Monday, November 14, 2022

Elf the Musical—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego

The BIGGEST little Miracle

    This heart-warming musical is directed by Thomas C. Graff, songs by Matthew Skylar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin and book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin (based on the film, Elf, by David Berenbaum).  Musical direction and conducting by Cyndy Ramsey-Rier and choreography by Terry Brock and Cherie Price.  It is playing through December18th at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (free parking lot in the rear).  For more information on the show and Covid policies, go to their website or call 503-635-3901.

    Tis the Season for stories of hope and good cheer…and, boy, do we need that now!  There are basically two perspectives:  The Biblical view, with the birth of Christ, and the Santa Claus slant, with merry, ole St. Nick.  But the three most popular films deal with Redemption, as in, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Dickens’s, “A Christmas Carol,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”  Also, they all have one more thing in common:  The importance of Family, whether Holy, Jolly or, in the case of, Elf, perhaps, the meaning of the ancient philosophy, it takes a whole village to raise a child…thus, Family, in the most Universal sense of the word!

    Once upon a time, on Christmas Eve, while jolly Santa (Mark Pierce) was delivering presents at one household, a baby climbed into his toy sack and was inadvertently whisked off to the North Pole.  Thirty years later, cheerful but naïve, Buddy (Jeremy Anderson-Sloan), the human elf, has a yearning to find his real family and walks thousands of miles to New York City to find his father, Walter Hobbs (Jeremy Southard), who is a rather grumpy executive of a Children’s book publishing company, Greenway.

     He has a rude awaking, though, when he discovers people do not believe in Santa, or Christmas, other than in the “commercial” sense.  Walter’s wife, Emily (Sophie MacKay) is a pleasant enough lady and her daughter, Michael (Stella MacKay), is a nerd with no thought of the magic of Christmas.  The employees at Walter’s business including Deb (Aurora C. Gooch), an executive assistant, and the big honcho himself, Greenway (Michael Streeter), have little regard for Christmas, other than the monies it generates for them.  Even Buddy’s new love interest, Jovie (Camille Trinka), is rather a glum young lady.

    But don’t you all know, this will just change dramatically with the entrance of innocence in the guise of Buddy, Santa and his elves, and the changed hearts of citizens via dance, music and songs.  Yes, this seems like a familiar, feel-good, seasonal story (and it is) but the cast, musicians, dancers, crew, all dust off this familiar tale and through their own Magic, give it a Life that goes well beyond the pages of a bedtime story, which bursts through that fourth wall and permeates the audience with warmth and good will and seems to say, “God Bless Us Every One!”

    The MacKay’s are real, as mother and daughter, and you can sense the true family ties within them.  Southard plays just the right balance between a grouchy old man and the inner life of a lonely soul, just waiting to have his bubble burst.  Trinka waffles between being a hardened urbanite and the waifish child beneath, just waiting to be discovered.  And Gooch’s Deb, becomes transformed, but you sense, Streeter’s Greenway never will, as Corporate Greed will, unfortunately, always have its oily hands around the throat of Middle America.

    But Anderson-Sloan is Amazing!  In my opinion, better than the film, Buddy.  He actually oozes charm, goodness and the child-like innocence that is too often lost in adults and much too soon, as well.  If he is this year’s poster child for the Christmas Spirit on stage, we have much to be thankful for!  Also, Terry Brock (co-choreographer) as the Macy’s store manager, almost steals the show with her tap-dancing number, with the ensemble.  And a special shout-out to the chorus/ensemble, they are truly the heart of a production, as they are here, too!

    Ramsey-Rier and her band of renown are splendid and they do Not make the fatal flaw that often orchestras do in a musical, they do NOT over power the actors/singers…Bravo!  and Brock and Price as choreographers have some terrific numbers and an ensemble of dancers to match.  And Graff as chief magic maker on this production, out does himself.  A long-time teacher/director/performer in the Portland area, his obvious talent shows brilliantly here (they couldn’t have chosen a better director for this project),  “May he Live Long and Prosper!”

    One more thing, just as an exercise in Imagination, before too long, sit down and write a letter to Santa of hopes and dreams for Christmas--that you can do for others in the coming year.  And write them in long-hand, too, (if you still remember how to do that).  Then send it off to Santa at the North Pole, but keep a list for yourself, and next year at this time, see how much of it came true.

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


Monday, October 31, 2022

Pestilence: Wow!—Young Professionals Company—NE Portland


Survival of the…Wittiest

The Y/P Company of the Oregon Children’s Theatre presents this dark comedy by Savannah Reich and directed by Dani Baldwin (OCT’s Education Director).  It is playing at the Alberta House, 5131 NE 23rd Ave., through Nov. 13th (only street parking, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information on tickets and Covid restrictions, go to their website at or call 503-228-9571.

The best description I could come up with for this piece is from the director’s mouth herself (Dani Baldwin): "This show is described as a 'psychedelic feaver dream-...Monty Python mixed with social/political commentary. What happens to humanity when a crisis occurs? Even though it was written pre-Covid it's CRAZY how much you can draw connections."

It is an ensemble group, part Vaudeville troupe, part Reality TV, part Game show, with a dash of human contradictions.  The Host (Max Young) for this event will give some contestants, from the Middle Ages, a chance to escape The Black Plague.  But it means they have to come up with answers to such things as, How did it start…who is responsible, etc.  Among the contestants are some peasants including Raoul (Oliver Chally), Simone (Emma Fonseca Halverson), Agnes (Alli Jaffe), Alphonse (Aiden Shafiuzzanman), Georgette (Ryder Thompson) and other villagers including a couple of monks…Jason Nuesa, Ruth Siviglia, and David Stephens.

The tales of the participants, of this dreaded period in Europe, are played out in skits, tableaus, dance/movement and even roller skates…you really have to see it to believe it!  It is also welcome training exercises for young thespians to be able to play in the difference mediums of theatre, including video.  The young folks are excellent, each creating a unique character ranging in types who just want to be a star, who are not bright enough to know what’s going on, and bitterness toward whoever started this whole damn thing in the first place! 

