Sunday, March 30, 2014

When Pigs Fly—Serendipity Players—downtown Vancouver, WA

“To Thine Own Self Be True…”

This dinner-theatre, musical revue is written by Howard Crabtree, Mark Waldrop and Dick Gallagher. It is directed by Maury Evans, musical direction by David Hastings and choreography by Mimi Wilaki.  It will be playing at the Eagles Lodge at 107 E. 7th St. in Vancouver through April 12th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 360-834-3588.

This is a very entertaining, nostalgic throw-back to those grand, ole musicals of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s,and 60’s,  like Oklahoma, South Pacific, Gypsy, Guys & Dolls, 42nd Street, et. al.  And the pre-show encompasses songs from that era.  It is also a loving tribute to the stars of those ages, such as Merman, Kelly, Dietrich, Astaire, Garland, and Martin.  And it is the lonely struggle of one man who, from an early age, only wanted to be an entertainer.  (I personally can identify with that feeling).

Howard Crabtree (Robert Gebarowski) knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, from when he did his first musical in school—an entertainer.  His guidance counselor, Miss Roundhole (Jordan Mui), tried to dissuade him from this vision, insisting he needed to have more lucrative business aspirations, such as being a plumber, gardener, chicken farmer or watch maker.  But, when he sticks to his guns about wanting to succeed in the Arts, she remarks it will happen for him, “when pigs fly.”

The rest of the show is about his attempts to make good his desire through various jobs backstage and onstage in community theatre, summer stock and, finally, Broadway.  Along the way he recounts, in musical form, the various encounters and mishaps that befall him. 

He is aptly aided by Maury (Maury Evans, the director) who is a cross-dressing, belting mama, as well as a hoofer, especially good in his solo number, Bigger Is Better, ala Merman, and Light in the Loafers, as a tap dancer.  And, as the Torch Singer, Mila (Mila Boyd), ala Dietrich, who is terrific in her three torch songs and slinky, black dress.  She also expounds beautifully in her solo number, Laughing Matters, one of the themes of the shows, professing you need to have and see the humor in life and, possibly, not take it so seriously.  But the character also has her misses, as a musical, Baby Jane, ala Bette Davis, and as Cupid, wearing thick glasses, who has a seeing problem when she shoots her fateful arrow.

There is also the foxy Erica (Erica Jorgensen), a failed Mermaid, and also a Tree onstage, who gets frustrated is such a demeaning role and “leaves.”  But successful when singing about Coming Attractions and very funny as a demanding, adult, Annie in a sequel to that play, in her number, Annie 3.   There is also Scooter (Scott Miller), another hoofer, and also very good as a conservative, door-to-door salesman, trying to hide his Gay lifestyle during the late 60’s, in Sam and Me.  He also is very funny in his solo number, Not All Man, when it’s revealed that he is also…well, you’ll have to see it to believe it, but he does get “horse” during the number.

And we can’t forget Howard, himself, who does a lovely solo called, Hawaiian Wedding Day, and finally gets his “lei.”  Nor should we ignore the pianist (and, as mentioned, Musical Director), Hastings who is also an intricate part of the show, adding to the musical mayhem when needed.  And they all come together in the very clever number, You Can’t Take the Color Out of Colorado which, quite correctly, points out that, we are all part of the same country, regardless of sexual-orientation, skin color, nationality, or beliefs and do contribute the same as everyone else and, thus, should have the same rights.

All in all, we should be all that we can be, and maybe even more, as the final, ensemble number, Over the Top, suggests.  And, if we profess to be a free country, then we should act that way.  The only rule-of-thumb might be, “First, do no harm….”  The rest, “Love they Neighbor…,” is just luscious frosting on a very rich cake (the brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind).

Evans has done a very good job or organizing the numbers and creating a lot of variety in presenting the scenes.  Wilaki has done a wonderful job of creating dance formations on such a small stage.  Hastings is marvelous in single-handedly being the instrumental anchor for the show.  But the prize must go to the cast, for devising all the many and colorful costumes for the production.  Quite an accomplishment!

The cast blends well together and all are exceptional in the varied styles of music they must perform.  But, my hats off to the ladies, especially, as their comic creations, as well as the different musical styles, are very distinct and were highlights in the show.  Boyd could be sultry or belting in her numbers, and then create some very funny comic characters.  Likewise, Jorgensen, could come off in some of her comic bits, like Carol Burnett, then be very vamp-ish in other numbers.  All things considered, a very talented group of performers!

