Monday, October 30, 2017

Jasper In Deadland—OCT’s Young Professionals Co.—NE Portland

"This Mortal Coil”

This rock opera, based on Greek tragedies, has book by Hunter Foster and Ryan Scott Oliver and music by Oliver.  It is directed by Dani Baldwin (OCT’s Education Director) with musical direction by Jeffrey Childs.  It is playing at their studio theater, 1939 NE Sandy Blvd. (street parking only), through November 12th.  For more information, go to their site at 

This musical is based on Greek the tragedies of gods and Hades/the Underworld and of one man who attempted to rescue his love from those elements, only this time it takes place in the modern age with teens and rock music.  There was a movie a few years ago based on this same idea called, “What Dreams May Come,” with Robin Williams.  This plot includes teenage angst, abuse, love, the drug culture, death and, perhaps, the meaning of life.

Jasper (Brendan Long) is a senior in high school and is the product of a very dysfunctional household.  His lady-love is Agnes (Ella Carson)—who morphs into other actors as well—comes from a more affluent home and he sees her as “perfect.”  They finally discover each other one fateful evening and then she is whisked off into the raging river of Deadland, or Hades.  Jasper vows to follow her there and bring her back…and thus the adventure begins.
One key individual he meets along his journey is the good-hearted, Gretchen (Morgan Demetre), a tour guide in this land, who takes a liking to him and agrees to help him find her.  Along the way they will encounter the wise-cracking, Ferryman, Virgil (Clayton Lukens), who takes them along the river Styx, the waters of forgetfulness.  They will also meet, the odious demi-god, Mr. Lethe (David VanDyke), with his ditzy secretary, Hathaway (Tirza Meuljic), who run this factory that bottles the water, in which the citizens are required to drink, becoming like zombies and forgetting their past lives.

They will also connect with voices of the past, such as the kooky pilot, Beatrice (Carson, again), muse of Dante’s, and a battle with the not-so-bright, Viking gods, Loki (Xavier B. Warner) and Hel (Kai Tomizawa); a three-headed monster; the haunting Persephone (Audrey Lipsey); the nutty Egyptian god, Ammut (Warner, again), Pluto, Eurydice and settings, such as the Wasteland, Ellysian Fields, et. al.  Along this fretful and fateful sojourn he will discover the benefits of life and living it to the fullest and the nature of Love, and the sacrifices one must make for it.

Really can’t go into all the plot elements, for that is for an audience to discover, but they are ripe with discoveries.  The setting and props are low-tech and in a black box space, so that the story and actors can illuminate, through their creativity, richer tones of the plot.  The songs, (not listed) add greatly to the success of the show.  Some of my favorites were Ammut’s lament in his “Hungry” song, a showstopper; the touching ballad between Agnes and Jasper, “Something For Real,” as they discover their love for each other; the “broken spirit” song by Lethe to his factory workers; and the haunting, “let there be love” song by Eurydice (Meuljic, again).  All well delivered.  And the chorus that supported these scenes, with props and songs, was amazing.

This must be an emotionally draining show, as most of the actors play a variety of roles, and they are in top form doing it.  Warner as Ammut is a scream; VanDyke puts a new spin on creepiness, as Mr. Lethe; Tomizawa squeezes a comic take on being bad, as a Viking god (she is also a Drammy winner for the title character in OCT’s “Junie B.” and played the title character in “Alice in Wonderland” at NWCT, an actor to watch in the future); Meuljic is a knockout in her solo as Eurydice; Lukens is very funny as the Ferryman, giving him a Hillbilly flavor; Carson crates some memorial moments as the quirky pilot, Beatrice; Lipsey is a very notable as Persephone; Demetre as the faithful, Gretchen, is a gal any guy would want as a friend or love; and Long as the suffering, confused hero of this tale, does justice to the many layers of emotion he must portray.  An outstanding cast!