And Baldin is the Master of bringing out the best in raw talent.  If I were a parent and had a child, who dreamed of being in the Arts, there is no better place, bar none, than OCT and the Y/P programs with Baldwin at its helm!

For references in this type of genre, you might check out Marat/Sade, the Dance of Death sequence in Bergman’s, The Seventh Seal, or the excellent Roger Corman film, The Masque of Red Death.

If there is a point to this outrageous story, it might be that put in dire circumstances for all Mankind…such as a Virus or Climate Change…Man may Not be the Noble Beast that we perceive, but instead, even though in all the Animal Kingdom, we have Free Will and Reasoning Powers, and yet we still behave very poorly, greedily and selfishly when the chips are down.  Consider the current situation in the world of today!?

(A side note, during the Middle Ages, the Black Plague wiped out much of Europe.  But, surprisingly, a familiar, children’s ditty came from this event:

The virus first appeared as reddish spots on the body.  Then, when it advanced, a circle would form around these marks.  Since it was very contagious, bodies which had died from this disease, were placed outside of homes, and flowers were put in their pockets.  Their bodies then were hauled to pits outside of town and burned…eventually the disease was wiped out.  The song…?:

“Ring around the Rosy…Pocketful of Posies…Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down!”).

I highly recommend this play but it does have language and situations that are adult in nature.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


Monday, October 10, 2022

Little Shop of Horrors—Stumptown Stages—Downtown Portland

Seedy Botanical Beast

This dark comedic, musical has book and lyrics by Howard Ashman,music by Alan Menken, choreography by Jamie Langton, music direction by Adam Young and directed & designed by Steve Coker.  It is playing at The Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, through October30th.  For more information, go to their site at

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, a lone seeding was starving to death, as his planet’s life’s blood was diminished.  So, he took his chances and threw his fates to a passing meteor shower and eventually fell to earth onto Skid Row on the planet, Earth.  This seemed like a happy place to him, as the talented street urchins of the village, Crystal (Lydia Fleming), Ronnette (Kristin Robinson and Chiffon (Olivia Spohn) were always singing.

And the young nerdy fellow, Seymour (Jason Hays) who found him and cared for him and even named him, Audrey II (Kimo Camat, Liz Ghiz & Tim Giugni) was a nice enough fellow.  Seymour even was sweet on a not-so-bright co-worker, Audrey (Tawni Peterson).  But she was hung up on this “semi-sadist,” laughing dentist, Orin (Dustin Fuentes),who was not so nice to her.  And the shop’s owner, Mr. Mushnick (David Mitchum Brown), was a stogy old tightwad who seemed to care for no one.

But that was all soon to change, as there was a new character in town from out of this world and he was taking no guff off anyone!  And one more little thing…he had had found the …nourishment he needed for life but getting it was going to require some clever manipulations on his part.  Does this lead to a happy ending...depends on who’s telling the tale and it would be delicious talking with you in person sometime about it…yum!  --A/II

This story originally had its origin in the Roger Corman school of B-movies (notably for introducing Jack Nicholson to the film-going public in a small role).  It then went onto becoming a very successful Broadway play and movie and added music to its tawdry tale.  Margie Boule and Randall Stuart  had a couple notably revivals of this show some years ago and now we have Stumptown with Stever Coker at the helm and this genre fits him to a tee, having,in the past, very successful productions of a stage version of Queen’s, Flash Gordon, and an original film noir detective story about werewolves, and also a musical about werewolf cheerleaders from outer space (I kid you not) and all very well done!

All the versions I’ve seen of this play, my favorites have always been the Greek Chorus, the urchins, in this case,Fleming, Robinson and Spohn, who are a smash.  And the two leads, Hays and Peterson, are in terrific form, especially with the show-stopping, “Suddenly, Seymour.”  And the outrageous character of Orin (Fuentes) is over the top as the maniacal dentist.  And Camat as the voice of the plant gives just the right creepiness to the role.  And a special shout-out to the two set changers, Isaac Elmore & Genevieve Hildebrand-Chupp, who are kept very busy during the show of changing the scenes and “dislodging” the plant food.

This is a perfect show for the Halloween season and I highly recommend it.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


Friday, September 9, 2022

The One-Act Play That Goes Wrong—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


“The Play’s the Thing…”

    This Live comedy is written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer & Henry Shields, directed by Angela McKennie and produced by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through September 24th.  Be advised that full Covid protocols are in place…vaccine cards, masks, etc.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

    According to the quote above from Hamlet, the story is the crux of the play, which will reveal all.  But it can also be taken in another sense, using “play” the way a child might interpret it, as fun and games, where anything can happen…and that is exactly what occurs here, as an inept, community theatre group attempts to put on a murder mystery.

    This type of plot has been done before, as in Tom Stoppard’s, The Real Inspector Hound (which I have directed); or the movie and play from the board game, Clue (which Bag & Baggage is doing in the Spring).  Or the excellent Christopher Guest film, Waiting For Guffman.  But this is, by far, the most madcap, merry, mix-up of mayhem I’ve ever seen.!  And it’s presented by an array of many former actors from Triangle’s past shows, to celebrate its 33rd Season (yay)!

    The plot (such as it is) revolves around the discovery of a corpse of the Patriarch of Haversham Manor, Charles (Joe Healy), on the eve of his wedding to a socialite, Florence (Lisamarie Harrison), a bit of a ditz.  Among the suspects are Thomas (Dave Cole), his mysterious brother; Cecil (Alex Fox), a questionable associate; Perkins (Gary Wayne Cash), an annoying butler; and a fiercely, dedicated stagehand, Annie (Melissa Whitney).  Into this fray appears Inspector Carter (James Sharinghousen)--not the sharpest knife in the drawer--prepared to solve this infamous crime…but not before another murder victim is discovered, an affair is unveiled, and folks are discovered not to be whom they seem (“curiouser and curiouser”).

    If this all sounds confusing, it is, but the meat of this play is not the plot of the murders, but the inept way the actors go about presenting the show.  And I can tell you, having been involved in over 200 plays myself, these are no exaggerations:  Props that are not there; set pieces that fall apart; actors that write their lines on their costumes or arms; weapons that don’t work; actors that don’t show up on cue; lines that get forgotten or that are repeated; et al.  They are all here in this show and all true, folks.

    The cast is dynamite and it is truly a genius ensemble of some of the best comic talent in the area!  McKennie is a master of creating visual and verbal comedy and is truly a laugh-out-loud presentation (which is sorely needed in these chaotic and morose times in our history).  Thank you, dear cast and director, for giving us this reprieve from our troubled world…it is truly needed.  And thank you, Donald Horn, for choosing this vehicle to celebrate 32 seasons of inspiring theatre…may you have many more to come!

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


Monday, July 25, 2022

Voiceover—Imago Theatre—SE Portland


“The Windmills of Your Mind”

    This World Premiere LIVE production is co-written, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mouawad and co-written by Drew Pisarra and produced by Carol Triffle.  It plays through July 30that Imago’s space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off E. 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.

    Some inspirations for this production may be found in Lugi Pirandello’s, “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” in which unwritten or unfinished persona from a play seek out in a theatre, some author/creator to finish their story.  It also recalls from the age of Cinerama film-making, the movie, “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” in which Laurence Harvey, as one of the brothers, lies very ill in bed and is visited by all the little characters he has yet to create, begging him not to die, as that means they will never have lived. 

    And, one more reference, an excellent animated film by Pixar some years ago called, “Inside Out,” which illustrates how the many emotions within a person’s brain, all try to interact with each other, in order for an individual to connect with the outside world.  “What a Piece of Work is Man….”

    Existence is a complicated thing.  Just who are we, how did we come into being and just what is our purpose anyhow?!  We, according to one biblical source, have been given free will and reasoning powers, but what do we do with those “gifts,” if they actually do exist?  “Aye, there’s the rub….”

    In this incarnation of some of those dilemmas, eight characters appear on a bare stage:  Fiely Matias, Ariel Puls, Kellie Holway, Index Marcus, Isaac Ellingson, Jessica Curtiss, Emma Holland and Sean Bowie.  They are seemingly controlled by an entity called, Jackie.  He, at times, is their voice, always loud but definitely in charge for those moments.  Otherwise, they only can communicated with each other with a sort of telepathy, and we are able to hear them as ‘Voiceovers,” or a type of asides in theatre-speak.

    They do have one thing in common though, they are all dancers and, thus, express their feelings in stylized movement.  But are they truly expressing their emotions, or is someone else pulling their strings, like a puppeteer would?  And, if so, what to do about this grave situation?  But an even larger question teases our minds, as the audience is thrust into this proposition, too, and then this enigma grows ever wider.  Enter their world, if you dare…!

    Mouawad and Pisarra have charted us into uncertain waters with this presentation and whether we sink or swim is entirely up to us.  If to swim, it means we have to jerk our heads out of the electronic jungle of the internet highway, the all-knowing, all-seeing god for many of us, and actually examine, for ourselves, who and what we are…and what is real and not.  If to sink, it means, with eyes wide shut, drowning ourselves into the endless and contradictory by-ways made up of the cold, hard world of wily wires and condescending components.  This is a story of human development, in which Man may come up short but, at least, we must try!

    Mouawad has, once again, come up with a winner.  His direction, seemingly random, only means that he has lulled us into a deliberate slumber, only to startle us at the end (beginning?) when the alarm goes off!  And his cast is exceptional, each one creating a very specific individual.  And, choosing dance as their means of locomotion, gives their stories a fluidity that lures our imaginations out of the shadows and into working models of humankind, which should have always been in existence, anyway.  Bravo!

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


Monday, July 18, 2022

The Kiss—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego


“’Hopefully’ Ever After”

    This world premiere musical is directed by Greg Tamblyn, story conceived and original script by Will Vinton, music and lyrics by David Pomeranz, book by Will Winton, Jesse Vinton and Greg Tamblyn (loosely based on “The Frog Prince” by the Brothers Grimm).    It is playing through August21st at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (free parking lot in the rear).  For more information on the show and Covid restrictions, go to their website or call 503-635-3901.

    “Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, when you’re young at heart….”  Ah, such a world as this do we need now.  Originally, these stories were written as cautionary tales for the youth of yore.  But now they are seen as beacons of Hope, in which nasty dragons are slain, evil witches are banished and lover conquers all, to lead to ending of “happily ever after,” sealed with a kiss.  Is all that still possibly?!  Time will tell….

    In this timeless tale, conceived by Will Vinton, the father of Claymation in Portland, this classic theme is reawakened.  Two neighboring kingdoms, each having a child born at the same time, a girl and a boy.  They grow up playing together as best friends.  But reality raises its ugly head (politics, jealousy, greed, arrogance, selfishness, et. al.) when they become adults and they must stifle childish thoughts and dreams.

    Eventually, Arro (Keaton Fields) and Ember (Sophie MacKay) grow apart and all hopes of uniting the two kingdoms by her father, King Gordo (Douglas Webster) are dashed as they go their separate ways.  Enter now a dragon that threatens their villages, and the king promises his daughter’s hand in marriage to he whoever slays this vile creature.

    The deed is dispatched by a mysterious knight, Raoul (Collin Carver), or so it seems, and suddenly Arro has disappeared, turned into a frog by a vengeful witch, Gladys (Emily Sahler), for reasons discovered later.  His only recourse out of this curse is to be kissed by a true love within three days.  And he does have some allies to help, in the form of woodland animals, Granny Racoon (Melissa Standley), Sheldon the Snail (Troy Sawyer) and Benny Beaver (Eric Zulu).  The conclusion is classic storytelling which, of course, you’ll have to see to discover.

    The songs (by Pomeranz) and dances (choreographed by Erin Shannon) are a pure joy and enhance the story, as well as fleshing out the characters.  And Tamblyn’s direction, a veteran of local theatre, is paramount in his casting and staging of this magical production. Some of my favorite numbers are “Club Mud,” a romp; “For the Good of All”, revealing; “Sugar Lips,” a hoot; “Humans,” fun: “Kill the Frog Toad,” an oily delight; and the romantic, “The Kiss.”

    Sahler is a seasoned performer and quite a belter and it shows.  Fields and Mackay have fine voices and Fields, in particular, shines in the dance numbers.  Webster is in fine form with his powerful voice.  Zulu, Standley, and Sawyer,as the forest critters, play well off each other in their comic timing.  And they have an amazing chorus, filling in the many supporting characters.  Among them is Quinn Boyd, as the young Ember, who shows promise in her well-crafted role.

    But there is a sneaky rat that tends to spoil this lovely brew of characters, as Carver tends to steal the show as the nefarious, nasty, no-good-nik villain of the piece.  His “cheesy” performance is an utter delight!  His background covers OCT and Triangle, where I’ve reviewed him before, and he is still charming the audiences. 

    And to each and all of us, may the message of this play, selflessness is the key to happiness and love, invade each our hearts, so that we may live in Peach and Harmony with Nature and each other, so that we may truly live “hopefully ever after!”

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


Sunday, June 12, 2022

Bad World—Crave theatre—SE Portland


Tangerine Dreams…Icicle Kisses

    This original, Live musical is written by Kylie Jenifer Rose,James Liptak, Jennifer Provenza, Rachael Singer, Michael Cavazos, Ashley Mellinger, Maya Maria Brown, and Zeloszelos Marchandt.  Music by James Liptak and Kylie Jenifer Rose and lyrics by Rose and Jennifer Provenza.  It is directed by Rachael Singer and Jennifer Lanier.  It is playing at the Shaking-the-Tree space, 823 SE Grant St. through July 3rd.  Full covid protocols in place…vaccine cards, masks, etc.  For more information, go to their site at or call 360-931-5664.

    Once upon a time there was a little girl named Rose who grew up in a fun and loving family (good world).  As she got older, she dreamed of distant lands and all the magical things that could happen there (good world).  Finally, she decided on  a career in the arts and to travel to Gay Paree (good world).  But Rose (Kylie Jenifer Rose) was now a young adult, and out on her own, and the dreams she had would soon be dramatically altered by some ruthless beasts who would shatter those dreams (Bad World)!

    This mostly sung play is a map of the journey, cathartic for her and educational for others.  As she traverses her own path down memory lane, she is joined by other selves; other victims of sexual abuse; and even the strangers themselves, played in a mostly jazz, concert style, in dance and song, as a reflection of her inner artist.

    These three remarkable people that share the stage with Rose, filling in the blanks of her tale/memory are Zeloszelos Marchandt as Langston, Gayle Hammersley as Zaria and Kayla Leacock as Linnea…and they are terrific!  Being victims themselves, they are all a part of Rose’s, Symphony of Life, and she a part of theirs.  They struggle valiantly; they harmonize beautifully; and they relate a too, oft-told tale of abuse by an ignorant, brutish gender that feel they are the superior race and demand submission by all others… “a tale told by an idiot!”

    The is a play you simply must see to appreciate and it is a safe space to explore this very destructive trend in our society.  Rose is a very brave lady and an absolutely amazing singer and actor! And hopefully this show is Broadway-bound, as it is topical in content, and professionally done in style.  Liptak’s music is magical, as it always connects seamlessly with the lyrics.  Not only that, but the lighting (Griffin DeWitt) and set (Yelena Babinskaya) throb in unison with the music and plot.  A union, I would say, conceived in a…Good World!

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



Friday, June 10, 2022

Mr. Madam—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


“An Awfully Big Adventure”

    This Live dark comedy is written by Donnie, directed by Donald Horn and is based on the writings of Kenneth/Kate Marlowe, featuring Wade McCollum.  It is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through June 25th.  Be advised that full Covid protocols are in place…vaccine cards, masks, etc. (also restricted to those 18 and older only, please).  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

    From the mouths of Peter Pan (who is often played by a girl, by the way) and the Lost Boys, to the orphans in Annie, who must live “a hard-knock life,” childhood can be a scary thing.  But in those formative years, our personalities are emerging and will lead to who we are as adults.  And it is also the ages in which we discover our self-identities.  I think it’s agreed by most experts that we all have a masculine and feminine side, regardless of our physical gender.

    Mine is my Muse, who developed all my creative writings and reviews, and I trust her implicitly.  The subject of this play, Kenneth/Kate Marlowe (Wade McCollum), also has a Muse who fosters his/her writings, as this play is base on that life, much of it in print.

    Marlowe has a less than glamorous beginning, as spewed out by an alcoholic mother (who wanted a girl) and a father “who was in love with long-distance.”  But he was very sexually active from a very early age with other boys.  As he grew, he found his life-calling (more or less) in being a hair-dresser.  He also liked dressing up in women’s clothing and make-up, and ended up becoming a drag queen.  Even worked in a club ran by the mob. He also ran a call center, who got him a lot of prospects and even found, for a while, a sugar daddy.  And his little stint in the army gave him a hard-hitting dose of reality for those such as he.  Eventually, finding the courage in the 70’s to become—Kate!

    I have skimmed over his story because it pales in comparison to McCollum’s performance in relating it, and to Donnie’s amazingly, poignant script of his journey.  This is something you have to experience for yourselves and I guarantee you will be profoundly moved, as was I!  You will also see yourselves (and others) in the character of Marlowe, as he is first and foremost, I believe, very human and that is what softly explodes in your hearts and minds as you listen to his/her story.

    McCollum is a consummate artist, being able to paint a vibrant personality, exploring every nook and cranny of one’s being, and stitching together its threads to create a rich tapestry…a cornucopia of adventures, that exemplifies who we are! And he plays to perfection all those side characters he meets, as well!  Out of the hundreds of plays I have reviewed, I can count on one hand those that could equal McCollum’s performance here!  “May you live long and prosper!”

    And Horn’s script should be Broadway-bound (but only with McCollum as its star and Horn as its director)!  Donnie has managed to present a riveting story of what makes us who we are.  I think this is Horn’s best work and, further, I think you should not miss seeing it!  Bless you, Horn, you have a treasure here and it should be shared by the world!

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


Monday, June 6, 2022

Julia’s Place—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

Graphic Design by David Deide

 Once Upon a Time…Ever After

    This World Premiere LIVE production is written, designed and directed by Jerry Mouawad and produced by Carol Triffle (co-founders of Imago).  It plays through June 18th at Imago’s space, 17 SE 8th Ave.(off E. 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.

    Since Mouawad cites Ionesco’s play, Rhinoceros, as an inspiration for his piece, I think it only fair to give you a brief overview of the underlying substance of that avant-garde play, written several years ago.  There is also a fairly good film of it starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Karen Black.  Any resemblance to real life is purely…intentional:

    “Imagine a circumstance where an incompetent, egomaniacal boob stands up in front of you, spewing out utter nonsense and promising to fulfill this blather if he were King.  Then imagine a circumstance where this nitwit is offered just such a position, and his herds of followers bow to his every whim, and blindly accept every blathering he utters.  Soon they are espousing his “holey” words as truth, even as the world they knew and loved collapses around them.  In the end, he leads them to a cliff and proclaims they should all jump.  In this setting, those beings are called lemmings, in this incarnation of them in this play, they are called Rhinos.

    The above definition holds pretty true to form for Julia’s Place.  Julie (Carol Triffle) is the owner, cook, server, et. al. for this little establishment located (perhaps) on an “Ill-Land,” resembling an European café on the road to Forever.  It’s main dish, is not the food (except for some stale saltines) but its motley crew of what may be the last vestiges of civilization, as we know it.

    There are the two regulars, consisting of Porkchop (Josh Edward), a dishevel prophet (aka, John the Baptist), spewing words of seeming nonsense, professing we are all just stories…and stories within stories.  Then there is his best pal Ralph (Noel Olken), a more studious and reserved sort (looking much like a young Einstein), who has a “thing” for Julia.

    Into this dubious haven from life’s pitfalls, bursts Leonardo (Christopher Kehoe), like a big-game hunter, looking to bag a prize beast.  Also, on hand, to complete this picture of instability is Poem (Laura Loy), whose heart has been broken by a lover who has deserted her.  Oh, yes, there are a storm of rhinos (Cosmo Kay & Olivia Vavroch) marauding the streets in packs, in search of what…a mate…to merge with the conforming crowd…to evolve into the next step of Evolution?

    But where did they all come from?  Most of the characters seem to have an odd yearning, and yet revulsion for this new, dominant tribe.  Or is the quest much simpler…will Porkchop ever get his desired slice of lasagna?!  You just have to see it and draw your own conclusions as to the meaning of it all.

    Mouawad’s casting, as always, is unique and they fill every inch of these improbable characters, chief among them is Edward, as it’s his narrative we follow, and he is marvelous in his zaniness to hold these fragile threads of humanity together, even when everything around him is unraveling.  The puppeteers (Kay & Vovroch), too, are to be given kudos as, even as shadows, they exude an eerie menace, not to be ignored.  And Mouawad’s script, of the avant-garde genre, is chilling and thrilling, as it seems to speak to the root of nightmares, where only the brave may tread!

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


Monday, May 16, 2022

Laughter on the 23rd Floor—HART Theatre—Hillsboro, OR


The Endorphin Squad

    This live production of the comedy by the famous Broadway writer, Neil Simon, is directed by Meghan Daaboul.  It is playing at their space near downtown Hillsboro, 185 SE Washington, through May 22nd.  For more information, go to their website at or call 503-693-7815.

    Ah, the good ole days of the 50’s.  Peace, once again, except, of course, for the Cold War with Russia, and the Korean Conflict.  Yes, prosperity loomed just around the corner, unless, of course, you were a subject of one of Joe McCarthy’s investigations of “Commies” and ended up on the Black List.  But the saving grace through it all was television, and its comedy/variety shows, like the classic, Sid Caesar and his, Your Show of Shows.

    Many of the present-day comedians, directors, producers and actors wrote for this show, including “Doc” Simon.  Some names that come to mind are Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Dick Cavett, Howard Morris, Imogene Coca and a plethora of others.  All in all, although it may not have been “the best of times,” it did produce some the best of talent!

    The plot centers around a gaggle of TV comedy writers on one of the upper floors of a high-rise building in the mid-50’sin New York City.  There is the star of the show, the eccentric, Max Prince (Bobby Jackson), who genuinely loves the biz but is thwarted at every turn by corporate (executives (nothing much has changed in that regard nowadays).

    And among his “mad” team (“everybody must have a little madness to discover one’s true passion”), is the head writer, a Russian Jew, Val (Jeff Brosy), who tries to be the peacekeeper (without much success) of this motley crew.  And then there is Milt (Steven Koeppen), the beret king, who likes to be set apart from the group; Brian (Seth Wayne), who’s an aspiring screenwriter; Kenny (Jeff Ekdahl), the apple-cheeked kid, and Ira (Michael Rouches), the hypochondriac.

    Add to this mix the only female writer of the bunch, Carol (Erin Bickler), who just wants to be “one of the guys;” Helen (Deb Holmes, Max’s secretary, who wishes to be a writer herself; and the newbie, Lucas (Brandon B. Weaver), who is the storyteller (perhaps, Simon, himself?).  As is said, everyone has his/her own story and such is the case here, but for an audience to discover when watching the play.

    Daaboul has assembled a fine ensemble cast and they play beautifully off each other.  A tricky thing for a director, when doing this sort of show, is the motivated blocking (as in Twelve Angry Men), where the center piece are the writer’s tables, and to move the actors around in a meaningful way is no easy task but she pulls it off, so kudos to her!

