Sunday, October 14, 2018

Small Mouth Sounds—Artists Rep—SW Portland


“Silence is Golden”


     This rather unusual premise for a story is written by Bess Wohl and directed by Shawn Lee.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through November 4th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

     “Noises compete, grasshopper, as silence retreats.”  Sometimes silence can be deafening, as it is in this story.  We are so wrapped up in our worlds of computers, texting, and artificial noises, that we fail to communicate through a simple hug or smile, or a knowing look of encouragement.  Our world may have been created with a (Big) Bang and it’s likely it will end the same way.  What we have wrought, so shall we reap…unless we find that Quiet Place, not only on the outer crusts of this planet, but in the inner stillness of our being.

     This play explores Silence in unusual ways.  The one who expounds the most, the Teacher (Mary McDonald-Lewis), really may have the least to impart to her students at this retreat, all there to take a break from the world and/or find some sort of peace.  The main element to be adhered to is silence in this EST-type of surroundings. 

     The verbose, Joan (Susannah Mars) and her lover, the more refined, Judy (Ayanna Berkshire), seem to be there to work out some personal issue.  The gregarious, Alicia (Kelly Godell), is a product of words but seems intent on translating them into some forgotten knowledge that has escaped her to this point.  Ned (Darius Pierce) is a socially awkward individual, trying to find inroads to adapting socially to an unfamiliar world to him.

     Rodney (John San Nicolas) is a video guru of finding one’s path through yoga, but senses there is something important he has yet to learn.  And Jan (Michael Mendelson), a quiet person to begin with, but is reaching out to try and encompass a larger world he is not familiar with.  All searchers, and their journeys will conflict, connect and invade their very psyches before this trip is completed.  More I cannot tell you without spoiling the discoveries.

     This is almost completely a who’s who of the Artists Rep’s family and a talented ensemble they are as a cast.  Godell, as a bit of a flake, is perfect in her utter unawareness (I know people like her).  Mars is wonderful as a well-meaning friend who acts before she thinks about it.  Berkshire has a noble stillness to her being, pent up inside but wanting to expand.  San Nicolas is perfect as the smirking know-it-all until the mask begins to fall.  Mendelson is a gem as his character displays a quiet intensity as the newbie who yearns for understanding and acceptance.  McDonald-Lewis is a great voice actor who is so good you can almost see her, as she muddles through the “lessons.”  And Pierce is amazing in his naturalness in his monologue, as he exposes himself, and you truly feel for all the pained people in this world who are struggling to just be heard and understood.  It is an insightful trek for all of us and Lee has carefully led us successfully on this safari.

I recommend this play (nudity in one scene) and if you choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Marat/Sade—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland



Tiptoe Through the Crazies

     This psycho-drama/dark comedy/musical is written by Peter Weiss and directed by Dorinda Toner (Twilight’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (corner of Lombard, small parking lot across the street), through October 28th.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

     There should be a disclaimer (of sorts) in the program to the fact that “any resemblance to real life situations or people is purely…intentional!”  To say this is topical is truly an understatement.  Of course, this story is set in the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s in Paris, the time of the guillotine, French Revolution (Jean-Paul Marat, dissenter), the Inquisition, the Marquis de Sade (and his unique take on pleasure and pain) and Napoleon. 

     As you can see, it was not the romantic era of the 1920’s, when Paris was the hub of such artists/writers as Hemingway, Dali, Fitzgerald, Toklas, et. al.  These were revolutionaries of a different ilk…or were they?!  The most lasting kind of change comes with evolution over time, such as the young folks now opposing gun violence and pollution, and the MeToo Movement demanding respect and equality for women.  “Times, they are a-changin’.”

     This story, though, takes place in an asylum, where the new regime, Coulmier (Stan Yeend) and company, believe that play therapy will make inroads to understanding the mentally disturbed.  De Sade (Randy Patterson) being an inmate and writer, takes on the task of directing this band of misfits into an important saga of Marat (Greg Prosser) and the French Revolution, before he is stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday (Eva Andrews).  Among Marat’s followers are an ex-priest, Roux (Samuel Alexander Hawkins), his nurse Simonne (Jennifer Madison Logan), as well as, at one time, Corday and her horny boyfriend, Duperret (Skye McLaren Walton).

