Sunday, November 28, 2021

Bella Bella—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


“Bell(a) of the Ball”

    This one-woman, live show, written by Harvey Fierstein, from the words and works of Bella Abzug, is directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing in their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through December 11th.  Be advised that full Covid protocols are in place…vaccine cards, masks, temp. check, etc.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

Where are they now?: 


There were Champions…Warriors,

Those who stood up for the

“Huddled Masses yearning to be Free.”


There was Abe and George

And Harriet and Sojourner

And Eleanor and Thurgood

And RBG and MLK…


There were Champions…


    Add to that list, Bella.  A name I had only heard about but knew little of.  But now she is my hero!  I don’t want to tell you too much about her because (and I think she would agree) you should make up your own minds when you see the show.  But, again, that was part of her philosophy, even from the third grade when she was running for an office.  You should speak your own mind and not follow the dictates of others.  And, by God, she did just that and found her place amongst the champions of history!

    The action of the play follows about an hour or so in the life of Bella Abzug (Wendy Westerwelle) on one fateful night in the Fall of 1976.  As she’s hiding out in the bathroom of Manhattan’s Summit Hotel, awaiting a decision on her bid to become New York’s first woman senator!

    As she paces the room, she ruminates for the audience some of her long career to date, as a lawyer, wife, mother, and a stint in the House of Representatives.  She was a Democrat and a liberal but always spoke her mind, which could get her in trouble at times.  But she was a fighter for the underdog, especially for Women’s Rights.  She was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and a believer in a woman’s right to choose.  And, of course, a woman’s right to be in politics.

    And, something sorely missing from today’s Congress, she Listened to the People, following what they needed, not what some Party line demanded.  She was a pioneer, a trailblazer, a rebel…a Champion!  And, as mentioned earlier, where are such folks now.  They are out there, I’m sure, in our Youth…such as Greta…Molalla…and others.  They are there, waiting to take up the reins she left behind and are the leaders of the Future!

    Horn never fails to be provocative, informative and entertaining in his productions, as he does here.  “May he live long and prosper.”  Firestein has always been a favorite of mine, as a writer and performer, as he does here.  And Westerwelle is a wonderful storyteller, as I could listen to her all night, as she weaves her tales of Bella!  And I think you will be equally captivated by her mesmerizing performance.

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


Sunday, November 21, 2021

I Am An Actress (live stage)/Becoming Adorable (film)—Fuse Theatre—SE Portland

                                                                 Becoming Jane 

    This duel production is playing at the Backdoor Theatre space in the Common Grounds coffee house, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. (former home of Defunkt Theatre), street parking only, so plan your time accordingly.  The play is directed by Sara Faye Goldman and features Jane Comer (who also wrote it). The film is conceived and presented by Jane Comer.  It runs through December 19th.  For more information, go to their site at

    The mystery of why we become who we are is not so much whether Nature or Nurture is responsible, but what we do with what we’ve got.  Some, like Jane, know from the age of four that things got a little mixed up in God’s workshop, when it came to assigning her a gender, and so she had a long and arduous road of discovery ahead of her to finally find her true identity, a female, and her Passion, acting.

    But all roads to self-discovery are fraught with pitfalls and revelations.  My road began at ten years old, when I had my first conscious memories of a childhood.  The former years are a riddle, inside an enigma, wrapped in a Black Hole.  In other words, no clue!  And others that I’ve met and gotten to know, are as varied as the grains of sand upon the beach.  And so, my point is (and perhaps, in part, Jane’s, too) is that we all have our stories to tell, but if we really look hard at another, and are willing to walk in their shoes for a bit, we may find we are really not so different after all.  And ain’t it grand to see how many colors of the rainbow it takes to make its beauty…all vibrant…all necessary!

    Jane recounts, sometimes in painful memories, of her Mom’s upbringing (and hers, as well).  It’s not a pretty site but it forged a drive and passion within her to find a positive and constructive way of dealing with these issues and finding her way of exorcising these demons…as an actress.  First, in comedy, and now as an actress and writer…and a very good one, I might say!

    I have deliberately sluffed over the meat of her story because it really needs to be shared by Jane, and she is so natural onstage that you feel she is talking directly to you, as an old friend.  I hesitate to break that communication she has and so it must be shared by her and not through a third party.  It is also wise that Jane had the foresight to have another eye view her material, and herself, in the form of Goldman, who dos an expert job of honing all the pieces together like a home-made quilt.

    The film segment, in part two, has a movie critic, Amy Williams (Comer), of romantic comedies, giving her viewpoint of 4 episodes.  But don’t be fooled by this ruse, as the purpose of this piece comes closer to home than that.  I don’t want to give it away, so you’ll just have to see it to discover the true meaning.  But the entire project is written, produced, directed, edited and performed by Comer, which is quite a feat, but what else could you do, as an artist, during the isolated times of the dark days of Covid.  All very well done!

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


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Professor Jekyll & Miss Hyde—Theatre Berk at Twilight Theater—N. Portland


What a Piece of Work is (Wo)Man”

    This is a modern re-telling of Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic tale of the duality of man, adapter by the producer, William Thomas Berk and directed by Shannon Walcott-Cluphf.  The production plays through November 28that Twilight’s space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (off Lombard, free parking in the church parking lot across the street) Normal Covid protocol is expected…vaccine cards and masks.  For more information, go to their site at

    There have been many versions of this classic tale of Good and Evil.  One of the earliest has Fredric March playing Hyde in the 30’s, literally as a monster.  Spencer Tracy then came along later in the 40’s, with hardly any make-up, to show the transformation.  Jack Palance did a television version.  And there has even been a musical version (performed very well in Portland by Kirk Mouser).  There was even a film version with a male Jekyll and female Hyde.  But, though, the most interested was by Jerry Lewis as The Nutty Professor, playing Hyde as a suave, snobbish singer called, Buddy Love and, perhaps, patterned on his old mate, Dean Martin.

    The theme may boil down to the proverbial question of whether there is even a God (Good) and a Devil (Evil).  An old fable (Mexican in origin, I believe) says, in short, if you believe in evil or a demon, that proves the existence of God, because there would be no reason for one, unless the opposite existed, too.  And so, what happens, when the two come face to face with each other and, thus, we have this gripping tale.

    Being, in part, a mystery, I can’t reveal too much of the tale without giving away key elements an audience should discover.  But I will tell you this is a modern-day, re-imagining of the story, with mainly a female cast in most of the key roles, echoing for this purpose, the Me-Too Movement.

    College professor, Mary Jekyll (Kate Faye Cummings) is engaged in a secret project at her school, which she feels will benefit mankind, in short, the ridding of evil from man’s nature.  But she won’t let anyone observe the results of such experiments, not even a trusted assistant, “Bobbie” Poole (Rachel Ladd).  And the head of the school, Dean Otteson (Shelley Tate) is too absorbed in school politics to pay much notice.

    But then the atmosphere on campus changes when a prominent professor (Samuel Alexander Hawkins), is torn to bits and he was last seen in a bar with a supposed prostitute.  It is also notable that he was an alleged rapist of students and so not all mourned of his passing.  But Poole and her wife, Louisa (Meghan Daaboul) decide to do some detecting on their own and they discover some uncomfortable connections to Jekyll’s mysterious friend, Zela Hyde.  To discover the rest, you’ll just have to see it.

    This adaptation does follow some interesting philosophical discussions about right and wrong, and good and evil and so also becomes a diatribe on that, as well as a chilling story.  Cummings is excellent in the dual roles, as her whole body seems to evolve, as well as her acting style, portraying the two characters.  Kudos to her and hope to see more of her onstage…in either incarnation.

    Berk’s play is a good grasp on an age-old subject, with women in the prominent roles.  It gets a bit preachy at time but nevertheless is an interesting examination of the dual nature of a person. Cluphf has kept the play moving at a brisk pace and her choice of actors for the roles is spot-on.  Also many  kudos to the set changers…Caralynn Rose, Maddy Gourlay, Rosalyn Long and Berk.  They deserve as much praise as the actors!

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


Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Birds—Imago Theatre—SE Portland


“All the Lonely People,

Where do they all come from…”

    This LIVE production is directed by Jerry Mouawad and produced by Carol Triffle (co-founders of Imago) and adapted for the stage by Connor McPherson from a story by Daphne du Maurier.  It plays through November 20th at Imago’s space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off Burnside).  Parking can be an issue, so come early.  (Covid protocols in place…vaccine cards, masks required and spaced seating).  For more information, contact them at or call 503-231-9581.

    If you go expecting to see Hitchcock’s terror-filled film, this is not it, as it’s adapted from the book.  But Hitch did seems to be enamored of  this author, as he did two more film adaptations from this writer, Jamaca Inn in the 30’s with ?Charles Laughlin and, in the 40’s, the award-winning, Rebecca, with Sir Laurence & Joan Fontaine.

    I don’t believe the choice of this play was accidental, either, for this specific time period.  It includes facets of loneliness, fear, isolation, paranoia, angst, depression, and visions of Nature’s rebellion, as if it were just trying to “eat us up” for all the ills we have inflicted on this good earth…as stewards of it, we seemed to have failed miserably!  Theme sound familiar in this day and age when we are faced with a number of real-days wraths of Nature?!

    The characters include a drifter, Nat (Matt Dibiasio), who is picked up by Diane, an author and Narrator, at times, of the story (Melissa Jean Swenson), and together they break into an abandoned home in a rural part of a small coastal town.  It seems the entire county, and perhaps, country, are being besieged by birds of all varieties and are bent on destruction.

    Soon they are joined by a mysterious, young, hippie-like girl from the village, Julia (Elizabeth Rees).  And so an uneasy bond is formed, to avoid the pecking invaders.  Oddly, they feel as if hiding or running from the furious, feathered fiends, but not fighting back, is the answer, as if these agents of our society have already accepted their inevitable fate! 

    But then, one more characteris briefly added to this motley crew, Tierney (Paul Bright), a resident of the rural village, who seems to have captured the essence of the birds’ rebellion.  To give you too much more information, would ruin elements that the audience should discover, so I’ll leave it to you to see this exciting and insightful production.

    Another note, the pecking by the birds on these intrepid travelers is nerve-wracking, thanks to the sound design by Myrrh Larsen and bird puppeteers, Nate FitzSimons and Elise Erickson.  The cast, too, is uniformly fine, keeping us on our toes as too …are these folks really who we think they are…?

    Especially noteworthy, I thought, is Rees, as the young outsider.  She has a quirky, offsetting way of presenting her role, which keeps you guessing as to who she really is, even after the play is over.  A revealing performance and hope to see more of her onstage in the future.

    Mouawad again has done a masterful job of bringing us a topical subject and entertaining us, as well as asking us to think about who we are really.  I’ve always enjoyed everyone of Imago’s productions, even if I didn’t fully understand them…they always pepper my imagination with possibilities…

    And watch for another production by this very inventive author in December, a ghost story for the holidays, Shining City.

                                                    I highly recommend this production.