Monday, September 11, 2023

Arsenic and Old Lace—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego


The Merry Madness of the Macabre

        This farce, by Joseph Kesselring, is directed by Don Alder.  It is playing through October 15th at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (free parking lot in the rear).  For more information on the show and/or tickets, go to their website or call 503-635-3901.

    It’s about time this “ole chestnut” was dusted off.  Not only is it one of the rare parodies of thrillers that works (akin to the excellent, A&C Meet Frankenstein), but it also comes at a perfect time (perhaps, unwittingly) in which we can find humor in dire circumstances.  Mel Brooks proclaimed that the best weapon against Evil was laughter, as it hates to be laughed at.  Granted that was not meant to be the theme of this play originally, but it certainly comes at a welcome time…shaking our fists at the horrors of madness, reminding us that sanity and love will still win the day!

    Wow, what a madcap ride!  It begins with two gentle, rich old ladies, Abby ((Caren Graham) and her amiable sister, Marth Brewster (Jane Bement Geesman), pillars of the town to children, as well as elderly, lonely gentlemen, who find comfort in the fruit of the vine of these gentle, helpful souls.

    They do have a noisy nephew, Teddy (Grant Byington), who is the “President” and has a passion for digging holes in the basement; and another nephew, Mortimer (Tom Walton), who is a drama critic who hates plays, but is engaged to Elaine (Melissa Whitney), the daughter of the local Reverend Harper (Michael Streeter); and a nefarious nephew, Jonathon (Todd Hermanson), who is a man of many faces and professions, all outside the law; with his oily companion, Dr. Einstein (Mark Schwahn), who espouses of his talents as a plastic surgeon, that “practice makes perfect.”

    Among the able supporting cast of cops and victims are Joe Healy, Will Futterman, Erik James, Robert Lovitz, and Jeremy Southard.  Being a thrill/mystery, I really don’t want to be a spoiler, so can’t give you much details of the plot.  But will give you hints-- Teddy’s holes/locks have a double meaning; the old gals “Elderbury” wine makes quite a wallop; the window seat is a key clue of concealment; and Mortimer is not quite who he seems.  ‘Nuf said.

    Alder has done a wonderful job of restoring a much-needed nostalgic look to the yesteryear of theatre, which has sorely been neglected, I believe, in the rush of new works to grace the stage.  All the performers do a splendid job of recreating a lost era of theatre.  Graham and Geesman are terrific as the erasable ole ladies, and Hermanson is a ghoulish delight as the chief felonious fiend.

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


Friday, June 2, 2023

The Inheritance (Part 2)—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


        "…and so it goes…”

   This award-winning, epic drama is written by Matthew Lopez, directed by Andres Alcala and produced by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through June 17th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.  (Masks recommended because of Covid).

    WOW!  What a way to end 33 remarkable seasons at Triangle, with Donald Horn being the driving, inspirational force!  If the next 33 seasons are anything like the last ones, we are in for an amazing ride!  Horn has never failed to choose/produce/direct/design plays that are both educational and enlightening.  He has, in a creative tapestry of worlds, woven into the fabric of our lives, unforgettable experiences.  My hat’s off to you, my friend, and here’s to more of the same, but even better.  And Happy Pride Month, too!

     And now to the play, which has been a six plus hour roller-coaster ride, winding out this season with Part 2 of, The Inheritance.  Should you have seen Part I?  It would have been helpful but this story does a good job of standing on its own by giving references to its beginnings.  Suffice to say, it has an outstanding ensemble cast of 13 men being the narrators of, and playing the characters in, this story.  And it’s all done on an essentially bare stage, and with masterful direction by Alcala!

    I hesitate to give too much of the plot away, as the audience must make some discoveries on their own.  But it begins with a group of gay men having a need to express their stories onstage, via the intervention of the famous author, E. M. Forster (Gary Powell) who will gently guide their creative paths at times.

    It begins with Eric (James Sharinghousen) an emotionally involved political activist and his lover, Toby (Michael Teufel), an aspiring but erratic author/playwright.  They have broken off relationships at the beginning of this part and Toby has taken up with the lead, young actor in his play, Adam (Brave Sohacki), but it seems Adam has become somewhat temperamental, and so that union is not going well.  And so Toby takes up with a male prostitute, Leo (Sohacki, again) and a downward spiral begins, involving drugs and alcohol.

