Friday, March 13, 2015

Jewtopia—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

Identity Crisis

This adult comedy is written by Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson and directed by Donald Horn (Triangle’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. through April 4th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

Once again, it is amazing how many recent theatres that have had discovering one’s identity at the forefront of their shows.  Among the recent plays that had this as one of their themes are shows at Post 5, defunct, theatre vertigo, Artists Rep., PAC, et. al.  This must be a sign that the world of Art, or maybe just the world in general, is seeking to find answers to who they are and what their purpose in life is.

In the case of this story, it is about Chris (Alex Fox), who was brought up in one religion but is desperately wanting to become a Jew, because Jewish women are really hot.  He meets up with his old school pal, Adam (James Sharinghousen), a Jew, whose parents are bugging him to settle down with a nice Jewish girl and have kids.  Only problem is, he strikes out with the ladies.  So a bond is formed in which Chris will teach him how to get women if Adam teaches him how to become Jewish.

It seems that Chris has the hots for Allison (Sarah DeGrave) but her mother, Marcy (Michelle Maida), only wants a Jewish boy for her.  Things get a bit heated when they go to the temple for further insights into the Jewish faith only to discover that the Rabbi (Jon Quesenberry) is from Adam’s old neighborhood and still has not forgiven him for an insult he produced at the temple when he was a young man.

As things progress, Adam and Chris seems to exchange places, which comes to a head at a celebration with Adam’s mother (Maida, again) and father (Michael Rouches) and uncle (Quesenberry, again).  Chris becomes too Jewish, as he turns on his friend, and Adam slides the other way, as he brings home Rachel (April Peng) not only not Jewish but of a different nationality.  The surprises are not done yet, but to tell more would spoil the discoveries.

A danger with comedies dealing with racial, cultural or religious issues is that you have to be so careful not to be laughing at them but with them.  But, in this case, Horn is at the wheel and “all’s right with the world.”  Issues that are broached include guilt trips, rituals and rites, circumcision, family dynamics, et. al.  And Horn has kept the play moving along with lots of physical humor as well.

The main theme, which is quite touching, is to love a person for who they are, not what they are suppose to represent.  We must remind ourselves that we are not our parents and, although valued human beings, they are not us.  The scariest part of growing up may be just being yourself regardless of opposition.  And if we meet up with someone or something that doesn’t agree with us, perhaps we need to just walk around in their skin for awhile to see how the world is viewed from their eyes.  It may not change our own personal views but it might just teach us to become more tolerant and compassionate.

The two leads, Sharinghousen and Fox, handle these opposing points of view with clarity, neither becoming completely heroic or villainess, but all shades of gray.  I have seen Sharinghouse in a number of plays here and at OCT and he is always interesting to watch onstage, giving complete focus to his characters.  Fox is equally as good, giving a nice contrast to Sharinghousen’s character.  It’s good to see Quesenberry onstage, as he is usually behind the scenes as the excellent musical director and composer for many of the shows here.  His two roles in this show are quite amusing and seem very authentic.

Maida and Rouches are just fine as the flamboyant and demanding parents.  Peng seems to be a new addition to the stage and holds her own in the scene where she expounds her point of view.  DeGrave is an attractive young lady and does well in, what turns out to be, a conflicted character.  I’ve seen her before onstage, about a year ago in Proof, and she is a fine dramatic actor as well.  I hope to see both of these young women again onstage in future productions.

This is definitely a show for adults because of subject matter.  I recommend it and, if you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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