And many kudos to the talented Baldwin, as this is a very demanding play with multiple settings in a restricted space.  She manages to keep the play moving at a brisk pace, as well as assembling some very talented young people for these difficult and varied roles.  I’ve always been a big fan of hers and there is nobody better as a director and teacher of young people.  Being involved in the Arts as a youth can be a life-changing experience.  It builds confidence, promotes teamwork, allows different perspectives on how people live and act, and is a safe environment to explore the conflicting emotions the young are going through. 
And her classes at OCT, and especially her Young Professionals Company, are the best training one’s children/teens can experience.  It doesn’t get any better than that, folks!

I highly recommend this play and yes, it does have some rough language and deals with controversial subjects and for that reason it is recommend also for Youth of their age, as it reflects truthfully things they are experiencing.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

All Hands On Deck!—Portland Musical Theater Company—East Portland

Sounds From Yesteryear

This Oregon Premiere of this award-winning, musical revue has book, music and lyrics by Jody Madaras and was conceived by Madaras and Quincy Marr.  It is directed by Deanna Maio (Founder & Artistic Director of the company), with choreography by Kayla Banks.  It is playing at the Mister Theater, 1847 E. Burnside St. (# 101), through November 12th (free parking in their lot).  For more information, go to their site at

It would be the war to end all wars, or so they thought, not 
anticipating the Korean conflict, Viet-Nam, the Middle East and now, who knows?!  But things seemed to be more in sync then.  Most of America was behind the troops and a united front was presented.  Almost nobody seemed to doubt that Hitler and his Nazis were evil, as well as mad, and almost everybody condemned the unwarranted, cowardly attack on Pearl Harbor.  But probably the most vocal boosters of the war effort were the Hollywood stars with their traveling USO shows and radio as their rallying platform.

This production is presented much the same way of those old tours and radio spots.  The smooth-talking, Ted Crosley (Rich Cohn-Lee) is the host and emcee of these events but, as he puts it, when they came to a cross-road in decision-making, they debate and discuss, and then do it the way the ladies wanted!  And the ladies consist of such stars as the vivacious, sultry-voiced, Betty Blake (Deanna Maio); the perky, Daisy Maxwell (Ashley Moore); and the young crooner, John Hanley (Aidan Nolan).  These icons of 1942 will breeze though over 40 songs, complete with skits and vintage commercials, in less than 2 hours!

And, yes, the songs are authentic, some of them I was not even familiar with.  Although a wee bit before my time, I do remember my Dad, who was in the Army Air Corps (now Air Force), commented on how important those USO shows were for the troops overseas.  There were W.C with Bergen and his dummies; pin-up gal, Betty Grable; busty, lusty, Russell; sweater girl, Turner; the antics of Hope & Crosby; Garland, Kelly and Sinatra;  Martha Raye and Betty Hutton; aquatic Esther; the fleet feet of Astaire; tapping Miller; hoofer Cagney and many others through film, radio and tours that gave so much for so many!

In this production, all the standards are there including “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Moonlight Bay,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Sentimental Journey,” “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,”“Thanks for the Memories,” (Hope’s anthem) the touching, “America the Beautiful…” and so many more, all beautifully rendered by this amazing cast.  There are also those annoying but amusing commercials for Maxwell House Coffee and the Mercury cars, as well as skits and jokes.  And some terrific harmonizing on many of the songs.
My personal favorites were all of the moody songs of Maio, who has the perfect voice for jazz, sentiment and rousing numbers as well.
  I still contend she would be the perfect Dolly for that musical (if anybody is listening).  She founded this company, has directed the shows and also has been in the cast of them all.  She is the diamond which sparkles the brightest in all she does, as well as here, and will continue to do so.  She’s a pro and it shows!
Moore also has a voice that renders well both in harmony and in slower or upbeat numbers.

