Saturday, May 26, 2018

Left Hook—Vanport Mosaic—N. Portland

Fight Club
This powerful family drama is written by Rich Rubin and directed by Damaris Webb.
  It is playing at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate Ave., through June 10th.  They also have a very interesting Surge of Social Change Gallery Exhibit upstairs, detailing a lot of history of this area.  For more information, go to their site at

I welcome this “old-fashion” type of story-telling, which centers around social situations in a naturalistic way.
  It reminds me of the plays of the 30’s-50’s which usually had beginnings, middles and ends and resolved situations on a realistic level.  The setting is boxing training center and is in the North Portland area (with a very cool boxing ring supplied by Oregon Children’s Theatre).  Also, “left hook,” as I understand it, was the blow that downed Ali by Fraser, implying to always keep your guard up for the unexpected.
Ty (Jasper Howard) is the owner of this Club, inherited from his father, in North Portland during the 70’s.
  He is mostly a tough, no-nonsense sort of guy who only has one student at present, Donnie (James Bowen II), a nice kid but a bit naïve to the ways of the world.  Ty seems to be not only training him for a fight in the ring but the much bigger battle of Life in the Arena outside.
Ty’s friend is Bo (Anthony P. Armstrong), a garbage man, who has encountered more than just the refuse of the street, but Life/reality itself in this ever-changing City.
  Cal (Kenneth Dembo) is Ty’s uncle and keeps reminding him, when he gets too big for his britches, that he use to change his diapers, so not to get too pushy.  He is an outspoken activist of the changes going on in the community, not for the good of African-Americans, either, and seems much in favor of the Black  Movements coming into being in the 70’s.
Ty also has a daughter in high school, Ava (Tonea Lolin), who has taken a liking to Donnie, threatening the wrath of her father.
  But her mother, and Ty’s ex-wife, Mae (Shareen Jacobs), is not opposed to her “testing her wings.”  But it seems all their lives are going to be displaced, as the City has been expanding with a sports/entertainment center, then a freeway and now, a hospital growing outward, and it always seems to be the African-Americans that must deal with the brunt of these changes.  How the family turmoil all turns out, you’ll just have to see for yourself.  But people that have been oppressed all their lives, do have the ability to pick up the pieces and start anew with a greater resolve!
The author certainly has a way in his writing of making his story personal and yet universal as well.
  And the director has complimented his vision with her great eye for casting, as well as using the stage and the ring to the story’s advantage.  She also does a fine job of choreography of the boxing maneuvers, giving a sense of a rhythmic dance.  All very well done.
And each of the actors are very specific in their creations, all believable and natural.
  I especially liked Ty’s delivery of his “rage speech,” as he talks about war and killing.  I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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