Friday, March 15, 2019

Straight—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland


         3 Into 2 Won’t Go

    This drama is written by Scott Elmegreen & Drew Fornarola and directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot to the West of the building), through March 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at www.trianglepro.org or call 503-239-5919.

    Love is definitely a Centerpiece in our Society.  But a definition of it will probably vary with every individual.  A common misconception of it in films, is that Love is confused with Lust, and that has complicated many a relationship.  Also, it seems to be a forgone conclusion that getting married and having kids is the only purpose we have in life.  Human Beings are a lot more complex than that, believe me.  And so, in this case, we have a man, who loves a woman, but who also love another man.  What do do…what to do…?

    Ben (Zachary Taylor Warner), a stock broker, living in the Boston area, has a long-standing relationship with a cancer research scientist, Emily (Jennie Spector), who only lives a couple miles away.  He’s a bit uptight in the social arena and she is bit of a workaholic.  But, both being in their mid-twenties, after five years they have seemed to have created a comfortable pattern of existence for themselves.

    That is until Ben starts having some doubts as to his sexual identity.  It seems that in his teens he had a couple of attractions to the same sex but shrugged them off.  And so, he meets Chris (Colin Kane), a twenty-year-old college student, majoring in history, who seems pretty sure of who he is and what he wants. And so, it becomes a sort of reverse of the Svengali relationship as, in this case, the student must teach the master. 

    Of course, a confrontation will occur at some point between the three of them and decisions will have to be made.  Who will end up with whom, well, I won’t be a spoiler so, you’ll just have to see it for yourselves.  The bulk of the story does concern some pretty heady discussions regarding sex, science, nature vs nurture, emotions, philosophy and history, as well as the obvious stigmas attached.  It is quite a fascinating dialogue but the play ends quite suddenly and abruptly with no real conclusion in sight.  But, until then, it is quite compelling.

    The actors are all first-rate and quite convincing.  One does feel their pain, frustrations and doubts, as they travel through this journey of self-discovery.  It should also bode discussions with the audience as to parallels in their own lives.  Horn, as always, has given us much fodder for thought in this very complex and changing social environment.

    I do recommend this play but, be aware, the discussions and situation are quite frank.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hairspray—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

“…and the beat goes on…!”

this outrageously charming musical is based on the John Waters film.  It is directed by Christopher Liam Moore, book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman & Shaiman.  Also, choreography by Jaclyn Miller and music direction by Gregg Coffin.  It is playing at the Bowmer Theatre, in repertory, through October 27th.  osfashland.org. 

The Rainbow is a many-splendored thing, made up of varied layers, colors and depths, which all contribute to the whole Beauty of this result of working together.  We, too, are Rainbows, all of us, dependent on each other to foster a harmonious environment.  And so, toiling as one, each with their own unique gifts to offer, we survive.  Without doing this, we perish.  The choice is ours…for our own sakes, we need to succeed in being inclusive and embracing the Whole.

And, with that, we arrive in Baltimore in the early 60’s.  And, after experiencing this explosion in the status quo, the world will never be the same again!  The Turnblad family seems pretty typical of the times.  Edna (Daniel T. Parker), the mom, takes in laundry for a living; Wilbur (David Kelly), the dad, runs a magic shop and is a self-styled inventor; and Tracy (Katy Geraghty), the daughter, is… well, let’s just say for now, she is a pretty normal teen except, inside, there’s a revolution brewing, which will soon erupt into the whole, wide world.

She, and her best friend, Penny (Jenna Bainbridge), dream of appearing as dancers on the Corny Collins (Eddie Lopez) Show (a stand-in for the real “American Bandstand”).  Her parents forbid it, which only spurs her forward.  But the manager of the station, Velma (Kate Mulligan), a snob of the first order, laughs at her antics, as her daughter, Amber (Leanne Smith), is the darling of the show.  But the resident hunk, Link (Jonathan Luke Stevens), takes a shine to her and so she is accepted into this dance pack.

