Friday, January 28, 2022

Bakersfield Mist—Triangle Productions—NE Portland

 

Eye of the Beholder

    This Live show is written by Stephen Sacks and is based on a true incident.  It is directed and designed by Donald Horn, and is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through February 12th.  Be advised that full Covid protocols are in place…vaccine cards, masks, temp. check, etc.  For more information, go to their site at www.trianglepro.org or call 503-239-5919.

    This story reminds me of a short, silent film I saw some years back.  A disheveled man walks out on a dry dock, on which sets several cans of paint of different colors.  He begins tossing the paint from the buckets onto a giant canvas he has positioned on the dry ground below the dock.

    He then gets a mop he has brought with him and jumps off the dock and begins smearing the paint around on the canvas.  When satisfied of his creation, he takes a saw and begins cutting the canvas into smaller sections and stacks them on the dock. 

    As if on cue, a helicopter lands onto the dock and some very well-dressed individualsget out of the copter, approach the scruffy man, giving him a wad of cash, pick up the stacks and load them on the helicopter and fly off.  On the copter’s door is printed the name of a very exclusive art gallery in New York.  Art?  It’s in the eye of the beholder!

    The play by Sacks concerns a trailer park, ex-bartender, Maude (Helen Raptis), who goes to a thrift shop and picks up a painting for $3, which she believes is a genuine Jackson Pollock work, worth millions.  In order to prove her claim, though, she must get an art expert to authenticate it.

    Enter Lionel (Michael Fisher-Welsh), an uppity, famous New York art critic, to make just such a decision.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t view the paining in the same way she does.  What ensues is a battle of wits (such as they are), as much about class distinctions and education between them, as it is about the nature of art.  During the confrontations, they both expose personal sides of each other and their pasts, which I can’t really go into without revealing plot devices the audience should discover.

    But it does bring up some universal issues as to what constitutes real art.  Is it the brush strokes by hand, or the passion of the heart of the artist?  And who is to decide this, an “expert” whose word we just need to take, or the viewer who may become transformed/enveloped by the art?  “Ay, there’s the rub….”  A question devoutly to be pondered.

    Both actors have their supreme moments of passion and rage upon the stage.  Fisher-Welsh is very impressive in his monologue wherein he endeavors to immerse himself in the soul of Pollock, as he writhes and contorts himself on the canvas of her living room floor.  And Raptis is equally impassioned when she attempts to convey the emotional response she has to the work, as it relates to her family’s tragic circumstances, and very well performed, also.  When two worlds collide, one has to give way to the other…or do they?

    Horn has once again turned our worlds upside down and made us think, as well as be entertained by his plays.  In essence, he has two titans of the stage do battle in an arena with each one matching the skill of the other.  And I especially like Horn’s set design, an elegance in simplicity.  Definitely worth seeing!

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

--DJS


Monday, January 10, 2022

Murder on the Orient Express—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR


                      All Aboard For Murder!

    This classic mystery by Agatha Christie is adapted to the stage by Ken Ludwig and directed by David Sikking.  It is playing at Lakewood’s space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego, through February 13th.  Note that Covid protocols are in place such as vaccine cards, masks, etc.  For more information, call 503-635-3901 or go to their website at www.lakewood-center.org

All Aboard For Murder!

    There have been 3 film adaptations of this classic who-done-it.  Of course, there is the BBC’s version with probably the best of the Hercule Poirot’s, David Suchet. But also Albert Finny gave it a good try in the Hollywood, all-star cast version and, recently, Kenneth Branaugh gave it a go.

    Staging her works is never an easy job, especially when the action changes often, but in Lakewood’s version, they do an admiral job with scenic design by Demetri Pavlatos, with special kudos to the set change crew.  The narrative starts out 3 years back with the kidnapping and murder of a 5 year old girl, Daisy Armstrong, from a wealthy American family.  Then jumping ahead to 1935 and then aboard the famous Orient Express train, on board which is the famous Belgin detective, Poirot (Mark Schwahn).

    The rest of the action is on this train, which ends up being snowbound in short order.  And, almost immediately that night, is the murder of a wealthy businessman, American tycoon, Samuel Ratchett (Alan H. King), who is stabbed to death multiple times in his room.  And since this is a mystery, more of the story I cannot tell you, but know there are a lot of “red herrings (false clues)” which Christie is famous for.

    But I will give you the rest of the cast, all suspects. There is M. Bouc (Gary Powell), the owner of the Orient Express and an old friend of Poirot’s; an aging, erasable Russian princess (Vana O’Brien); her Swedish, na├»ve companion (Caren Graham; a helpful, Hungarian countess (Kelsey Glasser); a chatty, Midwest, American housewife (Marilyn Stacey); a pompous, Scottish colonel (Tom Walton); a demure, English governess (Kylie Jenifer Rose); a handy, French conductor (Tom Mounsey) and Ratchett’s timid assistant (Matt Sunderland).

    And so, “the game's afoot” with this array of blooms in a garden of evil.  The questions one must ask themselves are who of these folks has a connection to the murdered man?  Why did the victim have so many varied knife wounds on his chest?  And who is the mystery man in uniform that seems to be lurking about the train?  This is a dandy who-done-it and presents a unique dilemma for Poirot in the end.

    Among the stand-out performances are the veteran actress, O’Brien, Graham as her mousey maid, and especially Stacey as the annoying housewife.  Sikking has a tough job on his hands by coordinating all the action and he does a terrific job of it.  And a special shout-out to Rose, who has the double duty of actress and dialect coach.  Considering the amount of nationalities in this cast, she had her hands full and does an outstanding job of nailing them all down!

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

--DJS