Sunday, April 20, 2014

Opus 3 After Strindberg—PAC & PETE—SW Portland

A Dream Within a Dream

This production is a showcase from the second year students at Portland Actors Conservatory in conjunction with Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble and directed by Jacob Coleman.  It plays through April 27th at their space at 1436 SW Montgomery St.  For more information, go to their sites at or

As the Bard might say, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on…” (The Tempest) or, “…Life’s but a walking shadow, that struts and frets his time upon the stage and then is heard no more…” (Macbeth).  Both analogies would be pertinent for some explanations of this production.  You might also throw in a dash of Alice in Wonderland, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Twilight Zone, No Exit and Everyman for good measure, too.  In short, this is not your traditional play.

One of the jobs of an actor or writer is to explore, expose, expand the Truth of their Artistry and for the viewer/reader to discover that nugget and filter it through themselves to arrive at their own revelations.  If that sounds pretty heady, it is.  And in perusing these concepts in their naked form, a “traveler” can easily become pretentious, preachy and pompous.  This is not the case with this show but it does butt its head against these pitfalls on occasion.  But it’s also loosely interpreted from Strindberg’s, Ghost Sonata, which gives it the anchor from going too far afield.

There is no conventional plot as such.  What we are greeted with at the opening of the play is a lot of oddly dressed characters talking past one another, seemingly in some negative, isolated hell of their own making, perhaps.  One seems to be a teapot/servant type (Alwynn Accuardi), always spouting about things she hates; two others (Emily Welch and Matthew Ostrowski), dressed in military regalia, seemingly masters of the house, constantly battling each other verbally; a gardener (Sarah Yeakel), a tender of the earth, very properly dressed in Victorian-like garb, with a song in her heart; and a forlorn maiden (J’ena SanCartier), looking for love.

One can imagine this mindless mayhem going on forever, except that an “audience” member (Otniel Henig) is able to communicate with the maiden and she hears him.  And so, he joins their pack, leaving behind the viewer aspect of himself, and becoming a participant. Shortly, with his arrival, they began to divest themselves of their disguises/masks and become more “real” or natural, perhaps.  (Both Norse writers, Strindberg and Ibsen, espoused that plays needed to reflect more the reality, the natural state of Man and, thus, a new movement was born.)

These transformations are not without pain though, and even death, perhaps.  But there is rebirth and light, or hope, at the end of the tunnel.  This is only my interpretation, of course, and others will, hopefully, come away with different viewpoints.  But that is as it’s meant to be.  If you’re looking for answers, it is not from without, that they will come but, from within.

The whole cast should be commended, as they all show some real potential.  And the costuming by Jessica Bobillot, must have been quite a challenge but she does a good job of hinting at restrictions and then, freedoms, as the characters progress.  The director has orchestrated the play well, as he seems to be challenging both the actors and audience to push the envelope to the limit.  I would recommend this play but, as I said, it is not conventional in its storytelling.  If you do choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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