), intercedes and gives him a glimpse of this town had he never been born.  The people and township have now changed, and good friends, like the town flirt, Violet (Alyssa Longoria), is no longer a proper lady, his mother (Victoria Schindler), runs a cheap, boarding house, his uncle and partner, Billy (Garcia, again), is not his old self anymore, and the old make-up of small town America has changed dramatically.  The outcome?  Well, I assume just about everybody has seen the movie at some point, which is why I revealed some plot points briefly, earlier, but still I won’t give the ending away.

    What is truly amazing and, perhaps, the real miracle, is the fact that about fifty characters (and voices) are played by six actors and one terrific Foley (sound effects) artist (Leslie North).  They also sing and play musical instruments—talk about talent!  This is presented as a live, radio play during the 40’s, complete with commercials, an announcer (Bodin, again), pre-show, Christmas songs and ourselves as the radio studio audience.  Harper has worked a small miracle herself in assembling this production in a short period of time.  And every one of the cast members is stellar!

    I know the story well, having seen other radio productions over the years, and the classic film more than once.  But, I admit, even now, I was still moved to tears by the end.  And, as far as the Fairy Tale beginning, it would end usually with “…and they lived happily ever after.”  But that was then, this is now.  And so, perhaps, the best one can say, is…they lived…hopefully…ever after!”  And don’t look “too high up or far away” for miracles, they have always been with us, within, inside our own hearts.  We just have to Believe…!

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

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