The meal was also very worthwhile, having choices between chicken, pork or vegan.  This also included a baked potato, veggie, a biscuit, non-alcoholic drinks (alcoholic drinks could be purchased separately) and dessert.  And you get a full-length musical revue to go with it, all for only $30.  In this day-and-age, a very good deal!
I would recommend this show, but it is adult in material, so may not be suitable for everyone.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Hamlet—Post 5 Theatre—NE Portland

“What a Piece of Work…”

This classic play by Shakespeare is directed by Paul Angelo and is playing at their space at 850 NE 81st Ave.  It runs through May 4th.  For more information, go to their site at

God, I do love black box theatre!  It strips away all the pageantry and ostentation of larger theatre productions and gets down to the nitty-gritty of what the story is about.  It brings one up close and personal to the action, and relies, almost solely, on the author’s words, the actor’s talents and the audience’s imagination to get across its point.  That is storytelling at its purest.

What we often have, especially on the big screen, is 3D or a lot of C/G effects.  Impressive to look at, perhaps, but beneath all those pixels was a story once…and real live actors…and the ability to use our imaginations to flesh out the plot, like in novels.  Black box theatre allows one to do just that.  When you have an actor just inches away from you sometimes, you feel like you are part of the action and, thereby, the play becomes an experience rather than just an uninvolved event.  This production has that in spades!

is, perhaps, the most produced of the Bard’s play.  All the greats have attempted it, including Olivier, Gielgud, Gibson, Branagh, Jacobi, Shell, Williamson, Kline, et. al.  But this version is down and dirty and concentrates mainly on family dynamics.  Prince Hamlet (Ty Boice) of Denmark’s father has died and his brother, Claudius (Jeff Gorman), has anxiously slipped into bed with his mother, Gertrude (Hadley Boyd) and married her, becoming King, of course.

Meanwhile Polonius (Tobias Andersen), father of Ophelia (Jessica Tidd) and Laertes (Jake Street), has thoughts of marrying off his daughter to Hamlet.  And they do seem chummy for awhile and all might have turned out well, except that his father’s ghost suddenly appears and reveals to Hamlet that he was untimely murdered by his brother.  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 (Ollie Bergh) and Guildenstern (Philip J. Berns), 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 (Keith T. Cable) 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 (Cassandra Boice) 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.

This production is very well thought out by Angleo, it’s Director.  There is a touching, short video shown of the Prince’s early years with his father, which reinforces the formative years of childhood and how they might affect the adult.  He has also managed to pull out more humor from the story than usually portrayed, especially with R&G, the Gravediggers, and the Players presentation.  The fight at the climax is done simply but very well staged.  And he has propelled his actors on a stage, not much bigger that a person’s living room, to expound this very personal story.  My hat’s off to him!

Ty (the company’s Artistic Director), as Hamlet, has everything going for him.  He is young, lean and dynamic onstage.  You truly feel his sense of injustice, as well as the frustration, confusion and sense of inevitability as the story surges forward.  A masterful job!  Gorham is also good as a man ruled by passion for a woman but truly lost as he gleans his fate.  A complex person who may “love not wisely but too well.”  And Tobias, an icon of Portland theatre, is always a delight to watch.  I believe you can actually see him thinking onstage as he strides through his role.  He is certainly one of the best we have and may we appreciate him and his talent for many years to come!

Cassandra, in what is typically a male role, is perfectly believable as Hamlet’s chum.  Why not have a friendship between a man and woman?  It actually deepens the resolve between these two, as a  sensitivity is added to the mix and she plays it well.  Boyd, as his mother, and Tidd, as a potential mate, both come across as strong women, holding their own in a patriarchal society.  Both good choices for their roles.  And in smaller roles, Cable, in various guises stands out, and Berns, as both a Gravedigger and Guildenstern, is always memorable.  He commands the stage in his scenes.
I would recommend this play but, being a small theatre, it would be best to get your tickets soon.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Independent Women—Action/Adventure Theatre—SE Portland

A Band Of…Sisters

This play is produced by Social Sciences Productions at their performing space at 1050 SE Clinton St.  It is directed by Ashley Hollingshead and written and adapted by the cast.  It will play through March 22nd.  For further information, go to their site at

“Ladies, it ain’t easy bein’ independent…” (destiny’s child) is a quote they use on the program and, I’m sure, they’re right.  Freedom isn’t free, it has a price, a responsibility, and consequences, too.  You would think people would be accepted on their own merits and not on superficial restrictions of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender.  But as a race, we seemed to only have grown no further than the childhood stage of maturity and, being for generations, even in the Bible, a mostly Patriarchal society, it still is not an even playing field.

History has had its share of women heroes, such as Judith and Mary (from the Bible), Cleopatra, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, (the collective) Rosie the Riveter, possibly the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, and many others.  The contributions of women should never have been questioned but it seems that guys are simply not that bright or forthcoming.  To put it simply, there would be no population without our mothers/women bearing children and, I think, that alone would be befitting admiration, if not a downright high status in civilization!

