Monday, March 20, 2023

Doubt: A Parable—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego

Black & White Equals Gray

    This drama is directed by Antonio Sonera and written by John Patrick Shanley.  It is playing through April8th 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.

    It has been said, if you tell a Lie often enough to a populace, it begins to muddy the waters, as to what is really the Truth.  Related adages to this may be, “there’s a sucker born every minute” (P. T. Barnum).  John Huston also said, if there is a choice between printing the truth or the legend--print the legend…it is always much more palpable to the Public.  And, as always, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”  There are many ways to cloud an issue to one’s advantage…“and, thereby, hangs a tale” (Shakespeare).

    Father Flynn (Todd Hermanson) is the very popular Pastor and basketball coach of the Catholic school/church.  His sermons are always thought-provoking (for those who have open minds) but can be somewhat disconcerting to those who follow a rigid moral path.  He is vibrant, accessible, and always willing to lend an open hand to those in need, and a sympathetic ear to troubled souls.

    Sister Aloyisius (Diane Kondrat) is made of sterner stuff.  She is principal of the school and believes her teachers should be objective when dealing with students…coldly objective.  Her moral compass seems to be concentrate the religious content of teaching and finds secular items, such as the Arts and History, to be, at best, distracting to education.

    Sister James (Ariel Puls) is a naïve, young novice as a teacher and has a warm heart and caring nature toward her charges.  She wants them exposed to all of Nature’s wonders, so they will be prepared to cope when released into the “outside” world.  She tries to be obedient to Mother Superior but is fully enchanted by Father Flynn.

    Mrs. Muller (Victoria Alvarez-Chacon) is the mother of the only black student in the school, who is a sensitive boy, has no friends and is abused by his father.  She is wise to the manipulations of the “real” world and looking for solace for her son wherever she can find it.  She seems to see, through all the veils/facades of the other characters, their true nature and is not willing to compromise her son’s small island of peace for any of the high-faulting standards of those “in charge.”

    I cannot give you a description of the plot, because it would be a spoiler, in itself, to what happens and how you should feel about it.  The story is a microcosm, or parable, of the world.  I think you can imagine, with the descriptions I have given you of the characters, the conflicts that must inevitably occur.  The outcomes rest solely at our feet.

    Sonera has kept this dialogue at a clipped pace, which increases the intensity of the scenes, and is palpable. And his actors deliver it beautifully.  Hermanson is the perfect Flynn, as he plays it as an enigma, never sure what’s going on underneath.  Kondrat seems to personify the villain but she also rides that thin line between humane and seemingly restrictive feelings, which is marvelous to observe.  Puls is the innocent soul, being buffeted between opposing schools of thought but ultimately a feeling person.  And Alvarez-Chacon is a powerful presence in her one scene, possibly being the only sane one of the bunch.

    Any inferences to past and current activities within academia, social, religious, and political arenas is purely intentional, I’m sure.  Just see for yourselves the deeply divided areas plaguing folks, mainly because of social media, the blatant misinformation vomiting forth and infecting our lives.  It can only stop when we can call it out for what it is, like Mrs. Muller, who will try to make it better in her “own little corner of the world,” and then hopes that attitude will spread outward!

I     highly recommend this play but know that it is intense and may not be for everyone.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


Monday, March 13, 2023

The Seafarer—Imago Theatre—SE Portland


“The Devil is in the Details”

    This LIVE, dark comedy production, is written by Conor McPherson, directed by Jerry Mouawad  and produced by Carol Triffle.  It plays through March 26that Imago’s space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off E. Burnside).  Parking can be an issue, so come early.  (Covid protocols in place…with masks required).  Recommended for 16 and up.  For more information, contact them at or call 503-231-9581.

    This Master Manipulator, King of Liars, Lord of the Flies has been around since the beginning of time.  He’s invaded our world, in one form or another, in many incarnations,through all of civilization, especially for our consideration in literature, plays and films.  He appeared in the early Silents and has been portrayed by many fine actors, among them Walter Huston (The Devil & Daniel Webster), Vincent Price (The Story of Mankind), Jeff Goldblum (Mr. Frost), et. al.; on TV by Burgess Meredith and Thomas Gomez, et. al.; and even by super stars, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson.  So, to say the least, this sly, shape-shifter is embedded, quite firmly, in our very psyche.

    (A personal note, upstaged by the Grand Architect himself, God, based on a Mexican tale:  The Devil (or Evil) is the proof that God (or Good) exists, because there would be no need for one, unless its counterpart was in attendance, too!).

When the Devil comes a-callin’

And the East wind be blowin’,

No prayin’ on yer knees now.

Jest go with the flow

And see how it goes.

Miracles abound

To those True of Heart,

For it’s never too late

For a purposeful, new start!

    The play is about four ole seafarers (commercials fishermen) who love to gab and gossip; nag and nitpick; booze and bamboozle; and raise holy hell in the neighborhood and in each other’s lives. Richard (Tory Mitchell) is the blind owner of the house where the action takes place.  He is a cantankerous ole sot, who runs his brother, Sharky (Jeff Giberson), ragged with demands.  They have a great friend in Ivan (Sean D Lujan), who is an occasional guest, usually sleeping off a hangover, but an accommodating fellow, nevertheless.

