Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hamlet—Speculative Drama—SE Portland















                                                “The Play’s the Thing”


     This classic production is directed by Myrrh Larsen.  It is unique in that it is 
presented in someone’s home with the audience traveling with the cast from room to room, as the story unfolds.  Because of this, the location of the residence is secret (until you purchase a ticket, of course) and is limited to about a dozen people.  It plays through October 12th.  For more information, go to their site at www.patreon.com/speculativedrama

    There are numerous play and film versions of this tragic story.  The best of them is probably Branagh’s, which is the closest to the full version of the play, clocking in at four hours, and revealing fuller stories of the subplots and minor characters.  Other versions had Christopher Plummer, Laurence Olivier, Maximillian Schell, Nicol Williamson, Mel Gibson, Richard Bruton, Judith Anderson, et. al., playing the “Melancholy Dane.”  I have seen about a dozen different stage versions of the play, as well as that many film versions, over the years.  Again, Branagh’s is the best at fleshing out the full story.

     Prince Hamlet (Isabella Buckner) of Denmark’s father has died and his brother, Claudius (John Aney), has anxiously slipped into bed with Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (Tamara Sorelli) and married her, becoming King, of course.
Meanwhile, Polonius (Matt Ostrowski), father of Ophelia (Megan Skye Hale) and Laertes (Myia Johnson), has thoughts of marrying off his daughter to Hamlet.  And they do seem chummy for a while and all might have turned out well, except that Hamlet’s father’s ghost suddenly appears and reveals to his son that he was untimely murdered by his own brother, Claudius.  This turns the tides for the Prince and he is now set on a plan of revenge.  Something is, indeed, “…rotten in the state of Denmark.” 

    His uncle, sensing that something is amiss with his step-son, sends for two of his former college pals, Rosencrantz (Katie Mortemore) and Guildenstern (Jonathan Miles), to find out the cause of his distress.  They conclude that he is mad and, indeed, he acts that way, but there is a method to it.  He is hell-bent on proving to himself that his uncle is the murderer and so, when a group of players arrives, he consorts with the leader of them (Megan Haynes) to contrive an addition to the play that they are to perform for them, in which a scene will portray a thinly disguised depiction of the actual murder.

    He confides to his best friend, Horatio (Olivia Gray) that, if the King “…but flinch…” to that scene, then he will know for sure he has, indeed, committed such a crime.  Claudius reacts badly and Hamlet knows he has “captured the conscience of the King.”  It all goes downhill from there, with more than a half dozen deaths racked up before it is over.  But I won’t reveal more of the plot, in case you are one of the few not familiar with the story.  Let’s just say that, when revenge is meted out, both the guilty and the innocent will be caught in its vortex.

    The production is performed in modern dress with even cell phones and laptops as part of the show.  The style in which this is presented, because of the close quarters, has an urgency and intimacy that other productions will fail to have.  Most of the scenes, in this almost three-hour production, work in this fashion.  The only one failing that mark is the one which involves the death of one of the characters in the Queen’s bedroom, as only a couple of people could see easily into the room and then one of the characters stood in the doorway for a short period.  But, outside of that minor flaw, the style works beautifully.

    The acting, for the most part, is very good.  Top honors go to Hale, as the unfortunate love interest, as she slowly succumbs to a depression from Hamlet’s rejection of her.  Johnson gives one of the most concise depictions of her spirited brother, as you understood his conflicted feelings.  Gray, as the best friend, is a true-blue companion and you feel for him, as he tries to pull Hamlet out of his doldrums.  And Buckner, as the young Prince, is excellent.  She is on an emotional roller-coaster and she brings you along for the ride.  She is one of the better Hamlet’s I’ve seen!

    One scene that gripped me more than any other, was the fight and death scenes surrounding the three young kinsmen at the end.  As well as I knew the scene, I did get choked up at that point, partly because of the intimate nature of the scene, but also because the actors were fully vested in those moments…a tearjerker.  Larsen has done an incredible job with directing such a complicated project.  Kudos to all involved!

    I highly recommend this production, but with such limited space, tickets are going fast.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Eclipsed--Corrib Theatre—SE Portland


                   The Lost

    This searing, true story, is written by Patricia Burke Brogan and directed by Gemma Whelan.  It is playing at the New Expressive Works space, 810 SE Belmont, through October 13th.  For more information, go to their site at www.corribtheatre.org

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the pews of the Catholic Church, after the scandal with the pedophile priests, this story surfaces as to the treatment of unwed mothers (and other undesirables) in laundry facilities, run by nuns.  Cruelty, under a religious guise, is nothing new in History.  The Crusades are one example...and the Salem Witch Trials…the Inquisition of France and Spain…and the current Middle East conflicts over Islam.  Faith in a God is, quite honestly, a personal thing and should not be a whipping post for personal vendettas, usually designed to lord over people for personal/political gain.

