Friday, April 15, 2016

Blue Door—Profile Theatre—SW Portland

The Summoning

This drama is by Tanya Barfield and directed by Bobby Bermea.  It is playing at the Artists Repertory’s space, SW Alder St. and 16th Ave., through April 24th.  For more information, go to their site at

Family dynamics are sometimes a wonderful…sometimes a scary thing, to deal with.  After all, we may be able to choose our friends but we can’t choose our family (although there are times, I’m sure, we wish we could).  The Why of those statements has a lot to do with our own personal Egos.  As the Cowardly Lion expresses, “If I were King of the forest…” meaning that he would change everything so that it suited him.  But that ain’t the way Life works, pal.  You get the cards you are dealt, including family, and you have to cope with them the best you can.

But…surprise, surprise…we are not on an island and are the product biologically of many generations that have come before…the bad and the good.  True, Nature has a lot to do with our make-up, but there is Nurturing, too, as we adapt to how we were raised and our surroundings.  And, in the case of Lewis (Victor Mack), a highly regarded, Math professor, assimilation, perhaps, into a society which goes against his Nature, is the answer.  And that is the crux of the story, too.

Lewis’s world is made up of numbers, formulas, facts (you might say he sleeps with these images encompassing him), anything that can neatly fit into a box and be categorized to squeeze into the world of his making…his “forest.”  He, being black, has married a white woman, and is highly successful as a professor and writer, and earning a good living, all pointing to a bed of roses to relax on…but what about the thorns, “ah, there’s the rub.”  His wife leaves him, prompting a visitation of ghosts from the past in the guises of his grand-parents, his father, his brother and other incarnations, all created by one actor, Seth Rue, suggesting, perhaps, the intimate connections of their heritage to Lewis.

He is reminded of his slave past and how mistreated his people were.  He’s reminded of the humiliation, degradation, harassment and downright cruelty his people endured.  And they damn sure didn’t endure it for him to be absorbed into the enemy camp, the white world!  His role should be to seek equality, not assimilation.  And, even sadder, Lewis knows these stories but has chosen to ignore them.  But, like all truths, they will out…and have their day.

The question then is, will he listen, no, heed their summoning…?!  To discover the outcome, and the secret of the “blue door,” you will have to see the play for yourself, for no spoiler I.

This would not be an easy play to stage, for it is just two actors (and a whole slew of characters they create) on an essentially bare stage, with few props, for 90 minutes.  But Bermea has chosen well his cast and knows the art of storytelling.  The heart of any play is the author’s words, the director/actors’ vision and the audiences ability to listen.  If you have those essentials secure (and they do), then you have a play that holds your interest and is thought-provoking (which it is).  I have reviewed Bermea before as a director and actor and his creations are always worthwhile.

Mack and Rue play off each other with a free abandon, letting the story flow from within them, painting a landscape that is both multi-dimensional and heart-wrenching.  “The woods are…dark and deep…” and exploring them are scary, dangerous but hopefully, ultimately, fulfilling.  These two talented gentlemen create a populated world with merely a turn of a head, or a crouch, or a slight change of voice and, from that, weave a existence/history/philosophy that is both personal and universal.  Some of the best acting I’ve seen this season.

One final thought, may we all create our own “blue door” in order to survive “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes.”  I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them that Dennis sent you.

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