Saturday, November 30, 2013

American Fiesta—Triangle Productions—NE Portland

Colors of a Rainbow

This is the NW Premiere of this show by Steve Tomlinson and directed and designed by Don Horn (Triangle’s co-founder and Managing Director).  It is a one-man show starring Gary Wayne Cash and plays at Triangle’s space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd.  The wonderful collection of Fiesta-wear is donated from the estate of Joan Hayward.  For more information go to or call 503-239-5919.  And if you have any of the Fiesta collection, I’m sure Don would appreciate seeing photos of them.

The Fiesta collection of dish-wear was begun by Homer Laughlin back East, during the depression of the 1930’s.  He felt that people needed a little color in their drab lives during this period of time.  Also one could buy a piece of one type and another piece of another color or style and it would all fit together.  No more the expense of having to buy complete sets of matching dishes. 

The vibrant colors might evoke visions of a lovely rainbow, a jumbled kaleidoscope or the terror-warning alert ladder.  It’s all there, just depends on your perspective.  Interpretation is in “the eye of the beholder.”  Kind of like life, isn’t it?  And, maybe, that’s part of the point of the play.  Colorful, solid, reliable, individualistic, durable—a bit of Americana rolled into one. A reflection of the Past attempting to fuse onto the Future, voicing the need for both.

The tale follows the story of Steven based, I’m sure, on much of the author’s life.  He tells of his childhood in Oklahoma with the typical father/mother of the times.  The father, ruler of the roost….the mother, following behind as best she can.  And the son, sensing he’s different…discovering he’s gay.  Eventually finding a lover, a partner, a mate in Leon and wanting to get married.  But, at the time, only Canada, in North America, would recognize such a union.

How to bridge the gap between traditional values he grew up with and the offerings of this New World.  A solution might lie in the durability of Fiesta-wear, a span between generations.  His mother and grand-mother had such pieces and now he has a fascination with the same such models of a by-gone era.  It may not solve the problem but, at least, its common ground.  And, on such a level playing field, dialogue might begin.  And, how does such a journey start, as Vonnegut would say, “just put one foot in front of the other….”

There are other issues at stake here, too, such as the rights of a person’s partner to make decisions if the other partner is unable to, equal rights in job opportunities and education, et. al.  And, a lesson he learns at a convention of Fiesta-wear collectors is that nobody is perfect.  A blind lady has a near-complete collection of this table-wear.  But he informs her that many of the pieces have cracks and chips in them.  To her, these are not flaws but reflect individual, personal passions/traumas of the moment that caused them.  We all are like that…different colors & sizes, damaged, but all part of the same world, so its best that we try to get along.

Cash not only plays the main character, but voices others as well, including Leon, his parents, collectors and shop-owners, etc.  It is a 90 minute monologue and very well done.  This role could have been over-acted and the alternate characters been larger.  But Cash does the unusual and underplays the role, pulling his characters closer to his breast.  This method gives more of a personal feel for the character from the audience’s perspective.  As if he were just sitting across from you and telling stories of his life, much like Bill Cosby use to do.  More like a storyteller than our traditional view of an actor on stage.  It is very effective.

The collection of fiesta-wear is quite amazing and, I’m sure, Don would have no trouble telling you about it.  And his direction of the play, as always, seems to blend his own views onto the subject and vice versa, so that you get a very personal look into life and art, not an easy marriage to conceive because it makes the artist vulnerable.  It is a brave thing to do but, after repeated exposure to his plays, it is a satisfying one, from my humble opinion.  A celebration…a fiesta of life that speaks to all of us.

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

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