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.