    I, myself, am a jack-Catholic and also have worked in religiously-run institutions, where children were housed, often by parents who “tired” of them hampering their lifestyles, which does, I believe, emotional, life-long trauma to the child.  And the natural curiosity about sex was always an issue with these young folks.  But, since their home situations were abnormal, they would rebel, as much the same ways these girls did, and the consequences often were abortions or orphanages for the products of their desires…preventive measures were deemed to be an “encouragement” to them, so were discouraged.

    In this story’s representative situation, of some years ago in Ireland, five girls are punished for their “sinful” behavior, of having a child out of wedlock (no punishment is done to the boys of these “unholy” unions), and they are confined to a laundry facility run by nuns, to wash the dirty linens of the holier-than-thou clergy.
 
    Nellie-Nora (Jamie M. Rea) is a bit of a loner but seems to watch out for the others…she’s a survivor.  Juliet (Wynee Hu), a newbie, is a wide-eyed innocent, horror and wonderment lining her actions.  Cathy (Sasha Belle Neufeld) is sicky and is constantly trying to escape.  Mandy (Dainichia Noreault) is a dreamer and fantasizes about marrying Elvis Presley and living in Tinseltown.  And Brigit (Lucy Paschall) is an angry, young lady, who lashes out to the point of violence when threatened.  All confined to a hell-on-earth.

    And running this questionable reformatory is the martinet, Mother Victoria (Lorraine Bahr), who would have had Hitler applauding her methods.  She is a no-nonsense dictator whose chief rule of order is Obedience at all costs and sticking to the rules, no matter what!  The only ray of sunshine is the sympathetic, Sister Virginia (Victoria Alvarez-Chacon), a novitiate (inspired, perhaps, by the author herself, who writes from first-hand experience).  She feels for the girls and their plight but is also under the thumb-screws of her superior.

    The play is grim and unnerving but also powerful, as it turns over yet another stone in the seemingly, never-ending story of corruption of those in power.  The cast is exceptional and one of the best ensembles I’ve seen!  Whelan has cast it very well and staged it simply but effectively.  Every one of these ladies should be touted for their performances, as they are all excellent!  Watch for the very touching and sad scene of the “marriage” of Mandy and Elvis, a highlight in the show.  Kudos, Ladies!

    This may not be for the squeamish but “attention must be paid!”  Somewhere, somehow, someday, maybe the “meek” will inherit the earth and “We, the People,” will prevail.  There is hope on the horizon, in the young who are rising up to fight global warming, gun violence, corruption in leadership and, I hope, they succeed.  “And a child shall lead them,” it is said, so maybe the time is finally at hand.

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

Darcelle: That’s No Lady—Triangle Productions! in Lincoln Hall at PSU—SW Portland


        Two by Two…Bi-Two, et. al.


    This original, world premiere musical, has book & lyrics by Donnie, with additional lyrics and music by Jonathan Quesenberry, Rody Ortega, Jeff Sanders, Marv & Rindy Ross, Wesley Bowers and Storm Large.  It is directed by Brandon Wolley, choreography by Sara Mishler Martins, music direction/pianist by Scott Bradner and produced by Donald Horn.  It is playing at PSU’s Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park St., through October 5th.  For more information, go to their site at www.trianglepro.org

    The True Beauty of Mankind, as well as Nature, is its Diversity.  What a boring world it would be if Everybody and Everything was the same.  And so, we embark Together on a Great Adventure, proving that we All have a place in this Creation Experiment conceiving, among other things, that one entity is Not Superior to another, and that humans can act humanely toward all living things. A Fantastic…Dream, isn’t it?!

    Walter Cole, aka, Darcelle, is a living legend in this part of the world, and part of his life is exhibited in this poignant musical by Donald Horn.  It traces the life of Cole (Kevin C. Loomis) from his first conception of a drag show at his modest tavern, as he was taken under the wing of a local drag performer, Tina (Jeff George), who saw the makings of Darcelle under the exterior of Walter Cole, married with two children, but the female persona was itching to get out.
And then he had the fateful meeting with Roxy (James Sharinghousen), who would become his life-long lover, partner and friend.  Together, with the “Ringmaster” of the shows, Mitchell (Chris Bartell) they would create what is now a legendary landmark in Portland history, Darcelle XV, not just for the Gay and Trans audiences, but also for Straights, in which barriers could be lowered and individuals could relate and laugh and cry together with each other, as just human beings.