A “Jill” of all trades.  Cohn-Lee is perfect as the head of this troupe.  I especially liked his rendition of Berlin’s song, “I Hate to get up in the Morning” (as Berlin himself sung it in one of the movie musical revues of the time because he felt no one could get it right).  Well, Cohn-Lee, does a damn fine of capturing that same feeling.  And Nolan also gives us the young lover-type, possibly ala Nelson Eddy.  The dancing sequence of “I’m Gonna sit right down and write myself a Letter,” (nicely choreographed by Banks), with Nolan and Moore, was one of the highlights of the shows.

Another highlight was the “Der Fuerher’s Face,” which was, of course, a send-up of Mr. Evil himself.
  Other films of this era mocked this dictator, too, such as Jack Benny in “To Be Or Not To Be,” (later Mel Brooks would also do this film), or Charlie Chaplin’s excellent dark comedy, “The Great Dictator,” or Luther Adler in the lesser known but still good, “The Magic Face.”  And, of course, who can forget, “Springtime For Hitler,” from Brooks,’ “The Producers,” very reminiscent of this number.  Brooks always said the best way to combat evil was to laugh at it.  I believe he’s right.
The most poignant moment of the evening was not on stage but when the cast did a medley of military themes and asked for servicemen to rise, one gentleman, probably in his 90’s, struggled to stand and had tears in his eyes (as did the cast and some of the audience, as well as this old softie).
  This is one giant way to honor those who have served, and are serving, our country overseas.  This show might speak from the voice of WWII but its echo still reverberates today.  So, if a veteran, see it and you will be drawn into its magic.  “Lest we forget…!”
And a final word from the Director, Maio:
  “I am disappointed in today and hope for a better tomorrow….I hope you leave the theater smiling, grateful for the sacrifices our ancestors made and for what we have today…Once we were bonded together and united.  If we did it once, we can do it again.”  Amen!
I highly recommend this show.
  If you do choose to see it, please tell then Dennis sent you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Murder In Green Meadows—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland

“Like a Good Neighbor…”

This murder mystery is written by Douglas Post and directed by Doreen Lundberg.  It is playing at their space, 7515 Brandon Ave. (on the corner of Lombard--upstairs), through November 5th.  Free parking is available across the street in the church parking lot.  For more information, go to their site at

Halloween month…just ripe for slasher films, horror stories and…murder mysteries.  Of course, the other Queen of England is the one who rules mysteries, none other than Dame Agatha Christie, all other writers pale by comparison.  There are some restrictions in space, of course, when presenting a complex story in this genre. But, that being said, Post doesn’t do too bad with this teaser, or clinging to Christie’s robes.  Without being a spoiler, this is not a neighborhood one would wish to move into!

It is a new development, designed and built by the meticulous Thomas Devereaux (David Roberts) who, with his alluring wife, Joan (Deone Jennings), now live in what once was the Model Home.  In appearance, they seem like the typical, white-collar couple in suburbia, albeit, he’s a bit of a control freak and she is a bit absent-minded. Of course, there was that incident with the neighbor boy, and let’s not forget the destruction of some toys…but, that’s getting a bit ahead (or behind) in the story.  Then again, who’s perfect, right?!

And they seem to have some lovely neighbors, who live right across the street, Jeff Symons (Johnnie Torres), a consultant, who is less than satisfied with his occupation and his very clever wife, Carolyn (Marcella Laasch) and their two kids.  Of course, she does have these “black-out” periods where she seems to go somewhere else.  And we haven’t even got to mentioning the odd burglaries in the area.  But they all seem to get along…playing cards, sharing drinks…having dinners, even helping each other out in the home department or garage.

It could be just another domestic sit-com or warm, fuzzy family drama…except for those little quirks that one character has when they get angry…or how being forgetful can be your undoing…or why the Past has never really…passed.  If this seems like I’m being evasive as to story, you’re right.  After all, it is a mystery, so have only given you hints, or clues, if you will.  Although the script is a tad slow in getting to the point, when it does, it has some satisfying twists for mystery buffs.