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


Friday, May 13, 2022

Sex on the River—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


Photo by Kinderpics – Nancy [Boggs] and her ‘girls’

“Merrily We Roll Along”

    This Live musical is written by Donnie with lyrics by Donnie and Jonathan Quesenberry and with music by Jonathan Quesenberry.  It is directed by Donald Horn and choreography by Sara Michler Martins and is based on actual incidents.  It is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through May 28th.  Be advised that full Covid protocols are in place…vaccine cards, masks, temp. checks, etc.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

    The Portland area in the 1880’s was ripe with corruption from law enforcement, politicians, business owners and on down.  In fact, it was divided into three sections…Portland, East Portland and Albinia, with the Willamette River dividing East from West.  Opium dens, Shanghai tunnels, Graff, gambling, booze, prostitution, and bordellos were accepted practices in this untamed West.

    Enter one Nancy Boggs (Julianne Nelson…later in the run to be played by Danielle Valentine), from Pennsylvania.  Previously married and having tried a variety of jobs, ends up in Portland, buys a scow (a type of barge), refurbishes it and turns it into a floating bordello down the middle of the Willamette River, just far enough from Portland jurisdiction.  She even paints it green with red highlights (a bit of irony, perhaps, as a Garden of Paradise, overshadowed by a red demon).

    She has the reluctant blessings of two other Madams of the land variety of pleasure palaces, the elegant Brit, Liverpool Liz (Lisamarie Harrison) and the down-to-earth, Mary Cook (Cyndy Ramsey-Rier).  Along the way she acquires a bookkeeper, the practical, Kim (Channel Ka’iulani Kaimana Batala-Ledfore), having her own issues to deal with from traditional family values.

    Of course, to have a successful bordello, you have to have the pleasures of the sea as well.  So, enter Melody (Liz O’Donnell), Sara (Cassandra Pangelinan), June (Cosmo Reynolds) and Irene (Arielle Scena-Shifrin), who are willing to lay down the rules to make men happy.  But there is always a fly in the ointment, so enter, the boy in blue, Sam (Alexander Trull), who is only looking for an excuse to close them down, and yet is intrigued by Nancy.

    All these folks have their moments to express themselves in song and monologues.  But it should be seen and digested by the viewer, so do see it for yourself.  One of the most impressive scenes is by the character of Kim, as she expresses the dilemma of being an Asian with traditional beliefs and the new-found freedom of finding her own way in a brave, new world.  The character of Nancy, having some of the same reactions, as she bucks the establishment of the male-dominated society, which are both major themes of the story by Donnie.  And in this crazy world we are living in now, it seems to be that not that much has changed!

    There are a couple of dynamite dance numbers by Martins, which enhances the show.  And Batala-Ledford performance is heartfelt, as she expresses her frustrations of being a “stranger in a strange land.”  Nelson is terrific as Nancy, having both the voice for the songs and the acting chops, as well.  Harrison and Ramsey-Rier are ole pros of musicals theatre and they shine here, too.

    Quesenberry has done a number of shows for Triangle and he is a master musician, as he is here.  Horn has a love of Portland history and it explodes on the stage, as he blends it with his perpetual fight for equality and justice for the downtrodden and marginalized among us.  May he “live long and prosper!”

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


Monday, May 9, 2022

Camelot—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego


Once There Were Champions

    This award-wining Lerner & Loewe musical is directed by Dennis Corwin, adapted by David Lee, with new orchestration by Steve Orich and choreographing by Laura Hiszczynskyj.  It is playing through June 12th at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (free parking lot in the rear).  For more information on the show and Covid restrictions, go to their website or call 503-635-3901.


There were Giants…

There were Champions…Warriors…

And so, to the Young,

Whose banners fly high,

                 The Greta’s, the Molla’s and Amanda’s…

 We salute,

        as they reach for the sky…

    There was a legendary king, Arthur (Anthony Mulherin) who, legend has it, created a round table with some of the most noble leaders of the land and established the trial system, where one is judged by one’s peers and championed Might for Right.  He may have been naive in his goals but, at least, he tried.

    His wife and queen was the feisty, Guenevere (Jessican Maxey) and his right-hand man was the French knight, Lancelot (Brandon Michael), a rather egotistical fellow, with his inept Squire, Dap (Lindsay Reed). Arthuralso has a band of warrior that he depends on, especially, Sir Dinadan (Erik Montague), Sir Sagramore (Eric Zulu) and Sir Lionel (Jeremy Southard).  And Gwen has her cohorts with her ladies-in-waiting (Sophie MacKay and Amelia Segler).

    Everything seems to be going swimmingly, until it appears that Lance and Gwen have more than a friendship in common.  And then there is Mordred (Heath Hyun Houghton), the rejected son of Arthur, who has his ax to grind with dear ole dad.  It doesn’t take long for cracks to form in the Camelot fortification and, as they say, “the best laid plans of mice and men” begins to show their true colors.  And, in such cases, where empires tumble, a phoenix will rise from the ashes in the form of the Youth of tomorrow, Tom of Warwick (Rosalie Johnson or Charlotte Bridgeman or Ava Neudeck or Stella MacKay or Cam Jordan—unclear from the program who played the role on the matinee, Sunday, May 8thexcept that it was a female).

    The story from the book by T.H, White, The Once and Future King, is much fuller in detail, as is the edition of the songs/music which, I believe, is one of the best scores in musicals!  All the original songs are here and beautifully staged by Corwin.  The dance numbers are terrific, as is the set by designer, Tyler Buswell.  All the singers, especially the leads, have very strong voices.  Maxey is terrific as Gwen, having a somewhat exotic look and a lovely voice.  And Houghton is a delicious villain.

    And a special shout-out to Ava Neudeck who played Tom on the Sunday, as she has a terrific enthusiasm and is very convincing in the pivotal role of the voice for the future.  She has a long career ahead of her in show biz, if she continues to pursue it!  I expect to see her again onstage, whoever she is.  She does “sparkle.”

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


Monday, May 2, 2022

Twelfth Night—Young Professionals Company—downtown Portland


“Lord, what Fools these Mortals be!”

    The Y/P Company of the Oregon Children’s Theatre presents this classic comedy of Shakespeare’s, directed and adapted by Lauren Bloom Hanover.  It is playing at the Brunish Theatre (upstairs), 1111 SW Broadway, through May 15th (parking is a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information on tickets and Covid restrictions, go to their website at or call 503-228-9571.(The production I was scheduled to review was cancelled because of a Covid outbreak with one of its members, so will write a preview of it instead, as knowing the story might help you understand the play and want to see it—check website for future dates).

    The Shakespearean stories and language are really not all that hard to understand.  I had a friend of mine, who had never seen the Bard’s plays, ask me, if it was going to be in English?  It’s not really a foreign language, folks, and the presentations of his works nowadays is pretty much in “conversational” Shakespeare.  Also, his themes are universal, having such modern incarnations as the award-winning musical, “West Side Story” (Romeo & Juliet) and the Sci-fi film classic “Forbidden Planet” (The Tempest).  In this latest version, six students play twelve roles.

    Love doth mirror Life and, thus, in reflection, Fools stare back at us. 

    In this incarnation of Cupid’s swift arrows, a shipwreck has occurred and Viola (Irie Page), fears that her twin brother, Sebastian (Ethan Thompson), to have been lost at sea.  To discover the truth in this alien atmosphere, she disguises herself as a boy, Ceasario, and eventually allies herself with Orsino (Nirmay Anantha), the Duke, who she is immediately smitten with.

    But the Duke only has eyes for the beauty, Olivia (Michaela Monteblanco), who has no interest in him but does seem to favor Ceasario, who has been sent by Orsino to her to plead his case for love.  Meanwhile Olivia has some very odd but witty servants, among them, the droll Malvolio (Thompson, again), a petulant steward (who has a bit of a crush on his mistress) and Maria (Sam Myerson), her assistant, a mischievous merrymaker, both of whom only add more heat to an already spicy stew. 

    And, if that wasn’t enough, Olivia has an uncle, Toby Belch (Anantha, again), a drunken nobleman, and his rich, fey friend, Andrew Aguecheek (Monteblanco, again), a rich buffoon.   A rather independent and persuasive musician, Feste (Elijah Castillo), a witty troubadour, seems to be our outside eyes, looking at the proceedings with cloaked optimism, and commenting on them, or partaking in them, when necessary, to route the story forward.  To say that things may end up in a muddle is an understatement.  And to relate too much more of the story would spoil the fun, but know that the slippery slope they tumble down will have a softer landing, being that they all may end up together…for better or worse.

    I have no doubtthat this will be an amazing production because I have followed OCT’s and Y/P’s progress for many years and I know the Education Director, Dani Baldwin, well and admire what she has done, and is doing, with students in her programs.  The teachings in her classes mirror the struggles the students are dealing with in real life and give them a safe haven in which to explore that world.  The plays they do also deal with real life issues and are not just “fluff” pieces.  What they learn about themselves, each other and the world at large, they will carry into adulthood, and be better human beings because of it!

    It's not so much what we see of the troubles in the outside world, but of what we don’t see, The Unknown, that is bothersome…“Ay, there’s the rub.”  In short, “there is nothing to Fear but Fear itself.”  I have no doubt that the worlds they explore in this environment will make them more capable of conquering any “darkness” they will encounter.  If a door closes on you, seek the open window for expansion…and then, breathe!


Monday, April 18, 2022

The Children—Artists Rep in the Ellyn Bye Studio—Pearl District

 What Nature Employs…Mankind Destroys

    This futuristic drama by Lucy Kirkwood and directed by Luan Schooler is playing at the Portland Center Stage, the Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through May 15th.  Parking can be a challenge in this part of Portland, so plan your time accordingly.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-241-1278.

    “The best laid plans of mice and men.”  Do we plan on being violent to our fellow man?  Probably not.  But when Reality raises its ugly head, in the guise of Greed and Power, then all bets are off.  “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  We are in the throes of that very dilemma all over the world at this very minute.  And the result of this childish game of Chicken or King of the Hill…well, this very play may be the culmination of those efforts.

    Two films came to mind while watching this powerful indictment of Man…Aussie director, Peter Weir’s, early film, The Last Wave (w/Richard Chamberline) and the excellent, heartbreaking, Testament (w/Jane Alexander).

    Picture, if you will, three aged nuclear scientists, after The Great War of the future (nearer in time than one might think).  There is the fussy Robin (Michael Mendelson), who’s days seem to be absorbed with visiting a farm ripe with cows, although milk is contaminated by radiation and so, undrinkable, as is the tap water.  There is his neurotic wife, Hazel (Linda Alper), who is all about eating healthy, no meat, and being physically healthy, too, yoga.  And the third to join this motley crew is the speculative, Rose (Elizabeth Elias Huffman), who seems to have an ulterior motive for this visit.  And, of course, there is the titled, Children (unseen) who are the key to this unholy union…but more I cannot tell, you as it is up to an audience to discover.

    Schooler has chosen well her cast, as she leads them (and the audience) down a treacherous path, or as a Bette Davis character once proclaimed, hold on to your seats, folks, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!  And what a choice ensemble she has.  Mendelson is the best of the best and always shines in whatever roles he plays.  This is one of his finest (over the many times I’ve reviewed him over the years), as his carefully nuanced character keeps you guessing as to his next step in this chain of events.  Alper, too, is a veteran of the stage and fires up the boards with her increasingly slip into a type of madness.  She’s amazing!  And Huffman, perhaps the most savvy of the trio, is rock-solid in a portrayal of a person on a mission, who won’t stop until a wrong is mellowed by a righteous act.  All played out on a sparce, futuristic setting by Megan Wilkerson.

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

And to perhaps complement this script, a short, companion piece I wrote, commenting on the current state of affairs:

The Afterward Effect

The young girl at last got to see what many of her elders had often spoke of.  It was many years since The Last Great War.  And she was now at the sacred spot, considered to be the definitive monument of the spoils of global conflict.

She approached the stone slab with an undefined chill.  The writing on it was weathered but still legible.  She pressed “English” on the “Language” monitor on the screen that was before it, and immediately the writing appeared readable to her.  The letters on the memorial spelled out this message:

“Be in awe of all you that enter here and see what beauty I have achieved!  Behold the magnificence of what I produced in my lust for dominance and immortality.  Look upon my works and marvel at what one man, with an unerring purpose, can produce.  Might is Right and this proves to future generations that, with focused determination and a solemness of purpose, results will ring supreme.  You may kneel before this monument to one man’s greatness and revel with envy and desire at such a spectacular accomplishment!”

And so, my immature eyes peered beyond the withered rock to view that which the author was so proud.  As far as the eye could see, there appeared nothing but debris…masses of rubble…a cacophony of gravestones and crosses…and a bleakness of idle purpose and utter despair that will not soon be erased...

At end of the message, in faded lettering, the author’s name, “V.Putin.”

(With due respect to “Ozymandias,” the inspiration for this piece.)

Monday, April 4, 2022

Leading Ladies—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego


Treading the Boards

    This farce by Ken Ludwig and directed by Stephanie Mulligan plays through April 10th at their theatre, 368. S. State St.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-635-3901.  Full Covid restrictions apply.

    Because of a screw-up in communications, I wasn’t apply to see this show opening weekend…and it ends this weekend, so giving a full review might not help much.  So, after I give a brief synopsis of the plot, I will apply another approach to enticing you to the theatre—concentrating on the actors and company who present these productions.

    The plot concerns two third-rate Shakespearean actors from London, Leo Clark (Sam Dinkowitz), the “brains” of the duo (a Zero Mostel type) and Jack Gable (Philip J. Berns), the stooge of the team (a Gene Wilder type).  They desire to be in the limelight and makes loads of bucks, too.  A chance ad in the newspaper tells of a rich, dying old dowager, Florence (Margie Boule’), who is seeking some lost relatives from England, Max and Stephen.  So, being actors and English, they decide to assume those identities.

    Upon meeting the “family” they discover a Reverend, Duncan (Nathan Dunkin), who plans on marring into the family with Meg (Jessica Tidd). There is also her doctor (Don Stewart Burns), his son Butch (Matt Sunderland), and his girlfriend, Audrey (Jessi Walters).  It is a madcap, gender twisting romp through a bygone era of Wilde and Coward and the Bard “…signifying nothing.”

    The play is a bit long (almost 3 hours) and repetitious but always fun, as we have a master director of comedy, Mulligan, pulling the strings.  I have reviewed all these actors before and they are, indeed, the cream of the crop!  Dinkowitz is a whiz at broad comedy and Berns amazing at physical comedy (ala, Jerry Lewis or Stan Laurel).  Boule’ is a consummate actor going from playing the Spider Woman, , to a Governor of Texas, to a dimwitted girl coming face-to face with a man-eating plant, et. al.  And not to forget, Steve Knox, Executive Director, who is a fine director in his own right.  All the cast included, having long, successful careers in all types of theatre and should be applauded for their service to the Arts!

    These folks are special for they are truly artists.  “Do not seek out Art, for Art, if it finds you worthy, will guide your path!”  This cast is the worthiest of the worthy and it doesn’t look like they’re slowing down “…as they have miles to go before they sleep.”  “Live long and prosper,” my fellow Artist!

    I recommend this show for its amazing cast.  If you do see it, tell them Dennis sent you.


Monday, February 28, 2022

Maz & Bricks—Corrib Theatre Company—SW Portland

Photo by Adam Liberman

“Two Roads Diverged…”

    Portland’s Irish theatre presents its new play by Eva O’Connor and directed by Melody Erfani at the Boiler Room, Lincoln Hall, PSU (1620 SW Park Ave.) through March 13th (parking can be an issue so plan your time accordingly).  All Covid restrictions apply including vaccine cards, masks, etc.  For more information, go to their site at

    The above quote by renowned poet, Robert Frost, concerns a person at a crossroads in their travels, needing to make a decision on which of two paths to take through the woods.  Upon deciding, there is always some twinge of regret on wishing they could be two people and traverse both roads.  Such is the case with Maz (Elisa Frakes) and Bricks (Ken Yoshikawa)…and, I suspect, with most of us at one time or another, too.                                                                                

    Maz is an avid activist and her latest cause is as a protester for Women’s rights over their own bodies, in this case, abortion.  Bricks is a bit of a ne’er-do-well, who just likes to have fun but clings fiercely to wanting to have a relationship with his daughter Yasmine, who was one of those “accidental” children of a failed union.  So, they begin their chance meeting at loggerheads.

    He also has some issues with a recently, deceased broth, Anton, and some incomplete issues with him…and also with his mother.  Maz is no stranger to issues herself with her mom, and the stances she takes politically differs with some of the rest of society.  A “match made in Heaven,” it is not.  But, as is said, opposites attract and so they begin this dance of derision, in which echoes of the past may overwhelm them, or do they create a “brave, new world?”  See for yourself….

    Erfani has engaged us in, at times, a compelling dance between two boxers in an arena, in which one, or the other, will come out the winner, or will it be a draw?!  It is done on an essentially bare stage, which designer, Kyra Sanford, seems to want to suggest the setting doubling back on itself as possibly, in Life, too.  And Frakes and Yoshikawa are terrific sparring partners in both their dialogues and thought-provoking monologues.

    And so, what is the solution to this dilemma we call, relationships?  Vonnegut may have said it best, when he suggested…simply put one foot in front of the other, and then proceed…!

    I recommend this play.  It does have raw language so be prepared.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.