Friday, February 17, 2017

In the Blood—Portland Actors Conservatory—SW Portland

The Wages of the Poor

This intense drama about the plight of the homeless is written by Suzan-Lori Parks and directed by Victor Mack.  It is playing at their location, 1436 SW Montgomery St. (it is only street parking, so need to plan your time accordingly), through February 26th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-274-1717.

There is a price tag on everything, nothing is free.  Watch your ads on television, the bottom line is that they want your money so that you are poorer and them richer.  The same goes for the “do-gooders” that work the more run-down sections of the urban jungles.  They, too, have a racket.  These observations are all contained within Parks’ play.

The reasons people are living outside the “so-called” civilized world are as varied as the people who inhabit those confines.  Some may be lazy and looking for a free ride; some may have emotional, physical, and mental problems that “polite” society doesn’t want to deal with; and some may have little or no education and work experience, thereby possibly, unemployable.  But, one thing is certain, as a Prince once observed, “the fault…is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  Yes, we may just be our own worst enemy.

Hester (Monica Fleetwood) is just such an individual, illiterate and uneducated, living under a bridge, with five young children, all with different fathers and, of course, none of them around now to help with the burden.  There is Jabber (John D’Aversa), the eldest and Baby (Jacob Beaver), the youngest, with the “in-betweeners,” Bully (Tyharra Cozier), Trouble (Aries Annitya), and Beauty (Kristin Barrett).  On the outside, they seem happy enough, but their mother is all too aware of the struggles and sacrifices she must make to keep the brood from being caught up in the web of deceit and despair, as she knows from first-hand experience.

Jabber’s father, Chili (D’Aversa, again) was a drug addict when they connected and now is a slick salesman/con-artist.  The local, street-smart, bible-thumping preacher, the Reverend D. (Beaver, again) is Baby’s father but is loath to repeat that news to his congregation.  Trouble’s daddy is the local, smarmy, free-clinic Doctor (Annitya, again) who is as high on pills as he is on sex.  And the Welfare Lady (Cozier, again) lives by using Hester and others as slaves for her, or else she’d have to turn them in for violations.  And even her “friend,” Amiga (Barrett, again) is using her to sell items she has and then giving her only a pittance of what she garners from the sales.  In other words, to say the least, these are not very nice people.

We, like Hester, are dumped into this world in which we must confront the alternate lifestyles that exist next to ours in this shadowland.  All these characters must also face the spot…or, perhaps, more accurately…”God-light,” in which they must explain their actions and motivations.  Whether they are accepted, or perhaps, do we accept them, is totally up to us?  To tell you more would be a spoiler and I will not do that.  Needless to say, this is for adults only, as it doesn’t pull any punches as to the reality of their situations.

The set by Max Ward is super.  It puts the audience in direct contact with the setting, giving one the feeling you are intruding on their world (or, is it that they are intruding on ours?).  Mack, an excellent actor himself, certainly is the right choice to direct fledging actors, as he understands all too well the process of creating characters.  And the actors are all powerful in creating the dual roles they portray.

Most of all, Fleetwood as the central character, is a gifted actor.  She needs to be multi-faceted in her interpretation.  On one hand, she may be as corrupted as the rest.  But, on the other hand, she needs to show a vulnerability, a certain naivety, so that we can sympathize, perhaps, empathize with her.  She manages to traverse that razor-thin line so that we can see how she can be so many things, to so many people.  Quite a feat of acting!

I recommend this play, keeping in mind it does have rough language and adult situations.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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