The set is nicely laid out and designed by Alexander Woodward.  Lundberg has done a good job of casting it and manages to keep the play moving (although the annoying, frequent scene breaks, because of the script, does manage to cool the tension a bit).  Roberts builds his character slowly, which adds to the tension of the piece. Jennings does fit the role physically as an alluring lady and manages to give depth to her plight.  Torres is always worth watching in Twilight’s productions, as he is here.  And Laasch does well in keeping you guessing as to who she is and what she’ll do next.

I do recommend this show as it’s a nice addition to the Halloween season.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.    

Insignificance—Defunkt Theatre—SE Portland

Damaged Goods

This absurdist-type, dark comedy is written by Terry Johnson and directed by Andrew Klaus-Vineyard.  It is playing at their space (in the rear of the Common Grounds Coffee House), 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. (street parking only), through November 18th.  For more information, go to their site at

The setting for this story, on the surface, may be a hotel room in The Big Apple during the mid-50’s, the last vestiges of the purported, squeaky-clean era in America.  But in reality (and I use that word loosely) it is in an alternate universe where Time is out of joint and a world deceived by its own icons of fame and importance…of knowledge and power…of innocence and evil…of a Destiny gone awry.

The characters, too, are only thinly disguised figures in American history, all meeting in this Twilight Zone-ish-like entrapment in space, to vomit out their fears, their hopes, their hates, their loves.  Picture, if you will, this odd assortment of individuals, on the outskirts of our known universe, to entertain and amaze you…and maybe, just maybe, give us some insight into ourselves.

In theory, this room belongs to The Professor (Gary Powell), a German scientist, looking and sounding very much like Albert Einstein.  He is diligently working on writing a speech for the World Peace Conference, in which, in part, he hopes to reveal the shape of the universe.  But this able group is not the only one that begs his attention, as the House on Un-American Activities also wishes to speak with him.  And to make sure of this, his is visited by a prominent member of this band of infamous characters in the guise of The Senator (Nathan Dunkin), an odious bow to Joseph McCarthy, who has his own nefarious ways of getting what he wants.

But another icon will invade their space, as she admires the intellect of this great scientist and wishes some alone-time with him to discuss Time, the Universe…and all that jazz.  She is The Actress (Tabitha Trosen), a more than passing resemblance to Marilyn Monroe.  She, for all her vampish persona on the screen, is seeking that intellectual spark that will fuse with her like-interests.  But her partner in this mad-cap mix-up, The Ballplayer (Morgan Lee), plodding around like Joe DiMaggio, is another kind of fuse, waiting to explode if even the scent of another male is in the vicinity, a lumbering, brutish ox with a child-like love for a child-like girl.

There is a plot of sorts embedded in all this, which I won’t reveal, not wanting to be a spoiler, but the reason for the story in the first place seems to be to focusing in on the celebrity status of individuals and how we raise them up on an unrealistic platform as the end-all to our own dreams and fears.  We are not them, nor they us!  They have feet of clay, just like we all do, and we all came from the same primeval soup. 

And so, the larger question might be, why these four folks, who seem to have nothing in common except that they are famous?  The common threads that are interwoven between them all are just that, that Fame carries a certain Power (deserved or not) and so we, as “mere mortals,” tend to treat them as demi-gods and assume that they are infallible as to view-points, and so we follow them.  They also have a certain ability to know/sense how things operate/run, good or bad, to get things done.  This does not signal approval of the methods, only knowledge of them.  Another factor is that they all know how to manipulate things to have their own way, up to a point.  Sadly, all socially inept people who are intensely lonely.  And, finally, they all have a certain appeal to the general public, or a faction of that public, that will keep their name, their agenda, newsworthy.  I think we have seen much of these same traits exhibited in this day and age and, like the old saying, if we have not solved the problems of the Past, we are bound to repeat them (as these examples from another era).  We have been put on notice with this, I believe!