This play performed, written and adapted by the cast and director, Kira Atwood-Youngstrom, Elizabeth Gibbs, Sarah McGregor, Rachel Rosenfeld, Zoe Rudman, Cari Spinnler and Hollingshead (also Founder of the group) is quite a work of art.  It combines music, songs, monologues, poetic prose, dialogue, mime and interpretive movement and dance.  It reflects on women’s stories from the early 1900’s to present day.  It especially concentrates on women, sitting at home, waiting for their men to return from the war and evolving into them taking over jobs in shipbuilding yards, airplane factories, piloting, and serving in the armed forces themselves, among other things.

But once the war was over, the 50’s television series (Ozzie & Harriet, Father know Best, Leave It To Beaver, et. al.) and ads, would reflect women again back in the home, cooking, cleaning and taking care of kids.  And wearing puffy dresses, pearls, and looking pretty for the ever-lovin’ man of theirs to come home after a hard day’s work at some nameless job.  The 50’s may have tried to stifle women back into their “proper” place, but the 60’s was a revolution in everything considered “holy” up to that time.

The play also touches on how women view themselves.  The “I hate my body” syndrome was chanted by these fearless females.  Among the “hates” were ribs, the tummy, skin blemishes, small tits, sweating (not perspiring), noses, ethnic features, make-up, clothes and appearance.  Also, attitude is to be considered, as being too bossy, taking jobs from men, dual roles of mother and career-women, attractiveness, being flirtatious, etc.  All in all, it ain’t easy being free, as said, nor being a woman.

There’s a lot of positive things to be said for this production and the lady performers, and a lot to glean from it.  But, I don’t won’t to go into too much detail, as much of its success is due to its very inventive style of presentation.  Hollingshead has done an outstanding job of compacting such an enormous subject in less than 90 minutes, and doing it on a bare stage.  And everyone of her cast should be commended for doing an exceptional job of presenting it.  I wonder what they could do with the play, Lysistrata.  Just a thought…

This is a new group and their first production and I hope to see more from them.  I’m sure they could use your contribution, so contact them with any aid you can give.  They deserve to survive.  I recommend this show but this is the last weekend coming up and it has minimal seating, so best get your tickets early.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Small Fire—Portland Center Stage—NW Portland

The Inner Fire

This drama is playing at PCS’s space at 128 NW 11th Ave.  It is written by Adam Bock and directed by Rose Riordan.  It will be playing through March 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700.

The show may be under 90 minutes in playing time but creates a hushed wallop.  Although many dramas have approached the subject on being incapacitated, physically and mentally, this one goes through the back door, letting us become aware of the effects, not only on loved ones, but of the person herself.  The world of silence for them might just be bursting with inner fire.

Emily (Peggy J. Scott) is a very successful erecter of buildings and is on the go constantly, both physically and mentally.  Her husband, John (Tom Bloom), is a quieter soul, trying to be supportive of Emily’s lifestyle.  Billy (Isaac Lamb) is her trusted, right-hand man on the job and good friend.  And, Jenny (Hollye Gilbert), their daughter, is somewhat estranged from her Mom and her demanding lifestyle.

When we first meet them, Jenny is on the verge of getting married to the man of her dreams, Henry, but not of her Mom’s dreams for her.  They are in the process of planning for her wedding.  But a small fire in the kitchen will be the cause for their house of cards to come blazing to the ground.  It seems that Emily has left a burner on and a towel has caught fire.

The burning is not the issue, but the fact that Emily was unable to smell the smoke.  In fact she loses her sense of smell altogether.  And with the sense of smell being gone, her sense of taste soon follows.  Doctors are unable to find any cause for this.  Her sight is next to follow.  The wedding goes forward anyway, with John giving a blow by blow description for her of the proceedings at the reception.

But, then, hearing is gone, and she is virtually trapped in her own body.  The steadfast Billy takes charge of the company, while her daughter pulls further away.  He even takes John with him to a pigeon race…yes, I said a contest in which pigeons race…just to get him involved in something besides dealing with the realities at home (a wonderfully amusing scene).

But there is still another way to communicate, for two people in love for so long.  And they discover that there is a way of touching on the inner life of a person, and that they still feel…they’re still there.  I won’t expose the secret but it does end on a hopeful note.

This is a very simple but moving story.  Not given over to being overly-sentimental or mawkish.  All the characters have issues and are certainly not perfect.  But what we see or sense on the outside is not all that makes up a person.  We should appreciate what we have, of course, as we all probably take things for granted to some extent.  But there is still that soul or inner essence of one that is unique, alive, and will rage till the “dying of the light.”

Riordan seems to have captured the underlying mood of this piece and its characters and gently nudged them along a rather slippery slope between sentiment and sensibility.  And the set (Tony Cisek) also reflects the simplicity and yet creates mood for each of the scenes.

