Friday, May 17, 2019

Wolf at the Door—Milagro—SE Portland

           Grimm Tale of Forgotten Lore

    This World Premiere, dark fairy tale is written by MariselaTreviño Orta and directed by Rebecca Martinez.  It is playing at their space, 525 SE Stark St. (just off Grand), through May 25th.  For more information, go to their site at

    Fairy tales of long ago were never written as fun, cute, little kiddie stories.  They were written as a dire warning to frighten children into being good and obeying their elders, or the Boogie Man might get you!  The Grimm Brothers were especially good at that.  But, as years tumbled into the modern era, those stories have become sanitized/diluted and their true purpose lost or hidden.  But, perhaps, in this modern age of violence, it might be wise to revive the “old ways” of storytelling in some cases, so that the Young become aware of the potential dangers “out there” and have their wits about them when encountering such threats…as in this cautionary tale…!

    Once Upon a Time…there lived a beautiful, young maiden, Isadora (Marian Mendez), who was of a wealthy family and happy and lived well, but dreamed of being carried off by a handsome Prince Charming to his castle and living “…happily ever after.”  And so, she was whisked away by a handsome gallant, Séptimo (Matthew Sepeda).  And, as it was expected in those days, having a child (preferably male, to carry on the bloodline), was expected.  Also, with her, came her faithful nanny, Rocío (Patricia Alvitez).  But the harps and flowers must stay their course at this point.

    Her husband was a brute and abused her terribly and, when she did have her son, it came to an unpleasant end for all.  But an odd salvation of sorts was on the way, in the guise of another pretty, young maiden with child, Yolot (Maya Malán González) appears on the scene.  Though, as Fate would have it, there were also wolves in the area, scouring hungrily for their next meal.  But, as it turns out, these beasts are not the monsters of the story but…opps, almost gave away the ending.  Guess you’ll just have to see it to appreciate the conclusion. 
   And, like all good fairy tales, this does have a moral of sorts and the ending is slightly askew from the traditional one…and they lived hopefully ever after!

    This is not a play for everyone, as it concerns adult material and, although tastefully done, has scenes of child birth and abuse.  All four of the actors are wonderful and well-cast in their roles, being completely vested in them.  There is a high intensity throughout and the director knows just how to sustain it through well-modulated performances, striking music and a masterful set (Emily Wilken, designer)!

    I recommend this production.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Peter/Wendy—Bag & Baggage Productions—Hillsboro, OR

         An Awfully Big Adventure

    This classic tale by J. M. Barrie is adapted for the stage by Jeremy Bloom and directed by Cassie Greer (new Artistic Director for B&B).  It is playing at their space, The Vault Theatre, 350 E. Main St. in downtown Hillsboro, through May 19th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-345-9590.

    This is a re-imagining of Peter Pan with most of the story intact.  There have been many stage and screen version of his masterpiece since the early 1900’s. Much of the time, Peter has been played by a woman, including Maude Adams, Sandy Duncan, Bonnie Franklin, Mia Farrow, Mary Martin, et. al.  And the adaptations range from the 5-act version by the Royal Shakespeare Company to Disney’s animated version.  My personal favorite is an Australian, non-musical film, with no big stars, made some years ago.

     Now we have the B&B story-telling version, via Bloom, with only seven actors playing the essential roles, as well as narrating the story.  And, as mentioned, most of the story is still evident:  The Darlings (Kymberli Colbourne & Justin Charles) whisk off to a party, leaving their daughter, Wendy (Kayla Kelly), unattended at home (gone are John, Michael and Nana, the dog).  Then appears an intruder, who flies through her window, Peter Pan (Phillip J. Berns) and his trusty companion, the fairy, Tinker Bell (Jeremy Sloan).

    As everyone must know, they fly off to Neverland and encounter the Lost Boy (Jacquelle Davis)--gone are the rest of the fellows.  They also meet up with the Tiger Lily (Cambria Herrra), a forest friend, and, of course, the notorious Captain Hook (Colbourne, again) and his trusty mate, Smee (Charles, again)--gone are the rest of the crew.  As you probably well know, there is a kidnapping of Wendy, an attempted poisoning of Peter and the famous battle between the good guys and bad.  But, as the Bard said, “all’s well that ends well.”  But, a bit of a tear, too, as an innocence is lost and an innocence is maintained.

    The exciting aspect of this production by Greer, is the free-flowing style.  Only a bed on wheels and some wooden blocks are used for any kind of setting and props.  The rest is a magical ballet of movement to carry us from one world to the next.  And, probably, most important of all, it allows us to free ourselves from the caged, cyber-world we are currently enslaved to for our view of the world and frees our imaginations to soar to height of fantasy, a recess from the mundane and predictable.  Thank you, Cassie and cast!

    Kelly is a lovey Wendy and Colbourne and Charles are a great team.  Sloane, Herrera and Davis fill out splendidly the rest of the ensemble.  And Berns, as Pan, is perfect!  I’ve seen him many times in the past, always giving a noteworthy performance (as he does here) and hope to see his one-man, A Christmas Carol again someday, as it’s super.

    And a special welcome to Cassie Greer, as she was always my pick for the next A/D for the company.  I just hope she doesn’t give up acting, as she is equally as good at that, too.  Kudos to you, young lady!

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pebble—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

        Spring, Sprang, Sprung

    This inventive play is written, designed and directed by Carol Triffle (co-founder of Imago), with music composed by Kyle Delamarter.  It is playing at their space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off Burnside), through May 25th.  (Parking is a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-231-9581.

    Humans are like an intricate clockwork, full of gears, cogs and springs.  When running smoothly, it goes through the motions effortlessly of keeping time with the beat of Life.  But, if a gear goes dry, or a spring is wound too tightly, it can malfunction and will upset the normalcy already established surrounding it.  And so, it must be repaired, or stuck away in some forgotten corner of the attic to await the End Days.

    Such is life for Pebble (Danielle Vermette) who, as her mother described her, as an annoying irritant, like a “pebble” in one’s shoe.  But, for now, she is safe, tucked away in a simple little asylum…that is, as long as she has money…and is curable.  She contents in writing lists of lists upon the walls, painting horses and longing for her little blue pills.  She also loves to flirt with the Orderly (Jon Farley), and can be a thorn in the side of the martinet Nurse (Megan Skye Hale).

    But, one fine day, her rescuer appears in the guise of her brother, Nick (Kyle Delamarter).  He is to take her away and they will live as a family.  All neat and tidy, right?  Not so, as this is an Imago show and nothing is ever as it seems.  The characters will break out into song and dance at the drop of a hat; her artistic endeavors, her mad horses, seem to take on an ominous life of its own; and the setting seems to have more in common with a Beckett or Sartre play than reality, with no escape.

    Triffle has, once again, introduced us to an alternate reality, in which Up is Down and Down is Sideways…and your own perception of the world will never be the same again!  Her cast is mesmerizing, as they induce us to believe in the unbelievable and convince us that it is enjoyable and makes sense…almost.  Imago never ceases to amaze me with their inventive works!

    I recommend this play…as a walk on the wild side.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Escaped Alone—Shaking-the-Tree—SE Portland

         Down the Rabbit Hole

    This avant-garde, dark comedy is written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Samantha Van Der Merwe.  It is playing at their space, 823 SE Grant St., through June 1st.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-235-0635.

    We all have dreams, visions, fantasies, but only writers are fully capable of putting those thoughts before an audience.  It can be cathartic for the author and an eye-opener, perhaps, for a viewer/reader.  In this case, we have visions of, perhaps, the collapsing of the old world, or is it the birth of a new one?!  Or, just maybe, you will see other possibilities….

    We have before us, what appears to be a setting on a patio area of what seems to be a pleasant summer day.  Three mature ladies, close friends (Jane Bement Geesman, JoAnn Johnson and Lorraine Bahr), appear to be having tea (Mad-Hatter’s Tea Party comes to mind), and reminiscing about past events in their lives.  Into this comfortable assortment of ladies, appears a neighbor (a dark version of Alice?), Mrs. Jarrett (Jacklyn Maddux).  She is marginally accepted into the pack.  And then the fun begins….

    It seems they all have their little secrets.  One has an inordinate fear of cats; another feels isolated, possibly preferring it, from the rest; and one is haunted by the death of a loved one in an extremely brutal manner.  But the neighbor tops the cake for dramatic overtones.  She has visions of a destructive force beyond any of our imagination…a vision of Hell, itself, perhaps, as she relates this only to the audience. 

    The outcomes of all these diatribes you’ll have to see for yourself, as there is no linear story to speak of.  But the performances of these four actors, especially their monologues, are worth the price of admission alone!  And Merwe appears to be an actor’s director, as she deftly leads them through the pauses, as well as the rages, all pointing to something just beyond our grasp.

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

Monday, May 6, 2019

For Good…--Portland Musical Theater Company—N. Portland

                        “Thanks for the Memories”

…The Songs that Changed Me for the Better, by various artists, created and starring Deanna Maio.  There space is at the Peninsula Odd Fellows Lodge (upstairs), 4834 N. Lombard St.  Their final performance next weekend has been cancelled but there are possibilities of reviving it at some point in the future.  For more information, go to their site at

    Most everyone, at some point in their lives, will traverse down memory lane, recalling events and people that shaped their lives.  In my case, it was Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone, which influenced me as a writer.  But in many cases, tucked snuggly in one’s memory banks, will be the songs and music of that bygone era.  And so, this presentation is by one, very talented, artist’s take on just that and how it influenced her life…for the better.  And, if you’re not careful, it just might revive such memories for you, too!

    Maio’s range is extraordinary!  Singing in Italian, Spanish…even opera, at one point…jazz, ballads, swing…humorous, lively and sad.  There is even a game in with the audience, as she does TV themes, challenging them to name the show. 

    My own personal favorite songs of hers were “Somewhere” from my favorite musical, too, West Side Story, “What I did for Love” from A Chorus Line and “Don’t Rain on my Parade” from Funny Girl.  And I enjoyed her humor in such songs as The Girl in 14G, Bacon, Adelaide’s Lament and Taylor the Latte Boy.  A powerhouse, from belting to soft and romantic!

    She is also backed up by some very talented gentlemen, Steve Morgan on Bass and K.J McElrath on keyboard!  I hope she revies this show, as it not only waxes nostalgic for her but does so for the audience, too.  Music is a universal language and maybe that will be the common denominator to unite us all!

    I highly recommend any show this company produces.  Look for Maio to transform into Rosemary Clooney in a musical bio, Tenderly, on aspects of her life, on November 4th.  

    Burn that date into your memory banks and don’t miss it!  And, if you do see her productions, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Revolutionists—Artists Rep—SW Portland

        “Sisterhood of Heroes”

    This inventive play is written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Lava Alapai.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through May 26th.  For more information, go to their site at

    “We, the People…perfect union…all men are created equal…freee…” seems like good words of a document for democracy and freedom.  But, good grief, how those words can be mis-construed, mis-interpreted and manipulated over the years.  Race issues, gender issues, sexual identity, religious preferences, et. al. have all come under scrutiny as to how these words apply to them.  And so, we have, mini-revolutions to decide these issues.

    And so, it is decided by Olympe de Gouge (Jamie M. Rea), a feminist writer, theater performer and political activist, during the French Revolution, to set the record straight, as to some notable women of her generation, that have been given a bad rap.  She believes such women, like herself, were simply fighting for women’s rights in a man’s world and were condemned for it and blackened by History.

    Such other women were Charlotte Corday (Joellen Sweeney), who assassinated Jean Paul Marat, who became a traitor to the people and became a little too big for his…bathtub.  And so, she struck out for freedom for all and was deemed nothing more than a crazed murder.

    On the other hand, Marie Antoinette (Amy Newman), was royalty from the beginning in Austria and snatched, almost from her cradle, to be Queen of France.  Her life was anything but normal and, not being a native Frenchman, had her share of dissenters.  She strove to make a woman’s voice heard, and was a bit of a rock star to some, but she was ahead of her time and got caught up in the people’s revolt against aristocracy.

    And, for our final revolutionist, we have Marianne Angelle (Ayanna Berkshire), a free black woman from one of the French occupied islands where slavery was practiced, would become an activist and writer for people of color and women’s rights.  All four of these ladies (who actually never met), try to forge out a new History for themselves and for any oppressed people of any background.

    It is well known that History is written by those in power (men) and so these four ladies attempt to set the record straight, as mentioned.  Their conversations are lively, humorous at times, engrossing, thoughtful, insightful and tearful, too.  It is a side of Sisterhood not often seen and these four actors are amazing in their convincing turns, as they attempt to right wrongs.  Issues that may be talked of after the play, long into the night.

    Gunderson, Alapai and cast have presented us with a play of choices, in which we must ultimately be the jury, and decide for the Future as to the path of true democracy for everyone.  Kudos to all!

    A side note, next season looks to be super but challenging, as they won’t be in this usual space, as the theatre is being reconstructed.  So, check their website (and program) as to where and when their productions will play.

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

Friday, May 3, 2019

Love, Loss & What I Wore—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

        Clothes Make the Woman

    This all-female, ensemble piece is written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron (based on the book & drawings by Ilene Beckerman) and directed and designed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot to the West of the bldg.), through May 25th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

    Being a male, I can certainly appreciate and be attracted by the alluring, mysterious creature that is a Woman, as all males probably are.  I may have a bit of an inside tract, as some of my best friends and deepest conversations have involved females.  But I still have to admit, even then, a black hole of understanding of what makes them tick.  According to the rhyme, they are “made up of sugar and spice and everything nice,” but I think, even they would disagree with that description.  After all, “puppy-dog tails” are one of the males’ main ingredients and I would beg to differ with that, too.

    And so, the main topic of this very engaging and talented ensemble of women:  Michelle Maida, Deanna Wells, Lisamarie Harrison, Trish Egan and Olivia Weiss,  is clothes and how it affects their lives, through thick and thin, till death do you part.

    These remarkable actors relate the stories of, even when a girl is little, she is aware of colors and has a certain fashion sense, at least she knows what she likes and doesn’t like.  She also, not surprisingly, depending on her relationship with her mother, will find her tastes similar or not at all appealing.  But Daddies usually tend to favor their daughter’s whims and will indulge them.

    As they grow, they will follow various trends in clothing, watching what others are wearing and discarding what doesn’t suit them.  Some are involved with the social elite, or the gangs, or are individual-minded and strike out on their own path.  And Fashion guides their steps into relationships, love, marriage, divorce, business, family, et. al.  And, keeping in mind, every aspect of one’s appearance is important…weight, make-up, accessories, scent, and how they handle themselves.

    There is so much more to their stories but you really need to hear them tell these tales, as the emotions and relationships shine through in their artistic spins on various incidents.  And they are all powerful tales but must be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.  These ladies weave in and out of their stories like a finely woven knitted fabric, each co-dependent on each other, to create the ultimate masterpiece—A Woman!

    Horn, has always, never fails to educated and entertain in his selections of plays and this is no exception.  To say this is for an all-female audience would be a mistake.  It is as much for the males to gain insight into womanhood, as well as it would be for Youth.  My choice for what attracts me in a female—a tomboy, which I guess, doesn’t fit any of the characters portrayed…oh, well.

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