Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Happy Times—Imago Theatre—radio play, on demand

 

What the Butler…Didn’t See

    This absurdist, 50 minutedark comedy, was written and directed by Carol Triffle, and produced by Jerry Mouawad.  Sound and court voices by Kyle Delamarter and Jon Farley.   For more information, contact carol@imagotheatre.com

    It seems that Trudy’s (Danielle Vermette) home is really a playground for murder, and her friends, Gladys (Laura Loy) and Judy (Amy Katrina Bryan) are willing participants in this annual, little game that has been going on for years.  Only member of this group that must change every year is the victim because…well, he dies at the end.  But not to despair, he does have a value as he becomes fertilizer forTrudy’s garden.  And, besides, what’s a little murder among friends?!

    Only fly in the ointment this time, is that the victim, the lover/butler of Trudy, Corey (Matt Sunderland) refuses to stay dead…really bad form, ole chum.  And it seems that the courts have no sense of humor about it, as they decided to try the case,anyway.

    The D.A., Mister B. (Randy Bynum) does a remarkable job of grilling the suspects, as well as the intended victim.  All goes swimmingly, hot tub not withstanding, as he details of the “alleged” crime.  Alleged because the intended victim was, indeed, almost killed but from a car accident he had when being confrontedby a a tree…so why not put the tree on trial, instead of these misunderstood ladies?!

    I choose not to give away details for the supposed attempted murder…so that you can decide for yourselves.  Although, I do confess, I usually will take the woman’s point of view over a man’s in most circumstances, as womenare often mild, pleasant, albeit a bit peevish in some instances (as the Bard might concur), as in this one, perhaps.

    This does have a haunting, and loving flavor to it, as a noir-type comedy, as scribed by Triffle.  The actors, too, are obviously having fun with it.  It compares favorably to Dr. Cook’s Garden and, as mentioned in the play, to Hitchcock’s brilliant, “Rope.”  All the more pleasurable (and safer) for you, the listener, to be safely seated, absorbing the chills inwardly, vicariously, while letting the outside world go mad!  I recommend this play.

--DJS


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Sweet Afton—Corrib Theatre—Radio P

 

What Price Freedom?!

    This 20-minute radio play by Jaki McCarrick is directed by Tracy Cameron Francis and runs through September 5th.  For further information, go to their site:   https://corribtheatre.org/sweet-afton 

    It has often been said…Freedom is not Free and the price you pay for it, can be a heavy one.  We see that now with the immigrants, especially children, at the borders between the U. S. and Mexico.  The loss of personal dignity, and often, all your possessions, is evident.      Our own Japanese-American citizens felt this humiliation during WWII, when sent to Internment Camps, simply because they were the “wrong” color.  There is no excuse for such bad behavior by governments but, I fear, it will continue for years to come.

    In this incarnation, we have the camp in Ireland called Direct Provision, a way of detaining and, perhaps, discouraging asylum seekers from becoming a part of the free world.

    Kazim (Shahjehan Khan) and his sister, Leila (Fatima Wardek) are from Afghanistan, looking for refuge in Ireland but are seeing resistance and, in consequence, have been in this camp for five years.  They do make a friend in Andrea (Lauren Bloom Hanover) and Kaz is encourage to run for a political office within the camp, as he wants to improve the situations of all refugees.  I can’t tell you how it turns out, so you will have to listen to it for yourselves.

    The plot, through some very simple but poignant dialogue, exposes the humanity of those concerned, emphasizing that immigrants are not some monsters or low-life’s, but just ordinary folks wanting to contribute to the betterment of Mankind.  The actors are all very believable and the director has endeavor to keep the characters realistic so that we can identify with them.  Well done.

    We currently are beginning the process of doing just that from that war-torn country and this play might highlight the humanity of those people, too, as they adjust to a new life here and elsewhere.  A timely and topical situation, to say the least.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

What You Need—Clever Enough Productions—video theatre

 The Importance of…Being

    This is an original short Zoom play, written and directed by Valerie Asbell, (founder and artistic director/producer of this company).  For more information on this show and others, go to their website at www.cleverenough.org


    Every generation has there major and minor crises imbedded within it.  Sometimes it’s a War; other times, natural disasters; riots, human rights issues, political turmoil, et. al.  This generation, the Covid Pandemic seems to rule that coveted spot.  And, with all events of this nature, changes must be made…some good, some not.

    There is no doubt that Covid has altered irrevocably our behaviors in some ways, probably forever.  The bad that came out of it, among many things, were that people died, of course.  But isolation has altered many people’s sensitivities and has put a strain on relationships and our very livelihoods.  And then the stimulus checks lit a candleflame in the darkness for us.

    This play is based on a true incident and is a refreshing and different take on what is important to a person to hold on to their sanity.  A group of friends…Emma (Gerie Voss), Mary Anne (Christie Quinn), Clara (Allison Anderson) and William (Tanner Huff) have been having zoom conversations in order to maintain some order of human contact.  But one person, Emma, has a dilemma as to how to use her stimulus check.

    She has long been interested in playing the piano and now that time has been forced upon her, in which little is moving in the civilized world, she has contacted Hal (Tony Domingue—also plays a mean harmonica), who has a piano for sale, and she wants to use a part of that monies to buy it, since she now has time on her hands.  But she feels guilty, as she senses it may be considered a mis-use of the reason for the check in the first place…what to do, what to do…?!  You’ll have to see the play to discover her solution…considering, what price sanity….

    It is clear, within these times, old rules may not apply to this “new world” philosophy.  But one thing is clear to me, holding ontoone’s sanity is an important health question, too, and whatever it takes to do that should be considered a valid use of such a “windfall!”

    I recommend this play.  It is a “clever-ly enough” written piece and brings up an important issue.

    (And, a side note, Asbell is a director of note, as she has not shied away from past efforts in directing productions of Rhinoceros and Hamlet, very difficult shows, in which even the most seasoned directors would shy away from.  And she is a fine actor, too, having played the difficult role of Annie Sullivan in a production of The Miracle Worker.  She is an artist to take note of and should be encouraged to shine in her profession)!

--DJS

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Whose Child Am I Anyway?—Corrib Theatre—June 18th-July 18th

 

“What a Piece of Work is Man…”

    This 30-minute, radio play, is by Bisi Adigun and directed by Bobby Bermea.  For tickets, go to their site at:

https://corribtheatre.org/whose-child-am-i-anyway/

    This is a particular timely piece, what with the Black Lives Matter movement, the murders of black individuals from racism and the institution, at long last, of a Juneteenth holiday, recognizing the ending of slavery in this country.  It doesn’t excuse any of this, mind you, but only emphasis the distance we still have left to go, to end racism once and for all, against folks for the color of their skins…Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Latinos, et. al.

    The most blatant example of racism to me was  the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  We were also at war at this time with Italy and Germany, too, but were any Italian-Americans or German-Americans put in camps?  No, because the color of their skins was essentially white, meaning the Japanese-American were imprisoned simply because of the color of their skin, not because they were potentially the enemy…Shame On Us!

    This story touches on similar lines, as an educated, Nigerian teacher, Biyi (Don Kenneth Mason), married to an Irish woman, Cathy (Danielle Weathers), a pharmacist, is unable to get a position because of the color of his skin.  They presently are expecting their 18-year-old, daughter, Roisin (Celia Torres), home from a trip visiting relatives.  It should be a time of joy and celebration, except  an unexpected letter arriving that will change everything--forever!

    More I cannot tell you because of discoveries for the listener, but it is a doozy.  The three actors are so good, that you can easily visualize them almost in front of you.  Bermea, a very experienced director, succeeds in bringing this important tale to life. It does touch on the questions of Paternity and the age-old riddle of Nature vs. Nurture, as to who we really are.  The explanation I like best, is that “it takes a whole village to raise a child,” which encompasses a lifetime!

    I recommend this production.


Friday, June 4, 2021

High Dive—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

photo by David Kinder/Kinderpics
photo by David Kinder/Kinderpics

                         Life’s Journey:

A Matter of Balance

    This is the first Live theatre I’ve seen in over a year.  Strangely, the last plays I reviewed, before the shut-down happened, were Blood Brothers at Triangle, and then the opening weekend of OSF (they closed immediately after that).  Now Triangle has opened up again for their second Live show of their season, and OSF will be opening a Live show in July!  Welcome back!

    The play is a one-woman (Lisamarie Harrison as Leslie) show, written by Leslie Ayvazian and directed and designed by the incomparable, Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking in the lot to the West of the building), through June 19th.  For more information, go to their site at www.trianglepro.org or call 503-239-5919.

    Two words to keep in mind, as they relate to this story:  Crossroads and Fate.  As children, our destinies began to form and a certain regularity startss to infiltrate our lives.  Attitudes and events begin to take place that seem repeated in some form, which appears to be fated (Karma, perhaps).  I think we can all identify with that.

    In my case, it was always being picked last on a team in school, or being an outsider at social events.  When leaving grammar school, we were each given a certificate, voted on by classmates, as to our possible careers.  My two nerdy friend were voted most likely to go to college, so I assume the same for my fate.  But my lot was to be an “Undertaker!”  The class all laughed and I chortled louder than the rest, but was crying inside.  True story.

    And that was the crossroads for me. When I got into high school, I found my calling in theatre and have never looked back.  To date, I have acted produced, or written over 250 productions.  I have even taught theatre and presently have been a reviewer of theatre for over 8 years, having reviewed more than 800 plays.  My way, I guess, of thumbing my nose at those old school mates.

    And so, we all have a choice like that in our lives, when fate seems to take on a familiar ring, do we continue to follow it, or take the plunge…off the High Dive?!

    Leslie’s life seems to be one of disaster after disaster from childhood,as each of her “vacations” seems to involved some sort of calamity…tornados, fires, floods, car accidents, etc. and even the present-day catastrophe of having the A/C in their motel room break-down in over 100 degree temps.  Has her fear of taking risks, kept her from facing these dilemmas head-on and by confronting them, perhaps, defeat them and changing her fate?  The most recent being taking the high dive into the motel swimming pool, which other do with relish.

    I won’t tell you the outcome, or even relate the many tales in this 70 minute production, as Harrison is a master of that!  She gives us in explicated details, and very entertainingly, of life that seemed prone to giving into  repeating ills, or taking the “bull by the horns,” and making her life what She wants it to be! A lesson that can be learned by all of us, I’m sure, in this time of unrest, either to submit to an undesirable fate, or face the unknow with abandon and “take the plunge?!”  Do we solve the problems of the Past, or are we doomed to repeat them?!

    Horn, as always, has given us something to think about and entertained us as well.  And Harrison is a gem, being the perfect conduit for the author’s and Horns visions.  I recommend this production!

--DJS

    A side note, a good friend of mine, David Paull, came to the play with me and his comments are priceless.  Here is what he said after the show:

    "It was heartening to see people greeting each other at the theatre last night...calling out and waving to one another, like pilgrims nearing the end of a long journey through Covidland. In the 'before time' play goers would gather regularly to enjoy live theatre. Then came the global pandemic that shut everything down. There was a palpable sense of relief and renewal to finally - FINALLY- be at Triangle Theater again, eager for another adventure with friends all around."

    

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Pretty Proud Boy—Corrib Theatre—May 21-June 20


Down the Rabbit Hole


    This 30-minute, world premiere of this radio play is written by Rosaleen McDonagh and directed by Gemma Whelan.  Go to their site for more info:  www.corribtheatre.org

    Although the play is Irish, the concerns and events are universal and topical during this COVID-19 era, surrounded by the Black Lives Matter Movement, immigration, protests, the “yellow-vested” movement, family dynamics, isolation and folks at a crossroads in their lives.  In this case, a concerned mother, Winnie (Deanna Wells) and her rebellious son, David (Zak Westfall).  The heart of the story is pretty much told in two, powerful monologues, one by the son and one by the mother.  But, because of discoveries the listener should make, really can’t reveal much of it.

    Both individuals have their points of view as how to handle conflict and strife, and, is predictable, in the generational gap in many situations like these, there are marked differences in how to approach change:  Non-violent confrontation?  Outright rebellion?  Peaceful demonstrations?  Submission?  Nothing that seems to work for everyone.

    One should remember, though, that if one peers into the abyss, beware, something might just be peering back at you, too!  Also, we too often forget that one size does not fit all, as one’s heritage and perspective tend to dominate our views, as is expected, but true change may lie in walking in somebody else’s shoes for awhile and see the world through their eyes.

    This is an impressive, heartfelt piece, as raw emotion, blind bravado, and inherent love rise to the surface, all at the same time in, like I said, two very powerhouse monologues, especially, and very well written, directed and performed!  I recommend this production.

--DJS

 

Friday, May 7, 2021

IMAGO Theatre—"The Strange Case of Nick M.”—May 7th to the 16th, 2021

   






    



“Thanks for the Memories (?)”

     This radio play is written by Drew Pisarra, directed by Jerry Mouawad & produced by Carol Triffle (co-founders of Imago).  Music is by Clara & Robert Schumann and The Fucked Up Beat.  Piano compositions are performed by Eric Little and Chase Garber, and sound design by Myrrh Larsen.

     Memories are tricky things.  They have three components—Truth, Reality and…I forgot the third one.  Gotcha!...as that is the third one—foreign intervention, or perspective.  Ever remember something and then someone else chimes in with another version of the same incident?  Who is right?  Probably both parties, as memory is fluid and is influenced by the passage of time…as well as one’s own perspective.  The most prominent example may be Kurosaka’s immortal film, “Rashomon,” in which four people are involved in, or witness, a tragic event and the stories all vary, depending on the personalities/character of the individuals, begging the question then, what is the Truth/Reality of the situation?

     This story has something in common with the short, avant-garde play from yesteryear, “Krapps Last Tape,”  as well as Dr. Olver Sacks’ book, and subsequent film, of “Awakings.”

     As the tale goes, according to the smarmy Narrator (Danny Gray), Nick M. (Sean Doran) is a famous, classical concert pianist, who has developed the unique dis-ability of only remembering things for about 30 seconds…the ultimate in short-term memory.  And so, he is put under the care of a European doctor, Dr. Polina K. (Vanessa Hopkins) who has some rather unorthodox methods of curing his affliction.

     He is put in a controlled environment, in which all his actions are audibly recorded.  His wife, Betty (Nancy Campbell), is allowed to be his caretaker, as well as, perhaps, a memory-jogger for him.  And even his estranged daughter, Liz (Stephanie Woods), occasionally is allowed to drop in on him to see if she can shake his mind back into normal operation.  But the only thing that seems to work, is his music, which does give him some brief reprieve…“music soothes the savage beast,”maybe?

     Through all this kaleidoscope of knitting and stiching of the patchwork quilt of memories, is a solution found?  Ah, but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?  You’ll just have to hear for yourselves now, won’t you?

     This is definitely worth listening to, as the subject matter alone is monumental, and has no easy answer, if indeed there is one.   Mouawad (and Imago) are never ones for anything but provocative subject matter, and this is no exception.  It plays like a Christie mystery…intriguing, complex and thought-provoking…and in this Covid age of non-activity, might be just what one needs to stimulate those “little, gray cells,” again.

     The actors are all in fine voice, and color their performances so one can imagine the picture, but I do miss the visuals of Live theatre for the facial expressions and body language.  And the music by the Schumann’s, and performers of it, Little & Garber, add immensely to the success of this production.  I recommend it…definitely worth your time!

     For more information, go to  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-strange-case-of-nick-m-tickets-150602687693

                                                             DJS