Scott, as Emily, is a delight.  She presents a no-nonsense lady who goes through her changes with a stubbornness as she refuses to be reduced to a seeming vegetable.  Quite a performance.  And Bloom, as her husband, is also good in creating the lap of quiet resolve by standing by his partner.  Gilbert and Lamb also give powerful support in their roles.  Gilbert is particularly effective in the scene when dressing her Mom for the wedding and Lamb is terrific in the rooftop scene of watching the pigeon race.

I would recommend this play but it does have some adult situations and language that may not be for everybody.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

.Next Fall—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

“What a Piece of Work is Man”

This drama is by Geoffry Nauffts and directed and designed by Donald Horn.  It plays at their location at The Sanctuary, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd.  This production will run through April 6th.  For further information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.  They are partnered with Basic Rights Oregon for this show.  And don’t miss their Season Announcement Party on Tuesday, April 15th at 7 pm—free to everyone.

We crawl, we bawl, we stumble, we crumble, we rise, we fall…in between, we live.  The path of being human is never easy.  We all have our quirks, our burdens, our regrets, our uppers and downers.  But the hardest part of it all might be to just stand up and be proud of who we are.  Not…whenever, not someday, not tomorrow, or next Fall, for they never come, but now.

This piece of work certainly touches on a lot of heavy issues, most importantly, perhaps, owning up to who you are and the things you believe in, and not hiding anymore.  This story is about love, and prejudice, and human rights, religion and God.  And, perhaps, the most amazing part of their journey is, that none of these people are perfect.  And so, it should be easy to recognize our neighbors, our family, even ourselves, in these characters.

The story begins in a hospital’s waiting room, where Luke (James Sharinghousen) has just been seriously injured in an accident.  Present are his gregarious mother, Arlene (Helen Raptis) and his conservative father, Butch (Bill Barry).  Also in attendance are his current lover, Adam (Jason Glick) and his former lover, Brandon (Alex Fox), as well as Adam’s childhood friend, Holly (Michelle Maida).  As they converse and share memories of Luke, we see, through flashbacks, the kind of relationships they’ve had with him and each other.

Luke is an aspiring actor, who chances on Adam at a high school reunion of his.  Soon they are lovers and apartment mates.  But all is not perfect, as Adam is an atheist, and Luke, a Christian.  In fact, Luke prays for forgiveness every time he has sex with Adam because, according to his upbringing, it is a sin to sleep with another man.  Adam not only finds this justifiably insulting but, since he doesn’t believe in a God, downright incongruous.

Also, Luke has not “come out” to his family, so Adam is simply a co-worker to them.  But his mother, flighty on the outside she may be, seems aware of a more personal connection between her son and Adam.  His father appears clueless but since there are clues all around, he must be aware, just not accepting.  Brandon can deal with the fact that he has sex with other men but not the reality of love between same sex unions.  And Holly, probably the most aware of this whole menagerie, simply accepts people for who they are and doesn’t judge.

Another important element in this story is that Adam has no rights as to the fate of his lover, who is in a coma.  In fact, he cannot even visit him.  But probably the most important view of all these proceedings is that these characters, as mentioned, are not perfect.  They are flawed, and so, very identifiable to the audience.  The outcome of the story I will not give away but, suffice to say, changes are in the wind.  Wish that were so in real life for some of these issues.
All the points this play brings up, I would venture to say, will connect with the viewer.  I grew up in a very Catholic environment where, in education, the Arts were not encouraged, there were no people of color in the congregation or school, and gayness was never even discussed.  Not an inviting atmosphere of preparedness for the outside, adult world I would enter.

Since then, I have immersed myself in the Arts, broken away from this religion (but not from God) and have had many friends of color and that are gay.  From this, I conclude, that the young years of growing up are the formative years and best not mess that up for our kids.  Education and understanding of all walks of life are important for being the fullest human beings we can become.  As to the secret of Love, it’s easy, simply…love them.  And, as to relationships, to borrow from a Medical oath, “First, do not harm….”  Just my take on the vast possibilities.

Don has, once again, provided us with a stimulating, thought-provoking platform on which to view Life!  He is quite the artist and his cast seems to respond to his gentle nudges.  Glick is very good at exploring the conflicted, sometimes tormented figure, trying to traverse his way through the mire.  An amazing performance.  And Sharinghousen is strong, as the somewhat na├»ve partner of the duo, as we become aware of his struggles with the issues of loving God and another man.

Raptis, as the mother, creates quite a full character, as a person fighting addiction, trying to be a good wife but also a supportive mom.  Beautifully done.  And Maida, as the good friend, is the wisest of the bunch, and does well in attempting to balance the relationships.  We should all be as lucky to have a friend like Holly.  Barry, as the father is, unfortunately, too identifiable in the real world and he plays it well.  And Fox does nicely, too, as the conflicted former lover, giving us another view of an already complex mix of God, gayness and love.

I recommend this show but, be aware, it has some very adult situations and issues.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.