    Meanwhile Eric, has become involved with Henry (Gary Wayne Cash), an eccentric billionaire, who takes a liking to Eric and wants him in his life, but he is a bit of a recluse when it come to sex, as his only real love was with his former mate, Walter (Gary Norman), who has passed on.

    And underlying all this is the threat of AIDS and its devastating effects on this community.  All these lives will again intersect and overlap, some with touching outcomes and others end disastrously.  Others that interact with these major stories, playing various characters are Tanner Huff, Dylan Hankins, Matthew Sunderland, Kima Camat, Eric Zulu, Adam John Roper, and Julio Cesar Velazque.  (To flesh out more of these characters, read my review of Part 1).

    As I’ve said, I wanted to keep the synopsis simple so as not to be a spoiler.  But a great deal of discussion does go on regarding the color issue, political differences, the nature of creativity and love/intimacy, AIDS, etc.  It’s a very rick story but one that an audience should discover.

    Every one of the performances is vital to the success of this epic production.  Powell is outstanding as Forester, and is particularly touch playing Margaret, the mother of an AIDS victim.  Teufel gives a heartbreaking portrayal of a creative genius who is overwhelmed by his success (“the world is too much with us”).  Cash proves the old adage that money can by love, so he buries himself in work.  Sohacki gives us a realistic view of a tortured youth trying to navigate the big, bad world.  And Sharinghousen has the unenviable task of taking us on the lonest journey of self-discovery, which gives us hope for a better tomorrow.

    Alcala and Horn have some amazing handiwork here and all the blood, sweat and tears pay off in a powerful production!  This is not for everyone because of the subject matter and language.  I highly recommend this show.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.



Monday, April 10, 2023

Of Mice And Men—21TEN Theatre—SE Portland


“All the Lonely People…”

    Life In Arts Productions present John Steinbeck’s immortal classic drama, at what used to be the old Shoebox Theatre space (and Theatre Vertigo) at 2110 SE 10th Ave.  The production will run through April 22nd.  For more information, go to their website at or for tickets, or their email,

“…where do they all come from?”      That should be the story’s theme. All these characters are set-apart from the American Dream…awkwardly searching for meaning, friendship, and a reason to go forward…perhaps, not much different than today. Except now, we put our faith, not in Mankind, but in the cold god of Technology…shame on us!

    Steinbeck’s real claim to fame was, of course, The Grapes of Wrath, which was made into a very good film in the 40’s with Henry Fonda.  Later, Gary Sinise and John Malkovitch adapted a rawer stage version ofit.  They also did a good film version of, Of Mice and Men.  But my favorite was a 30’s film version with Burgess Meridith and Lon Chaney, Jr.  (Personally, my favorite book of his was, Travels With Charley, the story of his adventures around the country with his dog…as I’m a dog person).

    There has been some criticism of the author’s view of George (Benjamin Daniel Philip) and Lenny’s (Travis Schlegel) relationship, that George is taking advantage of Lenny’s strength, rather than finding help for his mental deficiencies, to get jobs.  In other words, George needs Lenny more than Lenny needs George.  You decide…

    They bounce from job to job in the fields of Northern California of more than a hundred years ago, seeking a stake so they can live out their American dream.  George is a quick, feisty fellow, looking for a fast buck without too much effort. And his supposed albatross, Lenny, is a burly man physically but more than a little light in the head, who just likes to pet soft things.  Together they find themselves on their next job, where the Boss (Chuck Weed) has been waiting for them to buck grain.

    They meet up with an old retainer, Candy (Ron K. Palmblad), who has a hand missing and a blind old dog.  There is also the stable buck, a black man with a crooked back, called Crooks (Jelani Kee).  We also meet the Boss’s surly son, Curley (Chloe Duckart) and his flirtatious wife (Bobbie Kaye Kupfner).

    They get assigned to Slim’s (Akitora Ishii) tea, who’s a decent fellow.  Among the other ranch hands are Carlson (Brandon Michael) and Whit (Steve Radley).  There is also a wandering mistral (Iris Evans), who underscores, with a guitar, some of the incidents in the play, as well as a few songs the cast sings to emphasize their feelings.  And the cast, as well, narrates parts of the book at times, to color the landscape of the play.