    Along this long journey together, there would be joy and sadness, music and laughter, illness and loss, but always with a positive message toward creating a better world, where all inhabitants are truly treated as equals…a Nobel aim.  There are familiar songs and routines from his shows, the most amazing one from “Chicago,” with some extraordinary dancing from George and Sharinghousen.  And there are the famous comic monologues by Darcelle, well delivered by Loomis.  Then there are some very personal, original songs, from Horn & Company, about his life, that blend seamlessly into the show, including, the revealing “Aunt Lil,” the powerful, “Yes, I Am,” and the touching, “Every Show is a Love Song.” 

    A personal note, my sister, mother and I would go to Darcelle’s as often as possible during the 90’s, whenever my sister was in town, and enjoyed the inclusiveness of the performances.  My Mom was picked out of the audience a couple of times by Darcelle and she would remark afterwards that she felt special because of it (to be honest, I don’t think Mom ever got the notion that Darcelle was anything but a Lady, and who were we to dispel her image, as she saw the generous soul of the performer…and a lesson, perhaps, for all of us to be learned, I think).

    Horn has done his usual outstanding job in producing this production, and his friendship with Cole certainly is an asset to the songs and story he wrote.  A fitting tribute to an icon of the Northwest.  Loomis is touching as Cole, as he also narrates the story.  Sharinghousen is always an asset to the many productions he has done at Triangle and OCT, as he does here.  A very poignant portrait of a loving companion.  Bartell adds more than ample support in his role, as the no-nonsense manager.  And George is terrific, especially in the dance numbers.  Bradner adds color, as the music man and Martins is an amazing choreographer.  All in all, an outstanding show, fit for the Big Apple, I think!

    I highly recommend this show, but get tickets early, as they are going fast.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS



Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Smell of the Kill—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland



       Best Served Cold

    This dark comedy is written by Michele Lowe, directed by Jeannie Rogers and produced by Dorinda Toner.  It is playing at their space (upstairs), 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (off Lombard, small parking lot across the street)., through September 22nd.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

Revenge…how sweet it is!  A delight for the MeToo Movement:
Three former maidens,
All sitting in a row,
One became homeless
And then there were two.
Another remained childless
And then there was one.
She wed a thief
And then there were none.
Three former maidens,
All sitting in a row,
                                                                    Now free to be me
                                                                      And no one to say No!

    There was another play, a couple seasons back, by Profile Theatre called, The Secretaries, around a similar theme, only this one was set in a rural logging camp…with chainsaws!  (Think about it.)

    The vivacious, Nicky (Deone Jennings), has a husband, Jay (Michael K. Johnson), who prefers her not to work, take care of their kid and cook meals, but is only pulling in a minimum income himself, although he does find enough moola to buy an expensive meat locker for his wild animal kills.  He’s also under suspicion of embezzling funds from his company.   The calculating, Debra (Myhraliza Aala), has a real estate husband, Marty (Jason Santos), who has been searching for greener pastures to ply his wares.  And the knock-dead-gorgeous, Molly (Sydney Winbush), who loves children, has a husband, Danny (Brandon Michael Froom), who dotes on her to the point of stalking, but he shies away when it comes to sex.  To say the least, these are not matches made in heaven!  But when opportunity knocks (and keeps knocking) for these three former maidens, who are they to ignore the possibilities?!

    The first quarter of the script is pretty mundane, but once it gets rolling—look out!  Can’t really tell you much about the plot, as it would give away too much if I did.  But the power of the success of this production, although an ultimately clever script, is the amazing performances of this Band of Sisters.  They appear to be having a ball and it shows!  They blend together beautifully as actors, which is a real asset to the characters they play.  And they all have pretty impressive resumes (as do the Director & Producer) in film, music and stage.  Jennings, as the leader of the pack, is appropriately elusive in how she handles her friends and the situation.  Aala appears to be easily led but has a slyness in how she assesses the advantages of her position.  And Winbush, lovely to look at, is no window-dressing woman, and is able to get what she wants in spite of the roadblocks.
 
    Can’t tell you much about the guys, as you’ll have to see it to know why.  Rogers has chosen the perfect cast and skillfully nudges them through this labyrinth of twists and turns.  All in all, a darkly funny evening that is also topical and should make all the Weinstein’s of the world wake up and smell the stench around them that they’ve created!

