DeAnn Welker

 

Tomorrow, tomorrow: We love ya

Clackamas Rep's "Annie"brings the orphans in from the cold and heats things up for the audience

“Never work with animals or children” was the sage actorly advice from legendary actor and comedian W.C. Fields. Luckily for us, Clackamas Repertory Theatre steered far from this piece of advice with its production of Annie at Clackamas Community College’s Osterman Theatre in Oregon City.

This production’s title character is a child actor, eighth-grader Ava Marie Horton, who is a true delight as Annie. She is joined in the cast by the children who play the rest of the orphan girls under the charge of Miss Hannigan (Cassi Kohl). Each one of the child actors is a delight, but together — when singing “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” for example — they really shine. The choreography and musicality of that song helps, as the girls use buckets and brushes to make music while cleaning the floor and are in lock-step with their dancing — one even swings from the lights! It is perfectly choreographed orphanage chaos that will have audiences singing along.

Andrés Alcalá is the center of attraction as Daddy Warbucks. Photo: Travis Nodurft

But Clackamas Rep didn’t stop at the children. The golden dog playing Annie’s orphaned dog Sandy — who is not credited in the program, so I can’t give him or her proper name recognition — wasn’t in many scenes but stole the show each time (he or she) appeared onstage.

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As You Like It, indoors & out

Bag&Baggage blends Shakespeare's comedy with Charles Johnson's "Love in a Forest," and leads the audience on a merry chase

If the heat of summer has you longing to escape to the cool shade of the forest, you’re not alone: The lovers (both hesitant and willing) in Bag&Baggage’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, are also escaping to the forest, for love and merriment.

But Bag&Baggage isn’t settling for any other production of As You Like It. Its production — titled As You Like It, or Love in a Forest — combines Shakespeare’s As You Like It with Charles Johnson’s Love in a Forest, based on the same text Shakespeare based his on, and written more than 100 years later.

Andrew Beck (left) and TS McCormick. Casey Campbell Photography

Bag&Baggage Associate Artistic Director Cassie Greer adapted this script for Bag&Baggage’s Vault Theater and the outdoor alley next to the building, in the heart of downtown Hillsboro. Greer also directs, and sometimes you wonder if she has brought this play to Hillsboro or if she has brought Hillsboro to this play. Either way, it works magically.

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‘Romeo and Juliet,’ fresh again

Jaded from too many R&Js? Dámaso Rodriguez's production for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival makes the tale seem vital and new.

ASHLAND — Romeo and Juliet must be a theater director’s greatest challenge. How does one make what is arguably the best-known play in the English language fresh and new for audiences who have probably seen or read a version or several of this play already?

Ask Dámaso Rodriguez, who directs the production running through October 12 on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Allen Elizabethan Stage. He manages in a number of ways to make Romeo and Juliet something new, without gimmicks and while sticking closely to the original play.

Nurse (Robin Goodrin Nordli) tells Juliet (Emily Ota) that her cousin Tybalt has been killed and her husband Romeo has been banished from Verona. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

First, instead of casting the role of “Chorus,” he has the entire cast — shrouded in white or black cloaks — serve as the chorus. Romeo and Juliet, in fact, recite the opening setup, in which the narrator/Chorus tells us what is about to transpire. Having the star-crossed lovers themselves tell us their own fates has a profound impact here, because you find yourself wondering why, if they know what’s about to happen, can’t they stop it? Which is, as Rodriguez explains in the playbill, the real tragedy: “The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet isn’t their untimely death but the myriad ways it could have been avoided.” He heightens that sense of “WHY CAN’T THEY MAKE IT STOP?!” over and over, starting with them reading us their own fates.

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Saving Shakespeare, word by word

Ashland's daring and delightful "The Book of Will" tells the tale of the Bard's company rescuing his plays (and themselves) after his death

ASHLAND — It’s no secret that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival loves Shakespeare’s plays. The company was created 83 years ago to perform his works, and has been doing so ever since. In the past decade, though, it’s also demonstrated a passion for stories about the most famous playwright who’s ever lived. In 2009 the festival staged the world premiere of Bill Cain’s Equivocation; then the movie-turned-play Shakespeare in Love last season; and now popular playwright Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will — as much a tribute to the players who loved the Bard as a tribute to the Bard himself.

This production — one of three that opened in June on the stage of the open-air Allen Elizabethan Theatre, the largest of the festival’s three performance spaces — is perhaps the perfect play for OSF audiences, who geek out on their own love of the Bard and can wholly relate to characters like John Heminges (Jeffrey King), whose wife, Rebecca (Kate Mulligan) tells him, “Most people go to church. You went to the Globe.” And the cast is filled with OSF veterans (plus a couple of newer faces) who have a love of Shakespeare in common with their audiences.