The actors are all first-rate.  Three of the four, Dunkin, Powell and Trosen I have reviewed many times before, all favorably.  And Lee is a good addition to this lot.  Powell, at the top of his game, as the awkward social being with the secrets to the universe; Dunkin, at his oily best, at the patron of Evil; Trosen, very seductive and sexy as a mind-exceptional trapped in body-beautiful; and Lee, as the winner on the field but a loser at home. The director, Klaus-Vineyard, has done an exceptional job of casting, as they all have a passing resemblance to the real-life characters and their manner is also similar. 

It is also noteworthy that none of them are caricatures, which easily could have been the case and, therefore, are portraying the essence of the person, not trying to imitate them.  This is due to some fine acting and directing but also to the dialects, as all four are from different parts of the country or world.  So a special shout-out to Kylie Rose, as well, as the dialogue coach, who has captured the essence of the accent, without it overpowering them.  I would highly recommend her in this field for future theatre projects.  She is also an actor/singer herself and, with Sarah Andrews, has created Crave Theatre.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Caught—Artists Rep—SW Portland

Down the Rabbit Hole

This event features the dissident, activist, Chinese artist, Lin Bo.
  It should be noted that there a great many people responsible for bringing Lin Bo and his  artistic concepts here, including Artists Rep, Dmae Roberts, Chris Harder, Sara Hennessy, Greg Watanabe, Shawn Lee, Christopher Chen, Horatio Law, the Geezer Gallery, et. al.  It is playing at their space, SW Alder St. and 16th Ave., through October 29th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-241-1278.

The meaning of “Caught (Qin),” one of his most famous pieces is, in part, according to Bo, “…represents the tension between the West—where there is a willing participation in compelling rapacity—and China, where there is a compulsory nullification of the individual.”  His Art and presentation focuses on this seeming disappearance of individuality, which is highly sought after in our country, but seems to have been stifled in his country.  I was particularly moved by the Zen garden, interactive piece, of white sand, representing the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which one can rake over it but never erase the blood stains of what happened there.

Bo presents his story of captivity for two years, complete with beatings, torture, minimal living conditions, etc., all for creating a piece of art.  Or so we are told.  With the weaving in and out of truth with this show, we can justifiably complain, I believe, that we may be slipping down the “rabbit hole,” in which “We, the People…”concept of our world is disappearing and the country is being ruled by an elite few.  Shame of Us!  Bo could (and does) present his reflections of this kind of era under Mao’s rule.  And, of course, propaganda, a conspiracy of lies to convince one the “truth” of a government policy/law that may or may not actually exist, plays a large part in our perceptions of our limited world, let alone others…another “rabbit hole.”

Yes, I’m spending some time on intellectual/psychological/philosophical stuff because a lot of what Bo is proposing/exposing is the layers within layers of Truth and our human understanding of it.  Are we like lemmings and simply follow over a cliff others that jump?  Or, are we an individual that steadfastly will stand by his precepts no matter what?  And, if that is true, what about the individual next to you, or across the seas, that have different viewpoints?  Are they wrong and we right, or vice-versa?  And, if so, do we/they have the right to impose our will on others?  And, to make it even more complicated, do we really know who we are in our hearts of hearts?  We behave differently with friends, with our co-workers, with our special someone, with strangers, etc., so which one of those many choices is the real…Me?!

The Bard may have hinted at this in his own way, which goes something like this, all the world’s a stage, and men and women, merely players, who have their exits and entrances, and each person, in his time, plays many parts.  Another thought, the late Lee Marvin, told me on the movie set of “Paint Your Wagon” (I was a featured extra in it), when I remarked to him of how authentic he seemed as a villain on screen.  He told me, you never play a character as a bad guy, you always play him as if he’s right and the rest of the world is wrong.  Something to think about.

