Monday, January 23, 2017

Crackin’ the Code—The Alberta Abbey—NE Portland

“Oh, What a Web We Weave…”

This “comedy of questionable morals,” is written and directed by Steve Coker and is part of the Fertile Ground Festival and produced by StageWorks Ink.  It is playing at the above location at 126 NE Alberta St. (street parking or a small parking lot across the street) through January 29th.  For more information, go to the Fertile Ground website or

Or, spouted in an angry teenage jargon of the 50’s (Rebel Without a Cause), shouting at his parents, Why don’t you say what you mean, “[She] says one thing and then [he] says another…and then you change it all around again.”  Yep, in a crude way, sounds like some relationships I’ve known and witnessed.  It’s not easy growing up in this period of time, being bombarded from all directions…peers, relatives, co-workers, social media, religious and political factions, telling you what to think and how to behave.

But one thing seems to have remained the same, at least for guys, the unwritten moral code that says you don’t mess around with another guys/friend’s gal or wife, or ex-girlfriend or ex-wife.  The penalty for such an infraction?:  Loss of friendship, chastisement by peers, being shunned, or even bodily harm.  In other words it’s a Big No-No!  But this play, a sort-of comedy of manners, explores that dilemma.

Bill (Steve Coker), a graphics artists and writer and big-time super heroes buff, has just been dumped by his girlfriend of two years, Alexis (Sophie Foti), who feels he is ignoring her in favor of his absorption into these fantasies.  So he relies on his goofy best friend, Travis (Brian Adrian Koch), for advice on what to do.  Meanwhile their other friend, Alec (Brick Andrews), has just been dumped by his wife of two years, Victoria (Alexandra Blatt), who also happens to be the ex-girlfriend of Bill.  She also just happens to call Bill wanting him to come over so that they can…“talk.”

Finally, Bill goes to his sister, Cyndi (Kylie Jenifer Rose) and her lover, Nicole (Landy Hite) for advice from a woman’s point of view.  How does he rekindle an old relationship with Vicki without braking the Male Code?  Meanwhile, in the background, loom two other characters that will figure prominently into the story:  Polly (Bethany Ziskind), the barmaid who knows all the participants involved and Dr. Bob (Dug Martell), a stranger who will only add more confusion to the mix.  Needless to say, I can’t reveal any more without being a spoiler but I will say that there are a couple of surprises to anticipate.  Does he crack the code?  Check it out for yourselves….

The interesting thing about this male dilemma is that it does actually exist, this unwritten male code.  So, fellows, when you see this play, you might feel you are looking into a mirror.  Coker has that ability to breed a tale that is eerily too familiar.  And, for the ladies, you might catch a glimpse of how the male psyche works, albeit in a limited area.  Perhaps, through it all, a basic need for all humans is to love and be loved.  An important note is that there is a little voice, a muse, inside you, that will guide your course.  The tricky part is that it is hard to hear it through all the social babble that one must contend with in this so-call, modern, electronic age.

Coker has done an amazing job of wearing at least four hats (producer, writer, director and lead actor) in this production and shines favorably in all these areas.  He also has an able supporting cast that do equally well in their positions.  Beside Coker (I love the asides he shares with the audience) I especially liked Koch, as Bill’s best friend, the outsider when it comes to love but a loyal friend, too.  I also liked the projections of the various settings they appear in.  Only suggestion is that, because of the cavernous space and no miking, some of the cast needs to project more at times.  But, all in all, a good show worth seeing.

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

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