Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Sound of a Voice—Theatre Diaspora—Pearl District

An Asian Fairy Tale

This ghostly, one-act fairy tale is written by David Henry Hwang and directed and co-produced by Samson Syharath.  It is playing at Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave., at 7 pm on Sunday, October 25th.  For more information, go to their site at

I would rather attribute this tale closer to the familiar fairy tales of Grimm and Andersen than an actual ghost story, although it has aspects of both.  It has elements of “Snow White…”, “King Arthur…” and some haunting love stories of Lore.  Most traditional ghost stories conjure up tales of terror and revenge.  This story is poetic and lyrical, many thanks to the masterful playwright, Hwang.

Once Upon a Time…there was a lonely Old Woman (Chisao Hata) who lived in the forest.  Little was known of her but she seemed to have lived in her house as long as anyone could remember, and never seemed to venture into town for supplies.  She also had a beautiful garden of flowers that seemed to grow all year round.  Also, one always heard beautiful Shakuhachi music (Larry Tyrrell, coming from her flute, as it permeated the forest.  Occasional visitors would come calling but never seemed to leave.

One day a virile Man (Larry Toda) happened upon this place on his journey to a far-off town.  He was invited in by the old woman to stay and eat and drink as he pleased.  In return he volunteered to help her with the chores.  But he was often awakened in the night by the mysterious music.  He vowed to find the source of the music and to what really happened to the guests who had come calling.  And, oh, my goodness, did he ever…!  To tell more would spoil the story.

This is a fitting entry into the Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations coming up in a couple of weeks.  The story is bittersweet but gently and humorous related.  Syharath has a nice touch with this delicate story, allowing only the barest of props and setting to establish the scenes, relying more on the story-telling aspects of Hwang’s haunting tale (stage directions read by Mariko Kajita), the beautifully played music (Tyrrell), and the accomplished two actors, Hata and Toda.

To me story-telling is becoming a lost art.  Only on occasion do theatres rely on this to become part of their repartee.  They often seem to want fancy sets and costumes to enhance (or distract) from the shows they are presenting.  It is comforting to know that this company simply allows the words, talent and imagine to shine through.  Dmae Roberts and her company have accomplished that, and Toda, Hata and Tyrrell are top-rated for their efforts to enchant us, and they did!

I enjoyed this sweet show and recommend it.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.  And, I’m sure, if you have some monies to impart and/or a permanent space for them to perform in, they would be happy to hear from you, too, in that regard.  And, remember, that parking in the Pearl District can be a challenge, so plan your time accordingly.

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