Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Pride—defunkt theatre—SE Portland

Sliding Doors

     This drama is written by Alexi Kaye Campbell and directed by Sarah Armitage.  It is playing at their space at the Backdoor Theater in the Common Grounds Coffee Shop, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. (street parking only, so plan your time accordingly), through March 17th.  For more information, go to their site at

     There was a movie a few years back called, “Sliding Doors,” which postulated that when you went through one section of these portals, you would have a certain life, but if you went through another one, a whole different set of circumstances would present itself to you.  This play reminds me, in a way, of that film.  But, perhaps, the choices we make in Life, the Crossroads we encounter, do have a bearing on what lies ahead for us.  Greek tragedies would say we are fated and nothing we can do will alter our course.  But many philosophies/religions will say that most things we do alter our destinies. “The road Not Taken,” as Frost says, can “make all the difference.”

     In one life cycle we have Oliver (Matthew Kern, Defunkt’s Artistic Director), a children’s book writer, having hired Sylvia (Paige Mckinney) to illustrate his book.  At our first encounter with them, he is just meeting her husband, Philip (Morgan Lee) and they engage in small talk as they began to get to know each other better.  It seems that the two men have little in common, but is there another meaning, another motive for their meeting?

     Entering the second “sliding door” we have Oliver (Kern), a journalist, hired by his editor, Peter (Robert Durante), to write an article on the lifestyle of a Gay man.  In reality (at least, this one), he has just had his true love, Philip (Lee), leave him again because of Oliver’s frequent indiscretions.  For solace, he turns to his best friend, Sylvia (Mckinney), although she has a new love she is trying to concentrate on.  Will both these stories end badly, or well, or will there open up a third “sliding door” to provide another path?  Honestly, I can’t reveal more without giving away secrets an audience should discover.

     These are intricate, twist-turning stories leap back and forth, as they thrust forward on their journeys to the inner depths of one’s soul, to the outer reaches of one’s understanding.  People are born, encounter, learn, adapt, change and evolve in, perhaps, a never-ending, sometimes vicious, cycle of Being to…Become. “We are such stuff as Dreams are made on, and our little Life is rounded with a Sleep.”  Dream well!

     This is heady stuff to present and Armitage has cast it to perfection and, I believe, understands the subject well and has passed much food for thought onto an audience.  Kylie Rose as the Dialogue Coach for their British accents has, again, made sure the dialects were there, but not so thick that you couldn’t understand them.  My experience, via in person, and Brit and Aussie films, is that sometimes they can be authentic but unintelligible.  Not so the case here in Rose’s capable hands.

     This must be difficult material for the cast, keeping it straight as to who they are, and when.  But McKinney as both Sylvia’s is just fine as the uptight illustrator and then the earthy friend of Oliver’s.  Lee is also equally good as the repressed husband, and then the rather principled lover of Oliver.  And Durante is spot on in the three distinct roles he must play.  And to top it all off, we have Kern in what I believe to be his best performance to date!  Kern is always good (as a director, as well) but this, in my opinion, is his Shining Hour.  He gives a very honest portrayal of a conflicted Gay man trapped in a world of misunderstanding, misinformation, and often shunned by the establishment, as most religions, cultures, and genders are.  (Look at our current state of affairs in this “free” country, which proves that point.)  Overall, some powerful performances.

     I recommend this production, but it does have some frank dialogue and situations for those easily offended.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


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