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 www.lakewood-center.org 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 na├»ve, 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.

--DJS

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 www.imagotheatre.com 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.

--DJS