    It is Christmas Eve in this seaside town and it is a tradition to play a hot game of poker on this usually holy night.  Nicky (Chris Brantley),, the youngest of the brood, a natty dresser and loud in demeaner, too, is the fourth member of this motley crew.  But everybody know you need at least five for a decent poker game.  So he has brought along a relative stranger, Lockhart (Danny Bruno), who he met in a bar, to join them.  A sly ole gent this, as he seems to have a hidden agenda.  He is looking for a lost soul…the one that got away…and he means to have his revenge before the night is over for, you see, he is the King of Hades, himself, and hates to be slighted in such a way. And so, there will be hell to pay, before the light of the new dawn!

    Obviously, I can’t tell you more or it would ruin this folk tale.  But, to say the least, this deliberately, slow-moving, runaway train, weaves its way along the dusty tracks, bouncing off both kith and kin alike, detouring into dark recesses and endless valleys, to come to a screeching halt when it reaches the its destination, only to find out, there is one more gasp left in this old engine after all.

    Mouawad is a genius at manipulation, himself, as he allows the characters and story to develop seemingly haphazardly, and letting the tension build to a boiling point, then releasing the “kill shot” with a last little twist to bring a tear to one’s eye.  And he has able support from his scenic designer, Alex Meyer, as well as lighting, Jon Farley and sound, Myrrh Larsen, et. al.  A splendid team of artists!

    And the cast is a true ensemble, working off and with each other with precision. Giberson plays Sharky as a good-hearted but ailing soul, who broods his way gently into your hearts (I’ve reviewed Giberson before and he is always an asset to a production).  Mitchell carries off the blindness with ease and he is one of those loveable, old curmudgeons, who you sneakily like.  Lujan is the needed cement to the relationships and does his best to keep the peace, while having his own problems at home.  Brantley is one of those folks who everyone knows in their lives, who is tolerated but not well-liked and he pulls it off smoothly.  And Bruno has the unenviable task of playing Old Scratch in the flesh and he does it with oily abandon.  A marvelous crew!

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


Monday, February 13, 2023

The Mad Ones—Young Professionals Company—NW Portland

Time Is Fleeting

    The Y/P Company of the Oregon Children’s Theatre presents this musical by Kait Kerrigan and directed by Andrea White (recommended for folks 14 and up).  It is playing at the CoHo Theatre space, 2257 NW Raleigh St., through Feb.26th (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.

    We all need a little madness in our lives to keep us sane (espoused by Zorba, The Greek)!  Although the title for this show comes from the “Beat Generation”  of the 50’s, via Jack Kerouac’s,  On the Road book with his bud, Neil Cassidy (note there is a good film about this era called, Young Cassidy, with Rod Taylor as the title character and Nick Nolte as Kerouac.  Other good films about Youth are, Rebel Without a Cause and Eighth Grade).  But “madness,” aka Youth, is indeed, fleeting as high school senior, Sam (Ava Horton) is about to find out.

    She is also the Every-Woman of this tale.  Does it relate to me and resonate with the audience…oh, my, Yes!  Amazingly, it covers all the bases of the teen years, leading up to “the dark at the top of the stairs,” adulthood.  Her mother, Beverly (Kerie Darner), wants her to go to an ivy-league college and becomes someone important.  Her best friend, Kelly (Leah Wick), wants her to just run away and explore the world with her.  And her boyfriend, Adam (Sidra Cohen-Mallon) wants her to just be with him.

    All these forces, coupled with one’s own growing pains and teenage angst, seem to be puling he apart.  And what does Sam want…probably, all of the above, as it would make others happy…but her hopes and dreams (unrealized, unarticulated, unimagined) would be mingled with the dust, if she followed that course.  And her purpose in life, gone with the wind.  And how does this concern us?  It Is Us!

     will not ruin the story by giving away incidents, but know that each of you will recognized yourself within it.  It is told in music and  song (unfortunately, a list of them was not in the program, but the anthem that stands out is “Freedom”) which beautifully mirrors the story.  Credit must be also given to the musical director, Addison De Santis, choreographer, Eri Zinke and set designer, Samie Jo Pfeifer, who all lend to the simple majesty of the story.  And many kudos to the writer, Kerrigan, who bring it all home for me, and the director, White, who has led this intrepid team with dignity and insight.

    And the cast—Wow—not a false note in them.  Cohen-Mallon, the epitome of the boy-next-door, who just want to do the right thing; Darner, as the parent, who truly wants her daughter to be happy; Wick, as the flighty best friend, terrific in voice and depth of character; and Horton, a star in the making (I reviewed her as Anna in, Frozen, Jr., with the East Side Theater, and she was great there, too) blances the unenviable task of making her an individual, and yet universal, and rides that tightrope perfectly, both in song and acting.  Bravo to all the fine, young artists and to Y/P under the tutelage of the multi-talented, Dani Baldwin!

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




Friday, February 3, 2023

Me and Tammy—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


Photo by David Kinder

The Art of Becoming…

    This one-act play with music about Tammy Wynette, is written by Donnie and directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through February 18th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.  (Masks still required because of Covid).

    “What a piece of work is Man….”  We are all, according to the Bard of Avon et. al., made up of multiple components and all seeking, in one way or another, our purpose in this world...why are we here?!  When we reach the Golden Years, what is our legacy…what are our regrets…our triumphs…and, if we had it to do all over again, what, if anything, would we change?!

    These questions and more are all contained in this short, beautifully, and subtly constructed show, by Horn.  It occurs on the night Tammy Wynette (Danielle Valentine), famous country-western singer/writer, has died in 1998 of a heart attack at 55.  But she seems to have one more mission to complete before her passage to her Eden beyond…to see that her story is told.

    And so she appears to a local drag queen, John (Jeremy Anderson-Sloan), whose specialty happens to be impersonating…you guessed it…the immoral, Tammy.  She tells of her roots, of working the cotton fields, waiting on tables, beautician, etc. and of her failed, many marriages and kids who missed having a “normal” mom around to raise them, and the abuse she endured and addictions she had.  But then there we her successes in music, most notably “Stand By Your Man.”

    And Valentine does Tammy proud, with the renditions of many of her songs.  Some of my favorites are her opening number, the caressingly presented (like flowing down a lazy river) of, “You and Me.”  And “Bedtime Stories” is touching, and the heart-felt, “Dear Daughters,” which will bring a tear to even the most stalwart of us.  She can also belt, too, when called for.  A lovely performance!

    And Anderson-Sloan rings out a couple numbers him self in a rich voice and even does a duet with her.  The most striking thing about the style of the production, is that it is captivating, not because it comes on as a brassy, typical show-biz presentation, but precisely because, it doesn’t!  You feel as if you might be in an intimate setting with these two, as they gently weave tales in songs and stories of lives lived.  Much credit must go to Horn, in his company’s 33 season, and I only wish him another 33 years of success, like this one!

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


Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Ghost of David Belasco—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego


Spirit Willing…Flesh Weak

    This world premiere comedy farce is directed by Stephanie Mulligan and written by C. S. Whitcomb.  It is playing through February12th 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.

    Ghosts are nothing to be trifled with, for the simple reason, they like to trifle with us!  Plenty of comedies in this ilk have graced the stages before, such as Coward’s witty, Blithe Spirit (which Lakewood did a few weeks ago) or the delightful new CBS series, Ghosts.

    Of course, they all have an agenda and a reason to haunt whoever or wherever they choose.  A great resource for local hauntings in this area is Pat Jollata, who has written a number of books on the subject.  And there is even the legend that the ghost of Charles Laughton has been seen gracing the stage of the Oregon Shakespearean Festival.  He was in negotiations to play King Lear there until his untimely death, so maybe he is just fulfilling that contract in the netherworld…who’s to say…?!

    The plot of this play involves at least three layers, including the relationships between the actors onstage themselves; the characters they play; and the spirit world of the ghosts of theatre folk.  The play, “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” and the movie, “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” come to mind, in which characters not yet fully conceived, are seeking a life of their own.  The author of this play, Whitcomb, must be intensely familiar with that dilemma, as she has scores of successful plays and screenplays and awards for her writing under her belt.

    It begins with a play within a play, with the beginnings of a séance with the medium, Madam Blutovsky (Margo Schembre) attempting to raise the spirit of the great theatre Impresario, David Belasco (Todd Hermanson).  In attendance are the well-to-do, Gussie ((Lisa Knox), her lovely niece, Abagail (Kelsey Glasser) and her unimpressed friend, Jerome (Tom Walton).

    But things start off wrong right from the beginning, as thunder and lightning strike the building and one of the characters disappears; the ghost of Steven’s (Jerome) father (Mark Schwahn) does appear to him; and the theatre’s doors are fused shut, forcing the audience (us) unable to leave the building,  so the ever-faithful, stage manage, Reggie (Lucy Paschall) must passify the audience, contact the authorities (Matthew Sunderland & Melissa Standley) and mollify the cast—whew!

    During this course of events, the true nature of the actors come out; the ghosts make their feelings known; and the audience is educated most fully into the inside world of theatre (ghost lights, etc.), creating characters (the actor’s nightmare), possibly the meaning of love, and even a marvelous exchange of character transference (Madam/Gussie).  The description has to be sketchy because there is so much going on and so little I can reveal without giving away some of the plot.

    This play erupts chocked full of lore about the theatrical process and the author certainly knows her stuff (as I can attest, having been in theatre as a director, actor, producer, and writer myself for over 50 years).  But it is so full of the myth and lore of theatre that it maybe should have condensed the story down to fewer observations and streamlined the story more, in order to make it more digestible to the average theatre-goer.

    The actors are wonderful in their complex roles, especially Knox, Schembre and Paschall.  And Mulligan is herself a veteran of the stage and handles this complicated play very well.  I do recommend this play for the knowledge it will give you about theatre.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.