THEATER

Political theater and baby carrots

At Hand2Mouth, a crowd of theater people takes in the first presidential debate. At least the snacks were good.

Hand2Mouth. It’s the name of a local small theater company, and also aptly describes the pose many Portlanders struck Monday night while watching the first Clinton/Trump debate. The 15-year-old company, whose defining characteristics include a fourth-wall-puncturing, “meta” perspective and a mostly female membership, couldn’t resist the opportunity to screen the uniquely surreal and female-centric political spectacle in its also-appropriately-named venue: the Shout House. With a 40-plus-person turnout, the event seems to have doubled as a successful fundraiser.

“Behind me to my left, there’s an Adult Crying Area,” announced event host Tex Clark, nattily dressed in a navy blue suit. “We have lotion tissues. At the back of the room, we have snacks and alcohol, and we may be taking dance breaks as necessary.” Clark went on to explain that Hand2Mouth had initially planned one more amenity: an outdoor pyre upon which attendees could “burn whatever was left of their political idealism.” (Their city burn permit was denied, but the statement itself left us groping for the metaphorical aloe.)

Call-and-response theater at Hand2Mouth. Lots and lots of response.

Call-and-response theater at Hand2Mouth. Lots and lots of response.

Well-known local actor Tony Green offered a few words, too, sharing a potent childhood memory of his Latina mother being yelled at in a grocery store line as she waited to cash his Anglo father’s Air Force disability check by a man who assumed she was a “Mexican taking welfare.” He explained how such early experiences and his current career in social services have sensitized him to Trump’s hateful rhetoric and inaccurate assumptions. The audience appeared to broadly agree.

Continues…

Broadway Rose takes flight

The off-Broadway musical "Fly by Night" glows in the company's smart and funny new production

Broadway Rose and director Isaac Lamb are bringing the fleeting magic of stardust to the stage with their new production of the 2014 musical Fly by Night.

A potent mix of youthful optimism and struggle marks this dark comedy. From the opening, Joe Theissen’s narrator (one among many parts he plays), decked out in brill-combed hair, thin tie and small-lapel suit, takes us back to the kind of dirty but creative streets of Greenwich Village in 1965. The musical has the feel, look, and smell of a dusty early Simon and Garfunkel album, if it were co-written by Rod Serling: plot twists around learning through loss, and how to channel it with some catchy riffs.

"Fly by Night": coffee, company, songs for the crowd. Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer

“Fly by Night”: coffee, company, songs for the crowd. Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer

Fly by Night is an off-Broadway musical by Kim Rosenstock, Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick, and it has the layers, heavy crafting and emotional insight that Yale mafia graduates are known for. From the first number, Circles in the Sand, the audience is hooked. You want to buy the soundtrack. It’s updated folk music that came out of the coffee shops and underground taverns in the early Bob Dylan-worshipping days: simple, syrupy, good pop with clever lyrics. John Quesenberry leads the band’s performances over two and a half hours with energy, enthusiasm, and charm. Connolly and Mitnick’s music is like a good Indie record; it’s Vampire Weekend and the Shins pared down to groovy elements. There is a seamless transition into every song and it’s amazing to watch dialogue slide into song. The “now they’re going to sing” abrupt monologues are missing, and as the cream separates, the dearness of the story rises to the top.

Continues…

“The Graduate: review: Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

Superficial script undermines Bag & Baggage's production of the theatrical version of a '60s classic

Many of us probably fondly remember The Graduate as a tale of idealistic young lovers Ben Braddock and Elaine Robinson triumphing over a corrupt, plastic Cold War American establishment embodied by Elaine’s alcoholic mother, Mrs. Robinson.

But Terry Johnson’s lumbering 2000 theatrical adaptation of Charles Webb’s 1963 novel makes the story seem surprisingly dated, the ostensible main characters superficial.

St. Cyr and Colbourne in Bag & Baggage Productions' 'The Graduate.' Photo: Casey Campbell.

St. Cyr and Colbourne in Bag & Baggage Productions’ ‘The Graduate.’ Photo: Casey Campbell.

What Bag & Baggage Productions‘ staging, playing this month in Hillsboro, does have, though, is some deft comedy and a fascinating Mrs. Robinson who’s almost worth the price of admission, despite being onstage for only about half the show. Rather than merely embodying hypocritical society’s denial of both Ben and Elaine’s wishes — the resistance they must overcome to find fulfillment — she becomes a fierce, tragic heroine who’s ahead of her time.

