Monday, August 17, 2015

The Praying Mantis—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland

“Three Weird Sisters”

This gothic-comic-horror story is written by Alejandro Sieveking and is directed by Jodi Rafkin.  It is playing at their space at 7515 N. Brandon Ave. through August 30th (note:  they now have parking in the church lot across the street).  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-847-9838.

As described, this play is in the gothic horror vein with a comic undertones.  It has things in common with Macbeth, The Beguiled, Jane Eyre and the B, B&W, horror films from the 40’s and 50’s.  The script is a bit wordy in spots and the comic innuendos don’t always work but it is a good homage to that period of film and writing.  The style also might be compared to the Penny Dreadfuls and Dime Novels of the 19th Century.  And it takes place in the usual dilapidated manor with a reclusive, unsociable family with a terrible secret…no, I can’t reveal it, but it does live…er, I mean, exist, behind a heavily secured, brown door.  A door, if opened, results in…well, you’ll just have to see it for yourselves, won’t you?!

The story begins with an innocent, Juan (Dylan Horttor), arriving at the manor as the perspective fiancé to one of the sisters, Adela (Danyelle Tinker).  They have just come back from the funeral of one of the two sisters, Lina (Gretchen Lively) and Llalla (Sue Harris), both of whom have lost their fiancés recently in a couple of unfortunate, purported accidents.  But Adela feels hopeful that she can entice Juan to marry her and escape from the seclusion and poverty of her current state.

Of course, there is the problem of a fourth sister, Theresa (Crystal Lemons), who is only talked about in low voices.  And then there is the crazy (or is he?) old man, Aparacio (Tom Witherspoon), that they call Papa.  They all dream of a better life in a faraway place but, because of lack of funds, possibly, or fear of the outside world, they are unable to move beyond their own, possibly self-imposed, prisons.  Can’t tell you any more as this, being a mystery, needs to be viewed to discover the truths.

It is interesting to note that the play takes place in Chile and, I believe, the author is Chilean but there isn’t anything obvious, except for the names and setting that makes this exclusively a tale of Chilean people.  The only exception is a line that refers to hiding ugly things and only showing off the beautiful to outsiders, which might be referring to a country, immersed in poverty, only showing the wealthier sections to the rest of the world.  Also, no Hispanics actors in the cast which, I assume, means that none tried out.  But, as I said, this is mostly a gothic horror story which could be placed anywhere.

A couple of other things that should be mentioned are that the artwork on the poster and door area on the set was designed by Crystal Lemons and it is quite unique.  Also, the wedding gowns come from Brides for a Cause  which are quite beautiful and supports the charity, Wish Upon a Wedding.

The acting by the whole cast was good and, as I’ve mentioned before, actually being onstage and doing a role is valuable experience for honing your acting chops.  The direction by Rafkin could be tighter, as comic timing and potential suspenseful moments were sometimes lost.  Overall, though, the script is of a genre I do like and it is reasonably well done, as is the production.  And the title gives a hint to the nature of the play, as this insect (as well as Black Widow spiders), are predatory creatures and have cannibalistic tendencies.

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

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