But her revolutionary ideas do not stop there.  She also has befriended some of the African-American population, including Motormouth (Greta Oglesby), owner of a neighborhood record store, Seaweed (Christian Bufford), an accomplished dancer, and others to defy tradition, and sees no reason why they should not be dancing as equals on the show, too.  Needless to say, this idea does not bode well with the powers that be, nor the prevailing winds against any such equality movement for them.  To reveal how it all turns out would make me a spoiler, so mums the word which means you just have to see it.

The cast of this show is truly amazing as singers, dancers and actors!  There were cheers throughout the sold-out, opening night performance and more than one standing ovation, well deserved.  The songs and dance numbers are terrific.  My personal favorites are “You’re Timeless To Me” (Edna & Wilbur), a touching ballad to love; “I Know Where I’ve Been” (Motormouth), a haunting, powerful tribute to a woman standing up for herself; and the finale, “You Can’t Stop The Beat (ensemble), a rousing number that vows such changes to charge forward.  All the songs not only fit the story but were powerfully delivered!

Oglesby was a powerhouse, a belter of the first class!  Geraghty, equally almost blew the house down with her songs and dances, as well as the determined, iron-clad maiden that wanted to change the world.  Parker and Kelly were delightful as the parents which, to be honest, should be icons for ideals of parenthood for any family; and I do admit, I have a soft spot for Bainbridge, as she exemplified, in acting and song, what a faithful, best friend should be like.

Moore has a winner on his hands, as he has chosen the perfect cast and led them through an amazing production.  Like-wise, Miller (dances) and Coffin (music) are in top form, adding immeasurably to the power of this show.  This play also included an added inclusiveness, as some of the cast were physically challenged in some way. But, you know, I didn’t notice those “differences,” as they were all just terrific artists to me…and isn’t that the way it should be in Life, too?!  One final note, there is a magical moment at the end of the play, which brought a tear to my eye, but I won’t reveal it, so you just have to experience it for yourself.

I highly recommend this show—it’s a must-see!  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Black Sheep

Some of you may know by now, my favorite spot to eat, while in Ashland, is the above pub:  A place “Where You Belong!”  They have authentic English Pub food, as my Brit friend concurs, and ales and home-made desserts and soups.  They also have darts, neighborhood events, music, storytelling and a real fireplace for cool evenings.  They often stay open late for the theatre crowd, too.  And two of the staff members I’ve gotten to know and like over a few visits are Greg, who makes you feel welcome, whoever you are, and Lorah, a friendly, elfin lady, who will make you smile just to talk with her.  And you might even meet the owner, who is also a charmer.  Just look for the bright, red door on the Plaza, 51 N. Main St.  www.theblacksheep.com  or call 541-482-6414.  If you do stop in, please tell them Dennis sent you

Monday, March 11, 2019

As You Like It—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR


“Send in the Clowns…”

This classic comedy from Shakespeare is directed by Rosa Joshi.  It is playing at the Bowmer Theatre, in repertory, through October 26th,  For more information, go to their site at www.osfashland.org or call 1-800-219-8161.

Remember when you were a kid—the circus?  I mean a real circus, with the Big Top, Trapeze artists, lions & tigers and elephants, and those pesky clowns.  I always marveled, as a child, at that little car traveling around the center ring, then stopping, and out of it “a thousand clowns” would emerge, of all colors, shapes and sizes.  Now, how did all those clowns fit into that little car?!

Then picture, if you will, our finite bodies, and all the varying “clowns” within.  You see, we are a different personality (“clown”) with our family, our close friends, our co-workers, a loved one and our acquaintances.  And so, as we enter different aspects of our lives, we discover that, indeed, “all the world’s a stage” and we, merely players upon it, as the Bard has suggested.  And so, I believe, we must make the most of our fragile time upon the “boards.”  And, on that note, let the games begin….
Common elements arise in most of the Bard’s comedies:  gender-switching, love manipulations, estranged relatives, wise clowns/fools/servants, caste systems, conflicts of purpose and redemption.  And, in the end, “every Jack must have his Jill (and vice versa),” and so it is here, too.