    I highly recommend this production, especially for the performances of these three super-stars!  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Saturday, September 14, 2019

1984—Artists Rep (at Imago)—SE Portland

       “I Have Met the Enemy…”


    This cautionary tale, by George Orwell, is adapted for the stage by Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan and directed by Damaso Rodriguez.  It is playing at the Imago space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off Burnside), through October 6th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

    “…and the Enemy is Us!”  A perfect quote to reflect the theme of this story.  Another quote that comes to mind is, “In a World without [Love], it is better to be Dead!”  This grim prophesy, of a possible future, did not come true in 1984 but we seem to be edging in that direction now.  We are becoming slaves to that all-powerful god, Technology, and there seems little that can be done to stop it from engulfing our very being.
 
    An old joke goes like this:  Scientists from every country in the world decided to create a super-computer, and so they agreed to connect all of these governments’ computers to one source.  When finished with this union, the first question they put to the monolith was, “Is there a God?”  After a brief moment, the mechanical monster replied, “There is Now!”  And so, folks, meet our current Future….

    In this tale, an Everyman character is doing the unforgivable by wondering, dreaming, asking questions and not following the path of all good lemmings, I mean, citizens, of his country.  Winston Smith (Chris Harder) is striving to find his identity in this bleak world of Big Brother, where Everything & Everyone is monitored.  His job is to delete people from history books and records, those that Big Brother finds an enemy of the Collective.

    There is one place, an antiques shop, run by an old man, Charrington (Michael Mendelson), where relics of the past are kept.  He also meets a girl, Julia (Claire Rigsby), and they strike up a romantic relationship (also not allowed).  He also discovers an Underground, anti-government movement and is welcomed into their pack by a member of the upper realms of the secret police, the knowledgeable, O’Brien (Allen Nause).  But through his journey, one is always curious as to what is Real and what Imagined?  The outcome may be somewhat predictable but is also a dire warning as to the Fate of Mankind if we continue to have those in power think and speak for us.  Personal Choice is always within our grasp, so we must choose wisely…our very Existence depends on it!

    There have been a couple of good films on this story, one with Edmund O’Brien and Michael Redgrave and the other with John Hurt and Richard Burton.  Also, worth seeing are flicks of similar themes in Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, The Time Machine, Kafka’s The Trial, Invasion of the Body Snatchers & Invaders from Mars (both 50’s versions of these two) et. al.  Heed well these prophets, as well as our own Past…incarceration of Native Americans, Japanese American. African Americans…as well as the Crusades in Europe and the Nazis of Germany, et. al.  As a Race, we seem to be easily manipulated, so we must be vigilant.

    Rodriguez has done an amazing job of presenting this play on a rather sparse setting, but you never lose the sense of the story.  And he has the perfect cast.  Harder is a true example of an Everyman, Nause is wonderful as the glib O’Brien, Rigsby is intriguing as the love interest and Mendelson is (as always) innovative and compelling as perhaps the one holdout for the “good ole days.”  The rest of the players fill out the bleak tapestry beautifully.

    I highly recommend this play but, be aware, it does have some unsettling images, which may not be for everybody.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Rocky Horror Show—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego



        “Damn It, Janet…It’s Alive!”

    This camp, cult, dark comedy, musical has music, lyrics and book by Richard O’Brien and is directed by John Oules, choreographed by Kevin Paul Clark & music direction by Darcy White.  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 or call 503-635-3901.

    If you recognize the quotes above, you’ll get a flavor of the spoofy (and goofy) nature of this musical.  It does skirt adult issues, so not for everybody, but for anyone who was a fan of the 40’s Universal horror flicks and Hammer & Republic Studios Sci-fi films of the 50’s (as I was), you’re gonna love this take-off on those eras and genre.  There was a very successful film made of it with the amazing, Tim Curry, and then a dumper of a sequel called, “Shock Treatment.”

    To begin, it starts on a dark and stormy night, highlighted by a gloomy castle in the distance, where some odd experiments are occurring (as most stories of this type start) and have a Narrator (Lisa Knox & Richard Warren) fill in gaps in the plot.  So, sit back and relax (but not too much) and let the magic weave it’s web into your sub-conscious….

    It seems that a young, na├»ve couple, Brad (Colin Stephen Kane) and his finance’, Janet (Christine Greenhalgh) are to meet a scientist friend of theirs, Dr. Scott (Brian Burger), a tutor to Brad in high school, when their car breaks down in the forest.  Finding shelter in a dilapidated mansion, they are wary of the odd butler that greets them, Riff Raff (Alec Cameron Lugo) and his two major minions, the alluring, Magenta (Paige A. Hanna) and the sexy, Columbia (Michaela George).