     To enable things to blaze along, there is a type of Greek Chorus (Kaitlynn Baugh, Maddy Gourlay, Jeremy Abe and Blaine Vincent III), singing ditties to enlighten us to the guts of the tale.  And to keep us all on track, (in verse, no less), is the Herald (Jeff Gibberson), a type of Host/Narrator/Jester.  Put this all together with ribald songs, stylized dance/movement, grizzly humor, lusty situations, murder, a touch of depravity, a dose of despair…shake it all about and you have this…Marat/Sade.  If this sounds like a show for discriminating adults only, you’d be dead right!

     This is not an easy production to produce, even for the most seasoned of troupes, but Toner and cast have done a pretty amazing job with it.  The set is simple but effective, as is the mood lighting, and the 20 plus roles, all are quite well handled.  The major roles mentioned, give a chilling account of incidents in history that echo even today in our current situations.  This is a timeless piece and is given a very good showing by a talented group, especially Toner.  Standing a notch higher in acting, is Gibberson, as our guide.  His use of timing, pauses, and subtle nuances are quite remarkable.  I’ve touted him in the past and he is certainly a talent to be reckoned with.

     I recommend this show but heed the subject matter.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Hurl—Corrib Theatre—New Expressive Works


Photo by Adam Liberman
“The Game’s Afoot”


     The U. S. Premiere of this serio-comedy is written by Charlie O’Neill and directed by Tracy Cameron Francis.  It is playing at their current space, 810 SE Belmont, through October 28th.  For more information, go to their site at www.corribtheatre.org or call 503-389-0579.

     We are all our brother’s keepers and the earth is jointly our home.  With all the controversy now as to immigrant issues, not only here but world-wide, this is a very timely story.  Why a government would choose to foster violence and poverty in their own country, and have their own people fleeing from their homeland, is beyond me.  But it seems to be a growing epidemic on this good earth.  The solution should be to stamp out the root causes of such disruption but, until then, we need to be a comfort and refuge to those seeking asylum.

     This story takes place in the present day in the west of Ireland.  It seems that immigrants from Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, etc. have also arrived on the shores of Ireland.  Besides being driven out of their own countries, they all feel the need to make themselves indispensable to their adopted homeland.  Enter a one-time priest, a bit of a tippler, Lofty (Clara-Liis Hillier), who may have lost his way in God’s Eyes, but still has the love of a game called Hurling (a type of hockey on a field).

     And so, it seems his destiny may be to lead this band of misfits into the arena, in which they might be able to show their mettle and determination.  In this motley crew is Musa (James Dixon), Fatmata (Falynn Burton) and an assorted ensemble of rainbow-colored individuals (Kenneth Dembo, Heath Hyun Houghton, Wynee Hu and Alec Cameron Lugo) that may create history and be allowed to shine their true hues on the turf.

But not everybody is happy with such an explosion of color in this country, mainly Rusty (Cynthia Shur Petts), who does everything possible to block their progress.  But when these noble vagabonds begin to make some headway at the games, he is willing to try any sort of devious methods to stop their progress.  The story has elements from the films, Hoop Dreams, Rocky, Hoosiers, et al.  But it also embraces the more universal issues of self-worth, humane behavior and respect for the individual, regardless of background, color or beliefs.

     The show has been located on an essentially bare stage, a playing field, with only some benches and hurling sticks as props, which had to have been a nightmare to choreograph for the cast, and director, Francis, who shines as well.  The cast also plays multiple characters, as well as their own team and the opposing side!  Quite a feat but these actors are all pros, as I have seen them in other incarnations before, always successful. 

     Also, kudos to the lighting designer, Sarah Hughey, who had to create mood and setting with a handful of lights and did it very well.  An exciting show, boosted a notch upward by cross-gender and cross-cultural casting, which is as it should be.  
     I highly recommend this ensemble work and, if you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS