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.