Carol Triffle is Portland’s most prominent stage absurdist, a quiet comic renegade who makes a virtue of never connecting the dots. Her theater is whimsical, outrageous, so ordinary that it defies the ordinary, stretching it into cosmic pretzel shapes. It’s an anti-theater, almost, bopping narrative on the nose and then ducking around the corner to put on clown makeup and reappear as something utterly different, yet somehow also just the same. At its worst, it falls apart. At its best, it feels a bit like watching Lucille Ball or Danny Kaye caught inside a spinning clothes dryer and howling to get out. Head-scratching occurs at a Triffle show, and the audience can be divided between those who adore the effect and those who simply scratch their heads.
Francesca, Isabella, Margarita on a Cloud, Triffle’s newest show at Imago Theatre (where she is co-founder and, with partner Jerry Mouawad, creator of the mask-and-costume phenomenon Frogz), is the story, if that’s the right word, of three sisters who feud inseparably, supporting one another through thin and thin. Margarita (Ann Sorce, an Imago vet who’s utterly internalized Triffle’s madcap expressionist style) is the one who won all the beauty contests. Francesca (Megan Skye Hale) is the one who lost all the same beauty contests. Isabella (Elizabeth Fagan), the baby, is the one who seems to have just accidentally starred in a porno film. Isabella’s boyfriend RayRay (Kyle Delamarter) and Margarita’s fella Bob the Weatherman (Sean Bowie) drop in now and again, eager, somehow, to attach to the sisterly scene.
What seems like foolishness, and often is, has a way of slipping almost unnoticeably into little moments of profoundness, which is a Triffle trick. The show, as is often the case, is wildly uneven, sometimes skit-like, sometimes pulling off the sort of mime-based physical bravura that’s rarely seen on Portland stages. I wouldn’t tell you how it all turns out even if I could. Take a chance. Scratch your head. Laugh out loud. Fizzle or sizzle, it’s all in how you and Triffle match up. The slapstick sisters float on their cloud through June 19.
AS SEASONS WIND DOWN and summer shows haven’t quite kicked in, it’s a good week to catch up on things that’ve already opened (you’ll find a lot of possibilities below in ArtsWatch Links), cruise a few galleries to see the May art exhibits before the June ones move in, and maybe buy some popcorn and hit the megaplex. And tonight – Tuesday, May 24 – you can grab your hat and head on down to the Siren Theatre in Old Town/Northwest for The Velodrome, an evening of improv comedy. I’m going to level with you: I don’t know a lot about it. But it brings together the comics Teacher’s Pet, Gladys Kravit, and – the pony I’m backing based on the name alone – the Portland Kale Grazers. They shoot. They score. Who knows? – maybe they even win.
MAKING AMERICA 1940s AGAIN. “’Stella!’ the woolly mammoth roars, and the American culture of the 1940s escapes into the 21st century by the skin of its teeth. Surprisingly, it feels right at home.” I travel through time with Artists Rep’s revival of The Skin of Our Teeth (ca. 1942) and Portland Center Stage’s revival of A Streetcar Named Desire (ca. 1947) and find them, well, contemporary.
FILMWATCH WEEKLY. Marc Mohan’s weekly film wrap keeps you up-to-date on what’s new and notable on the city’s big screens.
AMY HAVIN BRINGS THE HOLDING PROJECT TO LIFE. Jamuna Chiarini interviews Havin, a dancer/choreographer from Israel via San Diego and Seattle, about her new Portland collective of dancers and filmmakers and their new dance piece HAVA | חוה. Think GaGa and Ohad Naharin.
MURRAY PERAHIA: FINDING BEAUTY IN THE BEAST. Jeff Winslow reviews the renowned pianist’s wrestling match for Portland Piano International with monster works by Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven (the piano sonata op. 106, “the biggest beast of all”), and concludes: “It was as if man and beast, Perahia and Beethoven, had somehow melded into one super-powered creature. It was a performance I’ll remember for many years to come.”
HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND HATE-WATCH THE BACHELORETTE. “On Monday night,” Kourney Paranteau begins her confessional, “a summer-long love affair between a woman and her nearly thirty suitors commences. Around the country, hundreds of bottles of rosé will be uncorked, pajama pants with nicknames embroidered across the asses will be slipped on, and Twitter will light up with exclamation points.” Let the heckling and fantasizing begin.
MUSIC IN SMALL SPACES. Brett Campbell celebrates the innovative producing group, which has been presenting top-notch music in intimate and relaxed spaces on the West Side for the past six years, and laments that it’s shutting up shop. That still leaves us, Campbell declares, with the small-scale, big-impact pleasures of Third Angle New Music’s Studio Series at Zoomtopia on the East Side.
DELGANI QUARTET: CELEBRATING AMERICAN SOUNDS AND SCENES. Gary Ferrington has been following the first season of the exciting new Eugene quartet in its adventures with new commissions and fresh approaches, and now writes about its season-ending encounters with the likes of Lou Harrison, Jennifer Higdon, George Gershwin, and William Grant Still. Not a bad beginning. Not a bad beginning at all.
FRANCOFONIA LOVES THE LOUVRE. Aleksander Sokurov, creator of Russian Ark, the fantastic 2012 cinematic journey through St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, turns his imagination in this new film to the Louvre in Paris, a cultural center that, as Marc Mohan points out in his review, was as imperiled as the Hermitage had been in the Siege of Leningrad: “Hitler held Paris in the palm of his hand. It’s really quite astonishing that things turned out as well as they did.”
SRIJON CHOWDHURY, REMEMBERING MEMORY. Nim Wunnan traces the sources and effects of the painter’s installation at Upfor Gallery, Memory Theatre, which takes its origins from a never-realized project by the 16th century Italian inventor Giulio Camillo, who “imagined a universal device for the storage and retrieval of knowledge in the form of a coliseum-style room.”
A PAIR OF NOTES TO SELF. Adrienne Flagg’s time-tripping new Note to Self at CoHo Theatre creatively crosses generations by pairing older and younger actors as aspects of the same character, and then cutting them loose on common concerns. In Note to Self, across time, Marty Hughley follows the rehearsal and creative process to find out what’s going on. And in A tribe of artists, noting the self, Christa Morletti McIntyre reviews the production.
ALLIE HANKINS: ON THE VERGE OF OVERFLOWING. Jamuna Chiarini talks with dancer/choreographer Hankins about her two-part solo show better to be alone than to wish you were, which “ponders the illogical and sordid practices of love and sex.”
THE UDMURTS: A HUNGER FOR A NEW MYTHOLOGY. “The first things you should know are that the Udmurts are a people, and that horses may house spirits,” Christa Morletti McIntyre writes in her review of Defunkt Theatre’s latest show, about the creating of a new urban clan. “When wild people are settled in and grow older, their habitats seem unreal; they contain an uncomfortable ground. No one likes to sit with the dead. More than that, no one likes to sit with people who live between the living and the dead.”
DHEEPAN PUTS A FRESH SPIN ON THE IMMIGRANT SAGA. Marc Mohan reviews last year’s top prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the tale of a trio of Sri Lankans who pose as a family so they can gain refugee status and resettle in France. It opens Friday at Living Room Theaters.
ARTSWATCH INTERVIEWS THE WRITER/DIRECTOR OF THE LOBSTER. There has never been a film like The Lobster, a “bizarre, high-concept” piece that, Erik McClanahan writes, creates “an alternate-reality dystopian universe” in which “single folks are forced to find a new mate in 45 days or become an animal of their choosing.” McClanahan talks with Yorgos Lanthimos in an attempt to bring out the filmmaker’s own inner beast.
KATHERINE BRADFORD: WE FLOAT AND DREAM. Nim Wunnan stares deeply into the pool of Bradford’s “small, luminous” paintings at Adams and Ollman, and discovers a fresh approach to acrylic, which is known for its synthetic modern texture: “Big names like Warhol, Riley, Kelly, and Lichtenstein got acrylic into museums as an almost ideally flat medium, a spiritual middle ground between painting and photography. The surface of Bradford’s paintings reads more like a Monet.”
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