Monday, December 16, 2013

Frogz—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

"Visions…Dancing in my Head
This signature piece of Imago’s will be showing at their performance space at 17 SE 8th Ave. through January 5th, 2014.  It is created, designed and directed by the founders of Imago, Jerry Mouawad and Carol Triffle.  For more information and tickets, go to their site at or call 503-231-9581.

Many years ago, I was enchanted by a traveling, Swiss troupe, Mummershantz (sp.?) that visited Buffalo, N.Y., where I lived.  Although I had been in theatre myself, I had never quite encountered such an experience while watching them perform.  A silent show, laced with means of expression such as toilet paper, flip charts, surrealistic costumes and often unintelligible scenarios and alien shapes.  But despite of all this (or, maybe, because of it) I was transported, overwhelmed into a wondrous world of…magic.

It was an odd, but satisfying, feeling then.  I felt the same kind of feeling when viewing…nay, experiencing, Frogz.  And I discovered the secret of such a show.  One must interact with it, not from the outward senses, but from the perspective of the heart…a child’s heart…and imagination.  It is a journey back in time to those innocent days of giggles and discovery and fairy dust and a belief in magic.  The children in the audience were totally enchanted and captivated, and immersed themselves whole-heartedly in that world.  As an adult, I could only visit it as a tourist.

To begin with, it is not a story in the conventional sense.  It has to do with lizards and frogs and accordions, and bags and strings and fish, and scrap paper and slugs and circuses, and the Old West and penguins.  In some ways it resembles Disney’s amazing, animated feature, Fantasia, with its blending of music and images.  But that had a semi-logical flow to it, tracing the evolution of life to its possible spiritual outcomes.  The closest one gets to a reality in this, is penguins playing musical chairs or of the old prospector in the desert.  You will note that many of the images presented are things that a child (or pet) will instinctively find fascinating, such as sacks, boxes, twine, bugs, animals, drawing, paper, colorful objects and music.  All those elements are present here.

And there is also the marvelous interaction with the audience, especially children, such as when one of the children loses a shoe and the…objects, play with it.  Or when the penguin finds he’s the last one without a seat in musical chairs…and then focuses his attention on the audience’s seats….  Or the excitement when some circus characters attempt to spell out the world “intermission” with boxes to the ceiling, then realize that a letter is missing in the middle and they somehow have to…insert it.  Believe me, this, and more, will keep you captivated for the 90 minutes.  It is…Frogtastic!  (Yes, I know this is not a normal word, but then, this is not your normal show, either.)

It would really be an injustice to try and summarize any story(ies).  It is, quite simply, an experience…a journey…a renewal…a belief in the unbelievable.  And the five men that present it for our pleasure are amazing:  Jonathan Godsey, Darren McCarthy, Pratik Motwani, Garrett Larreau and Nevan Richard.  They are part acrobat, part magician, part dancer and all, visionaries.  And kudos to the geniuses that created this remarkable entertainment in the guises of Triffle and Mouawad.  “May they live long and prosper!”  And their costumes are utterly amazing!  The lighting by Jeff Seats actually enhances the acts.  And the music, by Katie Griesar, is crucial to the production and it would not be the same without her splendid contribution.

You would be doing yourself a disservice if you did not see this production at this time of year, as it is the best Christmas present ever, something for the young and the young-at-heart.  And, guaranteed, your children will be forever changed for the good by this experience.  And (a personal bias, I admit) the objects contained (mentioned earlier) in this show are (I assume) not accidental, as they are all simple, household items that allow a child to create and play, using only their imaginations as to what they represent.  Artificial methods not allowed.  The fertile imagination of a child will outstrip them any day.

A couple words of advice, though, get there early, as street parking is scarce in this busy part of town.  And get your tickets early, too, as the show has always had a tendency to sell out.  I highly recommend this show.  If you do go, tell them Dennis sent you.

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