    The play has its own power, which must be seen to appreciate.  In addition to the music/songs, there is a stylized fight scene, snapped in photo-like s stances, which is brilliant.  The set (Kyra Sanford, designer) is sparse to accommodate the many settings of the scenes but works beautifully.  The cast is equally powerful with not a sour note among them.  One can capture the wandering looks in Lenny’s eyes; the restless spirit in George’s movements; the righteous indignation in Crooks demeanor; the hopeless bearing in Candy’s “dying of the light” demeanor; the longing in Curley’s wife’s sashaying; the volcanic rage instilled in Curley; and the quiet acceptance of Slims empty fate.

    There is no director credited, as they all seem to have a hand in it.  But I assume Philip, as Artistic Director, is the driving force.  This a new company on the Portland scene and, if this is any example of what is in store to the local artistic scene, we are in for a treat!  BRAVO!

    This is an intense play and may not be suited for everyone, as well as containing the “N” word.  Also, it may hold only about 50 folks so best get your tickets soon.  But I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


Friday, April 7, 2023

The Inheritance (Part I)—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


“What a Piece of Work is Man…”

    This award-winning, epic drama is written by Matthew Lopez, directed by Andres Alcala and produced by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot next to the building) through April 17th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.  (Masks recommended because of Covid).

    It is said, we are the sum total of all our parts.  And those “parts” may stretch back generations. Our ancestors contributed much to who we have become.  Our individual chemical/biological make-up is a factor, as is as is the nurturing from relatives, teachers, friends and the wide, world itself that we encounter along the journey of our maturing.  What we make of it and what legacy we may leave behind is firmly within our grasps….let us make proud our heritage.  We stand on the shoulders of others to become who we are today…and, likewise, others will stand on our shoulders…let us ROAR!

    This is an epic story of three generations of gay men in NYC beginning in 2015 and ending, in Part I, in 2017.  The saga continues in Part II from June 1st to 17th.  It is inspired by E. M. Forster’s, Howard’s End.  It begins with Eric (James Sharinghousen), a political activist, with his boyfriend, Toby (Michael Teufel) and what happens when a stranger, Adam (Brave Sohacki) enter their lives, uprooting them and catapulting them into different directions.

    This whole endeavor is orchestrated by these three, et. al., by E. M. Forster himself (Gary Powell), who this group has called upon to help them tell their story.  Toby is an aspiring writer and wants to write the “great, American novel,” but is persuaded to make it into a play about his own life, which is forthcoming.

    And Adam, being an aspiring actor, jockeys to play the lead.  Among others in this menagerie of souls is Eric’s boss, the very serious, Jasper (Adam John Roper) and his lover, Tristan (Eric Zulu).  There are also the rather amusing Jason's, two lovers with the same first names (Tanner Huff &Julio Cesar Velazquez).  There are also some rich friends of theirs, a developer, the reclusive Henry (Gary Wayne Cash) and his shy lover, Walter (Gary Norman).  Henry also has two rather obnoxious sons, Charles (Kimo Camat) and Paul (Roper, again).  And other characters yet to be fleshed out, Peter (Matthew Sunderland) and Dylan Hankins.  There stories and relationships are complicated, varied and, also, full of surprises, which need to be viewed, not summarized.

    I’ve review Sharinghousen before and he is also an asset to any production, as he is here.  His character is both charming and maddening, at times, but very human.  Teufel is terrific as the tortured playwright, trying to exorcise his demons without ever facing them. Sohacki is seemingly disarming as the naïve (or not) snake-in-the-grass that slithers into their hearts and destroys their idyllic garden.  Powell is an ole pro of Portland stages (I even acted with him myself once) and is perfect playing the grand architect, Forster, of this extravaganza.  But I was blown away by Norman, as Walter, who has this amazing long, poignant  monologue of his awkward childhood and his touching gift that he gives to those with Aids…a tour de force…Bravo!

    Alcala has done a super job of telling this story in a stylized way, much of the time, and pacing his actors between tension and tenderness.  And Horn has, once again, educated and entertained us with his choice of material….and after 33 years, my hat’s off to you!  A word about the setting and style:  It is an essentially bare stage with allthe actors mostly in view much of the time.  A lot like Pirandello’s, Six Characters in Search of an Author;  Chekov/Simon’s, The Good Doctor; Marat/Sade; and even, the film, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, in which the characters, yet to be realized, have a say in their own development.  I love this style of theatre because, in part, it allows the audience to view the artistic process close up.

    It should be noted, this is R rated for subject matter and language.  I highly recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


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.