Henry Condell (David Kelly) and John Heminges (Jeffrey King) are pleased by the reaction of Anne Hathaway (Kate Mulligan) to the newly completed folio of her late husband’s plays. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

King, David Kelly, and Kevin Kenerly — with 66 years at OSF among them — bring the last of The King’s Men (the acting company of which Will was a part) to life as The Book of Will opens. It will be King’s Heminges and Kelly’s Henry Condell who do the bulk of the work here. These are the two friends who ensured Will’s words would live on. But Kenerly gets to shine brightest in the opening scene: He portrays Richard Burbage, after all, the head of the King’s Men and the star of Shakespeare’s plays. Burbage is angry about how folks are performing Shakespeare since Will’s death, and he shows off to one young actor in a tavern, giving Kenerly opportunity to perform bits from some of the great plays of the canon. It’s glorious to see Kenerly — who’s played Romeo, Hotspur, Macduff, Orlando, Oberon, and many others — show off his own craft, and Burbage’s.

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Love’s Labor’s strikes up the band

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's new musical version on the outdoor stage delightfully updates "LLL" for a modern age

ASHLAND – One of the great joys of seeing plays in repertory at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is seeing the same actors in multiple roles, showcasing the rare abilities of repertory company members.

This is on display nowhere more clearly than the Allen Elizabethan Theatre stage in this summer’s production of Love’s Labor’s Lost, which continues through October 14. Many of the actors who take on major roles here are also in major roles in other plays.

Longaville (Jeremy Gallardo), Dumain (William Thomas Hodgson), Berowne( Stephen Michael Spencer) and Ferdinand (Daniel José Molina) disguise themselves as Muscovites as they set out to woo the Princess of France and her ladies. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

There’s Vilma Silva as Boyet, who is the driver of so much dark action (and comedy) in this season’s sell-out hit, Destiny of Desire.

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Take a letter, kill a lumberjack

At Profile, just what the world needs right now: a comedy about a cult of chainsaw-wielding killer secretaries (social commentary included)

These are not your grandfather’s secretaries. Unless, of course your grandfather was a lumberjack in the fictional town of Big Bone, Oregon, in the 1990s. In that case, the women at the center of this latest Profile Theatre production very well could have known, worked with, and possibly murdered your grandfather.

Secretaries, the play, was born from the fruitful minds of the Five Lesbian Brothers playwright collective (Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron, who is one of Profile’s featured playwrights this season and the reason this show is being mounted by Profile). There are so many reasons to put on a play like this one, right now, and director Dawn Monique Williams homes in on those reasons with her skillful focus and expert direction.

Profile Theatre’s “Secretaries”: the office dead pool. Photo: David Kinder

For starters, there is the #MeToo movement: Women are freer to stand up and speak out about mistreatment – at least more than lumber mill secretaries in an Oregon timber town in the ’90s. The women depicted here were not free to do much: they couldn’t have sex or even eat solid food (strictly SlimFast diets all around, of course). But they took matters into their own hands once a month by murdering a lumberjack. The play centers on new secretary Patty (Claire Rigsby, a newcomer to Portland stages, who exudes the youthful naivete and excitement the role needs). Patty is so happy to be welcomed by the other secretaries, but she slowly starts to realize there’s something strange going on here.

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A revolution on the stage

Alice Birch's "Revolt. She said. Revolt Again" is a fierce upending of patriarchal business as usual and a resounding call to action

Alice Birch’s play Revolt. She said. Revolt again. is impossibly difficult to put into words. And that’s sort of the point. Because words are inadequate to describe, let alone remedy, all of the injustices women face. At least the words we have in this society, dominated by white men, where we speak a language of patriarchy: “Make love to you.” “I want you to be my wife.” Where we still laugh at jokes about rape, assault, and violence against women.

This is the world that Birch was taking on when she was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to write a play responding to “the provocation that well-behaved women seldom make history.” She took her commission seriously. The stage directions in her play — which are generally sparse — include one bold-faced sentence: “Most importantly, this play should not be well-behaved.”

Pushing the limits: Third Rail’s “Revolt. She said. Revolt Again.” Photo: Owen Carey

Where words are inadequate, though, Third Rail Rep’s company and cast are up to the task. Director Rebecca Lingafelter has taken Birch’s brilliant words and sparse stage direction and brought the play fully to life in the intimate Coho Theatre space. The pacing is tight and breakneck, whether the scene seems tightly staged or like a free-for-all. Scenic designer Jenny Ampersand’s black wall and stage are interrupted by a patch of finished wall and linoleum (the backstage you will walk through to get to your seat is far more elaborate than the on-stage stage). Ampersand is also the costume designer, so you might wonder if a pair of discarded shoes is scenic or costume design. But, of course, it’s both.

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