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.


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