This is an event that must be seen, experienced, rather than giving a blow by blow description of the “story.”  It is something to view, listen to and think about.  It is a peeling away, like an onion, at the layers of the “windmills of your mind.”  It is about specific lies we may hold dear and the elusive truths that may be in our grasp.  It is a journey, and the destination will be different for each of us.  See it, awaken, and explore the possibilities.

I marvel at Bo and all those mentioned above that help bring his concepts to life.  I highly recommend this show but be prepared to be amazed…and ponder afterwards your own avenues of coping with a very complicated world.  I highly recommend this show, and if you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Every Brilliant Thing—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

Life’s Pleasures!

This one-man (Isaac Lamb) serio-comedy is written by Duncan Macmillian with Jonny Donahoe and is directed by Rose Riordan.  It is playing in the Ellyn Bye Studio at PCS’s, the Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through November 5th (parking can be a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700.

Into every life some rain must fall, it is said, but that doesn’t in the least mean, that life is not worth living.  When in doubt, consider Marie’s advice in her song and calculate “some of my favorite things.”  And to shake your fist and rail at the heavens because of some misfortune doesn’t mean the cards are stacked against you forever.  Like an enduring Grandfather clock, when the pendulum swings one way, it always has to swing back the other way as well.  Plus, consider an old adage that seems to ring true, “whenever God closes a door, somewhere a window is opened.”  Or, “every cloud has a silver lining.”

But the character in this play probably says it best, “things will get better.”  And if you sense a common theme in these comments, you’re right, suicide and depression are major topics in this play (as in the other, very good show at PCS, “Fun Home.”) but the character in this memory play does have a very simple solution to suicide:  “Don’t do it!”  In his case he got into a therapy group and was able to talk about it.  Of course, he did have a little help from “Mr. Pickle” (but to hear the rest of that story from him, or is ilk, you’ll have to see the show, won’t you?!).

If this sounds like it’s going to be a depressing, maudlin story, you’d be very wrong.  In his case, he had a mother that was suicidal and at 7 years old decided to begin a list of things he liked.  Over the years he will accumulate about a million things, some of which he would share with his Mom.  He meets a girl in college, Sam, and they marry.  But there are still some unanswered questions in his life.  Why is it he can’t seem to have fun, or be really happy?  One way to get out of the doldrums is to share his list with others and, better yet, have others add to his list of their favorite things.  And that is where the real magic of this production comes into play.

It is interactive and is an audience participation event.  Members of the audience are ask to play various characters in his biography, like the vet, who had to silence his beloved childhood pet, Sherlock Bones; or his Dad, and sometimes himself; or the school counselor; or the love of his life, Sam (strangely, he never asks anyone to play his Mom); and, of course, the know-it-all, “Mr. Pickles;” et. al.  He also has assigned various audience members to call out items from his list when he recites the numbers.  And, by the end, he will ask audience members to share items in their list on stick-um sheets and paste them on the lobby walls.  This is a play that benefits from being shared, not explained.

Of course that begs the question, what are some of my favorite things or memories, so here are five:  favorite food that is bad for you--Bacon-Cheeseburgers; favorite tear-jerker--Robert Downey’s film, “Hearts and Souls;” favorite being(s)—my best friends through life, all six of my dogs; favorite icon--Walt Disney, he created magic; and favorite place(s)—a tie between Ashland, OR (OSF) and Cannon Beach, OR, a place where my soul breathes.  And if you get down in the dumps, why not make a list for yourself.

Lamb is a treasure, both on the stage as a performer (who could forget his terrific creation in Portland Playhouse’s, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”) and as a director.  He is perfectly at ease as he breathes life into this character and as he handles the audience.  It’s as if you are sitting in a comfortable atmosphere with him and just reminiscing about life.  He puts you that much at ease.  Well done by him and Riordan, the director who had to modulate the performance and have him weave in and out of the audience area, aiding in the energy flow.

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

And, if you need help with depression or suicidal tendencies, or know someone who is in need of this kind of help, here are some aids:  Crisis Line at 503-988-4888 and/or

Sunday, October 8, 2017

You Can’t Take It With You—Beaverton Civic Theatre—Beaverton, OR

“Those Were The Days…”

This classic comedy from the 30’s by (George S.) Kaufman & (Moss) Hart is directed by Kraig Williams.  It is playing at their space, 12375 SW 5th St. (plenty of free parking in their lot), through October 14th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-754-9866.

Yes, nostalgia rings sweet nowadays, especially with all the turmoil in this present age, with everybody hating and threatening to kill anyone who doesn’t believe or look like them.  But, keep in mind, when this was written, we had just come out of a Depression and Prohibition, and WWII was looming on the horizon.  But somehow, those distant relatives of ours knew how to laugh at themselves and the government.  We didn’t take ourselves so seriously.  We knew how to have fun, in spite of controversy, and we laughed with each other, not at each other, regardless of differences.  And money and electronic technology were not the gods they seem to be now.  As the play reports, “you can’t take it with you,” so be happy in the here and now.

The microcosm of this sort of world rests on an unlikely clan of misfits.  Grandpa (Gary Anderson), collects stamps and snakes, goes to the zoo whenever he likes and refuses to pay taxes because he hasn’t figured out what he’s getting personally for the money he’d pay to them.  His philosophy being, I assume, that tax money should be spent on things he/we think(s) are important.  Wouldn’t that be a hoot if the money, our money, was only put toward what we thought was worthwhile like, maybe, education, or medical care, or fighting animal and child abuse, or the Arts…what a different world it might be.  I think Grandpa may be on to something.  But, I digress….

Others in this eccentric, extended family consist of his daughter, Penny (Patti Speight), a playwright and understanding mother and her inventor husband (Michael Allen), who makes fireworks in their basement, with his goofy partner, Mr. De Pinna (Neil Wade Freer).  Their children are the free-spirited Essie (Ciera Gregg), who has dreams of being a ballet dancer and her loopy husband, Ed (Jordan Fugitt), who accompanies her by playing Beethoven on his xylophone.  The other daughter, Alice (Nicole Rayner), is more straight-laced and actually has a real job in a company as a secretary.  And she seems to have joined “the establishment” and as she is dating the son of the owner, Tony (Benjamin Philip), a bit of a rebel himself.

Then there is Rheba (Valerie Vorderlandwehr), the outspoken maid/cook of the family and her ditzy mate, Donald (Les Ico), who seems to be the gofer for the family.  Adding to the confusion are Boris (Kyle Urban), Essie’s ballet instructor and outspoken Russian revolutionist and his compatriot, the Grand Duchess (Patricia Alston) who, after fleeing the USSR, is now a waitress in a diner.  Also a drunken actress, Gay (Diana LoVerso) appears on the scene, who is to read for Penny’s play. 
And a most unwelcome guest, an IRS flunky agent, Henderson (Glenn Russell), is attempting to collect back taxes.  There is also Mr. (Dennis Proulx) & Mrs. Kirby (Jeanine Stassens), the very straight-laced parents of Tony.  And, in a moment of even more chaos, four G-men (Linh Nguyen, Charles Wilson, Levi King and Dwayne Thurnau) raid the house.  If you haven’t been able to glean the humor and mischief of this madcap mix-up by now, then you’ll just have to see it for yourself as to how it all comes out.

This play was considered a classic of its time, as it had two of the most respected comedy writers of the time at the helm.  Now it is a bit dated but some of the character types created in this play can be seen in typical sit-coms of this age.  By the third act the message is clear and is relevant to today’s situations.  What we should treasure most is not in what’s in the bank or our pocketbooks but in the good company of friends and the right to live and pursue happiness.  “If you can’t laugh…what good are ya!”

The cast seems amazingly right for their parts, thanks to Williams, and to his clever blocking of the play.  They all have the right look and feel for the characters they enact.  In particular, Proulx and Stassens are perfect as the stiff-necked parents of their emerging son to manhood.  And Anderson plays it to the hilt as the grass-roots philosopher, who has the wisdom of Solomon, but the bearing of a shepherd who herds this flock of nomads.  Grandpa is the anchor and voice of the authors in the story and Anderson handles it very astutely.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
And if you like what this company does, here is another play you might want to check out, based on one of my personal favorite stories and very appropriate for all ages by their Youth company:

A comical and family-friendly retelling of the classic tale of bumbling schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, after he moves to Sleepy Hollow, a town haunted by a headless horseman.
Sunday October 15th from 1pm-2pm, join us at the Beaverton City Library to meet the characters from Sleepy Hollow and make some fun crafts together! Ages 2-10 with family.

Based on the book by Washington Irving
Adapted for the stage by Frederick Gaines
Directed by Sarah Omniski
October 21st & 28th, 2017
Performance times at 11am, 1pm & 3pm

LOCATION NAME: Beaverton Civic Theatre 12375 SW 5th St, Beaverton, OR 97005
CONTACT INFO: Contact the Beaverton Civic Theatre at or 503-754-9866 with any questions.

Friday, October 6, 2017

You In Midair—New Expressive Works—SE Belmont

“Death Be Not Proud…”

This one-woman show, based on her true experiences, is written by and features, Danna Schaeffer, and is directed by Julie Akers.  It is playing at the above location, 810 SE Belmont, through October 15th.  For more information and tickets visit 800-838-3006 or

“You in midair and me on the ground…what a sight we must make…:” (a little rearranging of lyrics from a musical).  This seems appropriate when a separation occurs.  Schaeffer is talking about the ultimate separation for a parent, of course, the death of a child, her daughter, Rebecca, murdered by a stalker in July of 1989.  It seems tragic for another reason, too, as she was just on the point of being discovered and could have had a wonderful career. 

She was up for the part of the daughter (I believe) in “The Godfather III” and was that day to receive the script.  As it turned out, when the film was made, the director’s daughter ended up playing the part and (although she is now a respected director) was weak in the role, as if the Fates were saying, it should have been Rebecca.  But now the trick is for the living to…keep living—without feeling guilty about moving on and being happy.  That may be the hardest part, as if you do, you feel you are somehow betraying your loved one who has passed.

All these points are in Schaeffer’s script.  She speaks of when her daughter was in the 6th grade and got a part in a play and others noted that she seemed born to the Art.  She went on to do theatre throughout school and, at 16, went to The Big Apple to give Broadway a try.  She paid her “dues” by doing Soaps and modeling and then to LA to give TV a try, in the series, “My Sister Sam.”  And then, to Italy, with Mom, to do a made-for-TV film.

Schaeffer spends some time on this aspect of her story, as it was just a short time after that she was killed.  The land of romance, with tours and night life and imagined poling down the canals in a gondola.  A Last Hurrah.  She then does an about face as she receives the tragic news a few weeks later and the alienation she feels when trying to get a hold of friends and family, and the emptiness of the hospital when she goes to view the body, all very surreal.  But, in the final report, an outpouring of tributes and testimonials from fans and friends stream in at the memorial and after.

And then the search for Why and What to do now.  She discovers that giving way to “anger is no match for her loss.”  It is true, as one friend told her, their “lives will never be the same again.”  But, to go on …Salinger said, as he talked about loss, was like “running back and forth between grief and high delights,” something she can identify with.  And so now this play, as a catharsis for herself, as well as a memorial to her daughter.  It was a full house last night and you could sense the power of support from the audience, as Schaeffer bravely traversed between humor and sadness in her difficult journey to this point.  Akers wisely directed enough variety in her performance so it’s never static but always relevant.

Schaeffer is a fine performer and writer and I recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.