The plot centers around a disposed Duke (Rachel Crowl) and her melancholy companion, Jacques (Erica Sullivan), by her villainous brother, Fredrick (Kevin Kenerly), and Orlando’s conniving brother, Oliver (Shaun Taylor-Corbett), as well as the deposed brother of royalty, Orlando (Rom├ín Zaragoza) and his faithful servant, Adam (Tyrone Wilson), as well as Rosalind (Jessica Ko) and her cousin, Cecil (Kate Hurster), as well as their servant, the Fool, Touchstone (Rex Young), all threats to the throne, in one way or another, and so end up in the Forest of Arden in France, an Edenistic sort of encampment.  Whew!

Wait, there’s more.  Also, some shepherds share the forest with this band of misfits.  There is Sylvius (MacGregor Arney) and Corin (Caroline Shaffer), watching their flocks and inhaling some of the local merriment, also.  Of course, there are also a couple of shepherdesses, one of which, Audrey (Will Wilhelm), garners the interest of Touchstone, and the other herder, Phoebe (Lilia Houshmand), falls for Gannymede (forgot to tell you, Rosalind has disguised herself as this man so that she/he can investigate the wooing methods of Orlando).  Although the plot is obviously complicated, the fun is following the various factions throughout the story.  Can’t tell you who will end up with whom but, after all, it is a comedy.

One of the highlights of the show is the introduction of about a half dozen songs (composer, Palmer Hefferan) by the merry band of followers of the banished Duke.  They are quite entertaining and add to the fun of the production.  (A personal note, I disagree with the choice to place Jacques famous monologue at the curtain call, as it is originally meant as a contradiction to his speech as, afterwards, a compassionate Orlando carries the ailing Adam into the forest—this interpretation from Dr. Bowmer himself).

Joshi has kept the show moving at a brisk pace and, despite the confusing plot, she does manage to keep things straight.  The cast, all very talented as actors and singers, present a rousing production.  I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Ashland Springs Hotel
I always mange to stay at this hotel (downtown, 212 E. Main St.), or it’s sister, Ashland Hills, (about 3 miles South of downtown), every time I come here to review shows (twice a year).  They have an amazingly healthy breakfast buffet (that is include in your stay).  It consists of hot and cold cereals, red potatoes, scrambled eggs, fruit, muffins & toast, coffee & tea & juices, et. al.  Also, it has secured parking (next door to OSF), comfortable rooms and a very friendly and efficient wait staff.  And the price is very reasonable, too.  For more information, go to their site at www.ashlandspringshotel.com or call 1-888-795-4545.

I highly recommend this, or the Hills location, for your stay.  If you do choose to stay here, please tell them Dennis sent you.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Tiny Beautiful Things—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District



       The Facts of Life

    This touching slice of life is adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) from the book by Cheryl Strayed (“Wild”) and directed by Rose Riordan.  It is playing at the Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave. (parking is a challenge in this part of town, so plan your time accordingly), through March 31st.  For more information, go to their site at www.pcs.org

    To re-imagine a quote from a comedian on his deathbed:  “Dying is easy, [Life] is hard.”  Simple, but to the point.  As soon as we’re born, we begin to die, everything in-between one should make the most of, but rarely do.  It is said that Youth is wasted on the Young meaning, to me, that once we realize what it’s all about, it’s over.  I mean, come on, “what the fuck…!”

    The story is about a woman, “Sugar” (Dana Green), having already been to Hell and back, writing an advice column from letters received from various individuals (Leif Norby, Lisa Renee Pitts and Brian Michael Smith).  The stories are a true microcosm of Life.  But they evolved even more, as the dynamics change over time, into a dialogue, and that makes all the difference.

