Monday, April 29, 2019

Jason and the Argonauts—Oregon Children’s Theatre—Downtown Portland

             Myth-terious Band of Brothers

    This very inventive production is written by Robert Forrest and directed by Marcella Crowson and Douglas Irving (collaboration with Visible Fictions in Scotland, UK).  It is playing at the Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, through May 19th.  For more information, go to their site at

    I must admit, the joy of this production, is not so much in the story, but in the story-tellers and their style of presentation.  They perform it like a seasoned comedy team, aka, Abbott & Costello.  In this case, it is Josh (Heath Koerschgen), as the straight man, and James Sharinghousen) as the clown of this dynamic duo.  And are they amazing!

    The story follows generally the old Greek myth of Jason wanting to avenge his father, who was killed by his brother.  But, in order to achieve this, he must go to the ends of the earth and find the Golden Fleece, which will restored peace to his land, so that he can claim his father’s throne.  But first, he must secure a crew of the most talented people in the land.

    He encounters all sorts of obstacles including the brass birds, hungry harpies, clashing rocks, a vicious sea monster and a fire-breathing dragon.  But they have their protectors, too, in the form of a blind soothsayer, the prophetess, Medea and Hera, the Queen of the gods.  To see how Jason fares with his crew, you just have to see it.  But the crowd of youngsters that I saw it with me, ate it up!

    These two fellow play over a dozen different characters and with the help of some courageous action figures (including a momentary appearance by a Star Wars individual and Spiderman), they make this 75 minute play, come alive with all sorts of magic.  Also, their all-purpose cart, which supplied much of the scenery and props, including their faithful ship, Argo (Robin Peoples & Emily Wilken) deserved equal credit for their success.  All in all, a magical feat!

    The directors have done a super job of casting the shows and the movements, so that it all makes sense.  The two actors, both season veterans of the stage, are simply without equal in this atmosphere.  I really appreciated the fact that the directors and cast chose to play the characters as if they, too were inventing a children’s game, complete with little spats and “improvised” interludes.  This way, it would make the youth of the audience relate more to their us of imagination and hands-on playtimes (which is in shorty order now with the gods of the electronics media).

    One minor note, at times the music overpowered the dialogue.
I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Jesus Hopped the A Train—CoHo Productions—NW Portland

                                                             Shades of Gray

    This, in-your-face drama, is written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and is directed by Jamie M. Rea.  It is playing at their space, 2257 NW Raleigh St. (finding parking is a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly), through May 11th.  For more information, go to their site at

    As a child, we pretty much see things as a black and white world, viewed from our own private perspective.  As we grow older, Nature and Nurture kick in to our development and we discover there are other points of view.  And so now we see that the world is made up of shades of gray, varying degrees/levels of possibilities and choices and, at some point, we feel we must choose a side.

    This whole play is a series of very in-depth discussions of Morality, Justice, Good vs. Evil, God, and the very nature of our existence.  It’s possible, during our exploration of the outside world, that we may revert back to our childhood notions of our black & white, private perceptions.  Change may not be an option.

    In this story, we are caged in a prison (of our own making?).  There is the God-fearing, serial-killer, Lucius (Bobby Bermea), who has seen the Devil and he is one of us.  The other prisoner, Angel (Anthony Lam), has by his own account, committed a justified killing of a bad man.  His Public Defender, Mary Jane (Dana Millican), sees something in him that resonates with her own past, so feels justified in bending the law a bit to get her client off.

    And then, of course, there’s the Law.  The good-hearted guard, D’Amico
(Duffy Epstein), who attempts to treat prisoners as human beings.  And then, there is his counter-part, Valdez (Wasim No’Mani), a sadistic prison guard who is just pure Evil.  And the silent Guard (Sam Gensler), who bides his time.  In truth, they are all trapped/caged, but highly charged, and erupt, like a volcano, as the story progresses, as they spew their own versions of the world-at-large.    Their discussions are fascinating to listen to, and absorb, but they need to be seen and heard by an audience and, so I will leave it up to you to do so.

    Rea certainly spares no punches in the intensity of this searing drama and the actors take no prisoners, either.  Rea is a fine actor in her own right and is, I’m sure, an “actor’s director.”  The cast is first-rate, as I couldn’t image any others in these roles.  This show is not for everybody, as the language is pretty raw.  But the subject matter will give you food for thought long after the play is done. 

    I do recommend it and if you choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Crossing Mnisose—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

                                                         “Lest We Forget”

    This World Premiere story of Native Americans is written by Mary Kathryn Nagle 
and directed by Molly Smith.  It is playing at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through May 5th.  For more information, go to their site at

    Presently, we are complaining of all the atrocities happening in other countries, but we certainly can’t brag as to our own history, the Past to the Present day.  Note our kidnapping and enslaving of human beings from Africa; incarcerating Japanese-American during WWII, simply because of their color; and the mistreatment of Latinos from other countries seeking asylum, et. al.  But, to me, our worst injustice to other human beings, was to the Native Americans, who were cheated, lied to and murdered for simple Greed.  This story exposes some of that history.

    The beautiful thing about Nagle’s story is that it takes a great many social and political issues and condenses them into a very human story, so that we can see the impact of it on about a dozen people over 200+ years.  The present day tale deals with a single mother, Native American, Rose (Sera-Lys McArthur) trying to raise her teenage daughter, Carey (Nathalie Standingcloud), who is hep on stopping the oil pipe line from crossing the sacred land of her people.

    Carey is not alone in her quest, as one of the leaders of this opposition is Travis (Robert I. Mesa).  Of course, they face the Government and contractors who want to see it go through, such as Carl (Gavin Hoffman) and the Colonel (Nick Ferrucci).  But there is still the private land that must be secured, a key part of that is owned by Patrick (Chris Murray). 

    If that were all of the story, it would be interesting, but the author also harkens back over 200 years in this same territory, to capture the characters of the Lewis (Ferricci, again) and Clark (Murray, again) expedition, as well as their guides Sacajawea (Standingcloud, again) and Charbonneau (Hoffman, again), as well as his first wife (McArthur, again) and a native, young man, Coyote (Mesa, again).  To see how these sagas merge is in the master story-telling of Nagle and has to be seen to be appreciated.

    Smith has done a wonderful job of casting just the right people, as well as keeping the stories understandable.  And the whole cast is perfect for their roles, blending attributes of one to another character smoothly, as needed.  This is educational as well as entertaining and supplies a serious message underneath, as well.  

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A Dark Sky Full of Stars—Theatre Vertigo—SE Portland

        Nature of the Beast

    The world premiere of this stark drama is written by Don Zolidis and directed by Jocelyn Seid.    It is playing at the Shoebox Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through May 11th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-482-8655.

    The Human Spirit is a tricky thing.  It can raise you to the heights of Joy or drop you to the depths of Despair.  But the choices of where we land to forge our paths is not up to us and so, where we alight, is guided by both Nature and Nurture.  And sometimes the cards seemed stacked against us and we must fight an unwinnable battle just to survive, “The fault…is not in our stars but in ourselves.”  We can, in the end, only do our best with what we’ve got.

    A phrase that can be applied to this dysfunctional family might be, “Well, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs.”  In the program, the actors are not identified with names of characters, so I couldn’t tell you who played whom, but the ensemble is McKenna Twedt, Julet Lindo, Theresa Park, Dre Slaman, Adriana Gantzer and Kayla Hanson.  The main characters they play are a family, consisting of a father, mother, older son, younger son, girlfriend, and friend.  They also play assorted roles throughout.

    It is set in an impoverished neighborhood in a big city, where those that live there must deal with alcohol, drugs, abuse, gangs, et. al. and never really have a fair shot at grabbing the brass ring.  They must fend for themselves and there is a sort of code among them, “honor among thieves,” which seems to insulate them from the world outside, which seems to have pretty much given up on them anyway.  Finishing school is rarely accomplished, going into the military is an option, only to be still warring withy the human condition, only on the other side of the planet.  Prison is an end to some and, of course, there is death, always beckoning. Their ends are mostly a graveyard of shattered hopes and dreams, blanketed across an endless sky.

    It’s better that you see for yourselves this all-too-familiar saga of the forgotten, but know that you can’t help but identify with their plight, even if it is to say, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.”  It is a stylized production, a beautifully done death scene is very moving, and the actors are very much in your face with their confrontations.  It is definitely worth experiencing.

    The cast is amazingly natural and totally vested in their characters and the story.  Kudos to all of them!  And the director certainly has explored, exploded and exploited the small space in which this drama plays out.  I hope to see all of them again involved with a play, as they are exceptional.

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

Sunday, April 14, 2019

How To Keep An Alien—Corrib Theatre—SE Portland

               Love Without A Visa

    This clever piece, about love and bureaucracy, is written by Sonya Kelly and directed by Gemma Whelan.  It is playing at the New Expressive Works space, 810 SE Belmont St., through May 5th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-389-0579.

    It is said that Love is the most potent element in the universe.  But, like all Positive forces, it needs an antithesis, otherwise we would not recognize the importance of the Positive.  I would vote for Bureaucracy as a good candidate for that position, as that force sucks all the emotional and humanity out of anything Good (look at the mess on our Southern border, as an example).  This personal journey from the author “must give us pause,” as it will restore your faith in the warmth and dignity the human spirit can have, when faced with seemingly impossible odds.  Heaven is all the sweeter, if one has to have trod through Hell to get there!

    This is a very cleverly constructed sojourn, as it is presented, “on the fly,” so to speak.  The Irish author, Sonya, in the guise of the very accomplished actor, Sara Hennessy, will take us on her personal journey to find love.  But this trip is without adornments, as she speaks directly to the audience and only uses a bulletin board and minimal props to chart her progress. 

    She is also more than ably assisted by the Stage Manager (Amy Katrina Bryan), who appears onstage with her, playing other characters and providing crucial props when necessary.  Quite frankly, I was pleased with this approach to this story-telling style, as I have always been impressed with a “black box” theatrical setting.

    As for the tale, Sonya is an actor and is in a terrible play/dance production at an Irish castle, where she meets Kate, another actor in the company.  But Kate, being an Aussie, must return home once her Visa runs out.  Needless to say, they fall hopelessly in love and the remaining story is all the trials and tribulations of staying together on a permanent basis.  Such efforts, including sending a letter, via a paper sandwich sack, through the mail; getting stuck with a grumpy, by-the-book immigration officer; trying to reconcile with in-laws, who may not be as pleased with this union as the pair are; et. al.

    I certainly am not going to reveal the outcome, but I think the story will touch anyone who has been in love…puppy or otherwise.  But, as mention, the style was as compelling as the story for me.  Whelan always gives a fresh approach to story-telling, as with this tale, and constantly invites the audience, through their imagination, to participate in creating, filling out, this world.

    Hennessy is a pro and it shows.  As she flits about the stage, changing from one, seemingly random, thought to another, she builds beautifully toward the fairy tale ending.  Also, I was equally impressed with Bryan, in her many incarnations.  I have often been a believer that, “there are no small parts, only small actors,” and this, once again, proves the point.  Bryan is fully vested in providing the support for Hennessy, concentrating on the tasks at hand, even when having no dialogue.  I especially liked her droll immigration officer, and the song that provided a short interlude in the proceedings.  She is a gem and I hope to see more of her onstage.

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Good Kids—OCT’s Young Professionals Company—NE Portland

       “My World & Welcome To It”

    This searing, topical drama is written by Naomi lizuka and directed by Tamara Carroll.  It is playing at the Y/P Studio, 1939 NE Sandy Blvd., through April 28th.  For more information, go to their site at

    As I was talking to my friend, Dave, afterwards, as we were high schooled in the early 60’s, the worst trouble we could get into then was to be busted for drinking beer at a private party.  Now, we have…well, you’ll see as you view this play.  And the one major element missing from our world of yesteryear, to theirs of today—Social Media…it is the new god in town.  One dares not make an independent move without being blessed by the electronic hordes out there on Facebook and its many minions.

    But there is hope for the Future, as groups of students are vocally protesting gun violence and the corruption of our atmosphere.  Now, if they can just short-circuit the electronic conduits that control society and re-embrace a flesh & blood world, we may have found a path forward through this maze of cyber worlds, to the real one made up of human beings.

    This story is an ugly one, no doubt about it.  But one thing should be made very clear from the outset.  Having sexual relations with a female without their expressed permission/consent is wrong, is a crime, and is rape!  No, wearing provocative clothing is not a Yes, or permission, and anyone who takes advantage of a drunken or doped-up lady, is the worst kind of villain and coward!  And what of those who stand by and do nothing, or watch from the sidelines, as they pass on electronically and verbally, such an act?  Aren’t they equally at fault?!  I wonder how they justify such actions to themselves?!

    In this compelling story by Iizuka, we have the victim, Chloe (Allyson Giard), who has a major alcohol problem and doing all the right (or wrong) things to not only attract the jocks of a rival high school football team, but also gains the wrath of the “mean girls,” headed by Amber (Armita Azizi), mother-bitch of the in-crowd.  The affable quarterback of the team, Connor (Jasper Warhus), surrounded by his cronies, Ty (Emmett Ruthermich), who has a rocket in his pocket; Landon (Josh Bransford), the media perpetrator; and Tanner (Django Boletus), the too-late hero.

    Other friends and enablers consist of Kylie (Kayia Shivers), Skyler (Morgan Demetre), Madison (Makenna Markman), Brianna (Kate Daley) and Daphne (Zyla Zody).  There is also a mysterious narrator, Dierdre (Allison Parker), of these events, in a wheelchair, but to tell you about her, or the interactions in the story, would spoil discoveries an audience should make.  I will say that part of Dierdre purpose is to make sure the facts are straight, as one person’s perceptions of events may be another person’s lies.  Perhaps, Truth is in the eye of the beholder.

    Because of the sensitive issues involved, this would be a difficult play to cast and direct but Carroll has a sure hand in framing the events and has an amazing cast, every one totally convincing!  This story has the ring of truth, so the author certainly knows from whence she speaks.  This play is not for those easily offended, nor for very young children but definitely should be seen by Junior High and High School Youth, as well as parents. 

    One final note, much of the success of this program is due to the Education Director and head of the Y/P program, Dani Baldwin.  Also, she allows the plays that are presented to be chosen by the class, as was this one, so know that this is what Youth feel is important to be communicated to the world at large.  Kudos to all involved!

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

Church and State—Lyon Theatre—Triangle Productions!

        Twitter Hymn of the Republic

    This topical drama is written by Jason Odell Williams and directed by Devon Lyon.  It is playing at the Triangle theatre space, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot to the West of the bldg.), through April 27th.  For more information, go to their site at

    “We the People…Perfect Union…right to bear arms…created equal…separation of Church & State…pursuit of Happiness…” those Founding Father (and Mothers) sure said a mouthful and had some noble ideas/ideals, didn’t they?!  But they couldn’t have foresaw the world of today, by any stretch of the imagination.  Personally, I think they would be sorely disappointed in what they wrought…brought forth…unleashed onto this once beautiful environment!

    But that was Then, this is Now.  We now have a new god and it’s electronic, replacing the human/spiritual conduits.  An old joke has all the scientists of the world connecting all the computer systems together and asking this ultra-brain, “Is there a God?”  After a slight pause, It answers, “There is Now!”  Is this our Future?!

    But in the Deep South, in the present, a Conservative politician, running for re-election as a Senator, Charles Whitmore (Jeff Gorham), is facing a crisis.  He has just witnessed the aftermath of a school shooting and he is at a crossroads of Faith, as well as Duty.  His wife, Sara (Morgan Cox), is a devoutly, Christian woman (although not the sharpest knife in the drawer), and has always followed the well-worn path of rhetoric in both Church & State, never questioning the veracity or validity of either.

    Whitmore’s devoted campaign manager, Alex (Jaime Langton), a Jewish liberal, goes by the book when generating his speeches.  That is, until a slip-of-the-tongue to Marshall (Jared Mack), a reporter, that because of the recent bloody incident, he now questions the very existence of God and, along those lines, his future stance on gun-control.  A revelation/revolution of sorts that awakens his commitment to his conscience, the Truth, instead of his Party…and that causes all sorts of dilemmas for everyone involved.  To see the stirring outcome, you’ll have to check it out for yourselves, won’t you?!

    I saw this company last Season at this space in a play called, “Of Good Stock,” with some of the same cast, and it was very well done, as is this one.  They have some seasoned players in a new company that deserves to be seen.  The director, Lyon, has a great eye for casting and choosing good and potent material.  Their shows are character-driven and tell stories about important social issues.

    Gorham is a recognizable face on the PDX stages and excels here.  In his character’s political speech, I heard one audience member suggest that if he were running, he’d vote for him.  Very convincing performance.  And Cox is his equal, giving a great deal of depth to her changeable character.  Langton is always good in everything I’ve seen her involved in.  She also plays a person who must evolve or disappear from the arena.  And Mack does well in three smaller roles.

    A couple of personal notes to add to the topics of the story.  Jesus, is reported to have said some very wise things, but was also was a rebel in his time.  Change needs people, if it is to succeed, that are willing to follow their conscience and not the crowd.  Also, when the “bearing arms” rule was written, only single shot pistols and rifles were around and everyone had one.  It was pretty much a non-issue.  Nowadays, the field of arms is blown to ridiculous extremes and I doubt they would have supported a system that has little checks and balances.

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