Sunday, December 2, 2018

Everybody—Artists Rep—SW Portland


The Meaning of Life…a Life of Meaning

    This imaginative play is written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Dámaso Rodriguez and Jessica Wallenfels.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through December 30th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

    This is a reworking of a morality tale, “Everyman,” from a few thousand years ago, by an anonymous source.  There is also a film from the 30’s or 40’s called, “The Story of Mankind,” which was a semi-comic take covering some of the same territory, in which God (Ralph Richardson) is disappointed in Mankind and calls for a representative of it (Ronald Coleman) to defend its history, and which the Devil (Vincent Price) takes the opposing stance.

    Also, a side note, which may relate, is when Dr. Stephen Hawking was asked whether there was other intelligent life in the universe, his insightful answer was, what makes you think any has been found here?!  And, to carry that a step further, what if those visitors have been here and found earthling so backward in their development, they just passed us by.  I think both theories should give us pause.

    But, in this case, God (Sarah Lucht), is also disappointed in Mankind’s lack of progress and misuse of the Gifts of Reasoning Power and Free Will they were granted.  So, he/she calls Death (Ted Rooney), to gather Everybody (Michael Mendelson), for a Day of Reckoning, in which he/she must explain their justification for their actions.  Everybody is allowed to bring forth supporters of its actions and so the search is on for them.

    There is Family, of course, and Friendship and Good Times and Material Things, et. al., as well as Understanding and Strength, etc. (all played by different actors on different performances including:  Sara Hennessy, John San Nicolas, Andrea Vernae, and Barbie Wu).  Everybody feels that they would be good companions to accompany him/her on this journey with Death, but will that be so?

Everybody also encounters Love (Falynn Burton), as perhaps an ally, as well as Time (Eva Rodriguez) and an oddity called, All the Shitty Evil Things (Alex Blesi), that one has done, too.  A motley crew, to say the least, and you’ll just have to see it to discover the outcome for Everybody (Us)….

    This story is all played out on a type of game board with masks, puppetry, some clever lighting and an erratic Dance of Death (akin to Bergman’s one at the end of his film, “The Seventh Seal”), arms and legs all akimbo, reaching out spasmodically for ? in this fateful journey.

    High marks for this company, and especially its two directors, in what must have been (and will continue to be) a roller-coaster ride like none most actors have, or will, encounter in actually having to learn the whole script and play each night a different part, depending on the luck of the draw (possibly like Life itself?). 
    And Mendelson, as the title character this time out, is tremendous!  He is a consummate artist anyway, whether directing or acting, and this a crowning achievement for him.  As good as everyone else is onstage, he is impossible not to focus on much of the time.  Kudos to all!

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

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