    But the real host of the evening’s entertainment is the creepy, Dr. Frank N. Furter (Norman Wilson), a medical man with simple desires…to create a perfect man, Rocky (Cade Holbrook)…for himself.  But his true colors come out when he has to “sever” his relationship with an ole, rock-and-roll mate, Eddie (again, Burger).  And then he tries seducing…well, just about everyone…and then, they in turn…(did I tell you about the aliens yet?) well, you’ll just have to see it and figure it out for yourselves.  In the end, it is a journey about self-identity, your place in the scheme of things, love and the world(s) around you.  Or, if you will, as the Bard has said, “it is a tale, told by an idiot, signifying nothing!”

    This is a very fun production (for the discriminating), as Oules has directed it before, so is the master here, and it shows, with more than able assistance from White and Clark, as well as an outstanding cast.  Wilson is a gem, (as he always is in productions) and is a delicious, slutty, flighty, misunderstood scientist (aren’t they all?).  The young lovers (Kane & Greenhalgh) are often throw-away roles, simply because of the outrageous characters surrounding them, but in this case, they hold their own, as Brad has the right look, voice and demeanor for the role and Janet is convincingly virginal but with sex-appeal and also with a fine voice.

    Burger is a scream in his dual roles.  And I especially liked George as the vixen who loved “not wisely but too well,” and her rendition of “Sci-Fi Double Feature” song.  And Holbrook, as the title character, has the perfect look for the role.

    All the signature songs are here, “The Time Warp,” “Sweet Transvestite,” “I Can Make You A Man,” “Hot Patootie,” “Touch Me…,” and the touching, “I’m Going Home,” and all very well presented.  The set (Maria Vineo Edwards), lighting (Mark Lapierre) and costume (Jessica Miller) designs are all exceptional. too.  A fun time was had by all (well, at least, some of them).

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


Sunday, September 8, 2019

In The Heights—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District


        Home is Where the Heart Is


    This award-winning musical, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator also of the award-winning, “Hamilton”) & book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and directed by May Adrales, choreography by William Carlos Angulo and music direction by Eugenio A. Vargas, is playing at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through October 13th.  For more information, go to their site at www.pcs.org or call 503-445-3700

    This is, without a doubt, with all the inhumanity with immigrants going on at the border today, a very topical story.  America calls itself a civilized country, but when we choose to traumatize children at the border and separate families, simply for political purposes, this is not only Not civilized, but inhumane, as well.  Shame on us!

    And so, we have, the Washington Heights neighborhood, during one long, hot summer of not too long ago.  Our guide into this gnarly garden of contained wonders, is Usnavi (Ryan Alavarado), a gregarious, street vendor and grocery store owner, with his younger brother, Sonny (Nicolas Garza), a cool, young tomcat.  There is also their caring grandma, Abuela Claudia (Debra Cardona).
His neighbors are the Rosario’s, Kevin/Poppy (Tony Chiroldes), a no-nonsense guy, who own a Limo service with his gutsy wife, Camila (Karmine Alers).  And they have a petite, Stanford-college daughter, Nina (Sophia Macias), who has an admirer in Benny, the family-businesses’ dispatcher.

    Another focal point, in this extended neighborhood, is the hub of communication, the Beauty Salon, run by a trio of vivacious vixens, Carla (Paola  Hernandez), Daniela (Lillian Castillo), the owner, and Vanessa (Alyssa V. Gomez), who has an admirer in Usnavi.  All dreaming of the world, out there…a better life…their Errant Knight. 

    Also, into this colorful ensemble, is Benny (Alez Nicholson), a carefree guy, dispatcher at the Limo service, who has his loving eye on Nina (and she on him).  And then, there is the optimistic, Piragua Guy (Henry Gainza), who has a food cart; the elusive, Graffiti Pete (UJ Mangune), who will eventually find his true calling; and many other, street-smart individuals, who flesh out the rest of the neighborhood and add a spicy flavor to this marvelous menagerie of dreamers.
Their world is mostly contained, but with Rooftop Dreams and Champagne Tastes, it will evolve in time.  Then, a night of fireworks and a blackout will change everything.  Their patch of earth will collide with the unknown and what was, will be no longer…but this sky, full of stars, will lead to a new dawning.

    Can’t tell you too much, as it would spoil discoveries you should make.  And songs such as “Atencion,” “Everything I Know,”  “When Your Home,” “Patiencia Y Fe,” “Inutil,” et. al. and the dance numbers are fabulous.  The voices and talent of the entire cast is so alive, it spills over into one’s very being.  Adrales & Angulo have done an amazing job of keeping everything alive and vibrant, and visceral, as well.  Vargas and his music-makers are alive with the rhythm and designers, Scenic (Tim Mackabee), Costumes (David Israel Reysono) and especially, Lighting (Robert J. Aguilar) add mightily to the marvels displayed.

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