    The subjects range from dealing with sexual identity, frustrations of Life…and Death, the Nature of Love…and Lust, loneliness, dealing with abuse (sexual, emotional, physical), the Meaning of it all…and everything in-between.  Some of the more dramatic moments include the young person dealing with being a Trans and the riff it causes with his parents; the young girl that is forced to perform sexual acts with a relative; the man who must deal with the death of his young son and how it has destroyed his world; the young woman who was not present at her Mom’s deathbed; et. al.

    And what is the take-way from all this angst?  Love is a major healing factor that is emphasized.  But, Walt Whitman said, that before one should expect love from another, they should love themselves first…for, without that, how can you expect others to love you?  Another learning point is to just be yourself and, when that’s accomplished, if others cannot accept you for who you are, then consider it their loss, not yours! 

    And, if in trying to understand other perspectives that may be alien to you then, as Harper Lee suggested, you might try to get inside their skin and walk around in it for a while…it might open your eyes to other possibilities.  But, perhaps, the most important of lessons from these tales, is that we are all made up of stories…and stories within stories, and interconnected to other people’s stories, and so we are ultimately all united within this cosmic community.  We really should be making the most of it and building bridges with each other, not walls!

    Riordan has an amazing cast and, being that three actors play a majority of the roles, it is crucial that you have just the right artists…and she does!  And Green, as the focal individual, is very touching as she struggles with her own demons, as well as trying to help others do the same.  She is a fine actor in all the plays I’ve seen her in.  And the director has them all interacting natural with the spaces, rather than having them deliver their parts as separate monologues, which works perfectly.

    I recommend this show but, be aware, it has very adult language and situations.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Leonard Cohen Is Dead—Imago Theatre—SE Portland



          The Edge of Reality
   
This original, imaginative production is written, directed and designed by Jerry Mouawad and produced by Carol Triffle (co-founders of Imago).  It is playing at their space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off Burnside), through March 16th.  (Parking is a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly.)  For more information, go to their site at www.imagotheatre.com or call 503-231-9581.

Do we actually know where we are…what we are…or when we are, in this space/time continuum?  Are we “…such stuff as dreams are made on?”  Or, is our existence just a fluke of Nature…a Cosmic joke…a semi-colon in the Great Book of Life?  All manner of religions purport to have answers…the One True Path to Salvation (as long as you have money for the toll fees).  But, in lieu of any specific conclusion, just being good to yourself and your neighbors, and then see what happens in the long run, might be as good a formula as any to follow.

    And what does this have to do with the play?  Everything…and Nothing.  Or, to put it another way, if you can blend the artistry of violance and dark humor of Tarantino (“Reservoir Dogs”); the balancing act of Sartre (“No Exit”); the mind games of Pinter (“The Dumbwaiter”); a daub of Keystone Kops; Kafka’s ambiguities; and couple them with an intricate ballet, you might begin to understand the depth and breadth of this presentation of an exercise in futility.

    If you need to hang your hat on a storyline (which is always dangerous with an Imago production), then it’s about five gangsters (Danny Gray, Stephanie Woods, Emily Welch, Kyle Delamarter, and Jonah Kersey) holed up in a motel room, surrounded by cops.  It seems they have kidnapped a trillionaire’s daughter for ransom but the caper has gone terribly wrong.  And, to add to the confusion, one of the cops (Sawyer Shipman) has chosen to defect from the law & order assembly, to join the gang.  But, a mysterious radio in the room seems to have echoing voices from the Past and weasels its way into the psyches of this motley crew.  What to do…what to do?!

    Mouawad has, once again, created a thought-provoking, mind-bending, time-warping piece, in which the Soul of the matter is firmly entrenched in the Eye of the Beholder.  As always, a unique exercise in pushing the envelope beyond the beyond.  His cast, mostly regulars from other productions of theirs, are first-rate.  Did favor Woods, as she was most engaging to watch, as was Shipman.  And the lighting (Jon Farley) and sound (Mouawad & Delamarter) were intricate parts of the production and added greatly to it success.

    I do recommend this piece, as it takes you out of your comfort zone and transports you to the Twilight Zone.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS