Sunday, November 24, 2019

Burn This—Asylum Theatre—SE Portland


           Birds With Broken Wings


    This intense drama is written by Lanford Wilson and directed by Don Alder.  It is playing at the Shoebox Theatre space, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through December 15th.  For more information, go to their site at www.asylumpdx.org

    Love is a many-splendored thing…until it isn’t.  “If this be the [music] of love, play on”—even if it’s out of tune.  “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”--until you are sorry.  These are some of the many guises of Love.  The type in this show is of the primeval sort…a ritual of primitive passion in an urban jungle.  The best explanation for it is that…it defies explanation.  It just is what it is.

    The seed for this story has been sown before.  It is the Kowalski’s of A Streetcar Named Desire…The Hairy Ape of O’Neill’s classic tale…the coupling in Beauty and the Beast.  It truly is “a tale as old as time.”

    The story is set some years back in a Manhattan apartment of a dancer/choreographer, Anna (Briana Ratterman) and her gay roommate, Larry (Michael J. Teufel), an adman.  At one time there was a third roommate, who has just died recently in a boating accident.  They attended the funeral with another friend, Burton (Jason Maniccia), a screenwriter, who has a bit of a crush on Anna.  Into this intrepid trio’s lives, bursts Pale (Heath Koerschgen), the deceased roommate’s brother, who is the manager of a fine restaurant.

    Pale is the unruly child, the misbehaving pet, of this dysfunctional family…a bull in a china shop.  He is insulting, incorrigible and thoroughly indecent among this group of misfits, all looking to fly from their nests, if only they knew where to fly to.  Anna, of course, is smitten by this crude, brutish fellow, who seems hell-bent on creating havoc into this clockwork of tightly-wound, discordant rhythms.  The pack will never be the same again after his entrance.  To discover the results, you’ll have to see the play but, be warned, they pull no punches as to the raw subject matter.

    Alder is certainly an actor’s director, as he proved last season with some of this group’s same folks in Mamet’s, exceptionally good production of Speed-the-Plow.  The story has moments of physical & verbal violence, clever humor and even tenderness.  It is, thus, a micro-view of civilization and Alder and his cast do a super job of mirroring it.

    This is the second time I’ve seen Ratterman onstage and she is sexy, vulnerable and just as complex as the last character she played.  She is totally immersed in her part and very effective.  I hope to see more of her.  Maniccia as the disillusioned, creative writer (being one myself) plays this sort of being to a T.  Teufel is extremely humorous as the jaded friend, who is possibly the wisest of this crew, as he is empathetic to all, but loyal to Anna.  He is also quite an accomplished actor, as I’ve seen him more than once and always fascinating to watch.  And Koerschgen is always a marvel onstage, from a few years ago, as Mr. Hyde, to his present incarnation.  He never ceases to amaze me, as he does here, in this explosive role.  He is always an asset to a production.

    I highly recommend this play, especially for the acting.  But get your tickets soon, as there is very limited seating.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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