Continues…

Vreeland: The Artful Dowager

In Triangle's "Full Gallop," Margie Boulé plays fashion and publishing legend Diana Vreeland as a singular force of nature

About 24 hours ago Kate Moss, the long-legged and controversially thin model who pricked the ribs of ’90s feminism, announced she’s started a modeling agency: “not for pretty people.”

Only hours before, Andrew Bolton, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute curator, was given a page in Vogue for a passé event in fashion time, this year’s Manus x Machina gala, the $25,000 per person event held this year all the way back in May to fundraise and promote the trickle-down philanthropy at our nation’s best museum.

This is not just the opinion of the critic writing it. In America the stewards of art – fine, moving, sometimes with a skilled ensemble cast – have the undesirable day job. In the Europe that Diana Vreeland was hungry for, she saw that the future of fashion and art had a foundation: funded and available.

Continues…

Profile Theatre artistic director Josh Hecht: Focusing the lens

Newly appointed artistic director broadens Profile's scope to include new plays, new collaborations, and a new emphasis on theater as a lens on society

By HEATHER HELINSKY

Profile Theatre carved out a unique niche in Portland’s theater scene by focusing narrowly and deeply. Each season showcases only a single venerated playwright, affording audiences a deeper understanding through experiencing several plays from throughout the writer’s career.

Josh Hecht takes over as artistic director at Portland's Profile Theatre.

Josh Hecht takes over as artistic director at Portland’s Profile Theatre. Photo: Thomas Grady.

With newly hired artistic director Josh Hecht, though, Profile hopes to broaden its scope in several ways: chronologically, by adding emerging young playwrights to the mix; collaboratively, by partnering with other Portland theaters and cultural organizations of all kinds; and thematically, by adjusting what Hecht sees as the goal of its unique mission, from putting playwrights under the microscope to using their plays as a telescope pointed out at 21st century.

“Along with other members of Profile’s search committee, I was impressed by Josh’s credentials as an educator and award-winning director with broad and deep experience in American theatre — in NYC and across the U.S.,” Profile board chair Steve Young said in announcing Hecht’s hiring. “I am also impressed by his communication, collaboration, and leadership skills and by his passionate belief in theatre’s responsibility to contribute to the civic life of our community.”

Continues…

Oh, the horror: devil gets his due

Portland Center Stage trumps the season with a sharp and funny revival of the dark and twisted musical comedy "Little Shop of Horrors"

Maybe you’ve heard this story before. Exotic guy who talks tons of trash shows up out of the blue and fascinates just about everybody with his general weirdness. Schlub of a loser soon learns the guy is scary and dangerous in addition to being an obnoxious loudmouth, but the exotic guy promises the schlub his heart’s desire. So the schlub, after some anxious soul-searching, capitulates and helps the exotic guy on his quest for world domination. People get chomped to pieces in the process.

No, it’s not the story of the Republican Party making its devil’s deal with Donald Trump in pursuit of the Oval Office. It’s the musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors, and the exotic guy is a blood-sucking, singing plant from outer space. The schlub is a hapless clerk named Seymour at a Skid Row floral shop. His heart’s desire is Audrey, his pretty if slightly dim and bedraggled fellow clerk, who’s in an unfortunate relationship with a sadistic dentist. And the Oval Office is … well, a little trim house out in the suburbs, somewhere that’s green.

Nick Cearley as Seymour, with a baby-sized Audrey II. Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Nick Cearley as Seymour, with a baby-sized Audrey II. Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Little Shop, that evergreen 1983 off-off-Broadway musical based on a 1960 schlock movie filmed in two days by Roger Corman on the not-yet-struck set of another low-budget flick, opened Portland Center Stage’s newest season Friday night, and the good news is, it’s a solid, straightforward, blissfully unconceptualized production of a reliably entertaining show that doesn’t need any embellishment. Director Bill Fennelly doesn’t try to reinvent the thing: he just makes sure it’s polished and paced and, yes, entertaining. If you have a warm spot for Little Shop – I do, and fondly recall, among a lengthy list of Little Shops, a long-ago Portland production starring Randall Stuart as Seymour, Margie Boulé as Audrey, Randy Knee as dentist Orin, and Ernie Casciato as shop owner Mushnik – you’re likely to feel warm and fuzzy all over again. If you’ve never seen Little Shop … well, welcome to the club.

Continues…

The great American (gun) divide

Playwright E.M. Lewis and actor Vin Shambry dart across the shooting range looking for answers to the problem that never ends in "The Gun Show" at CoHo

The lament is one all too many Americans likely can relate to, even if not always in the anguished and urgent way that the playwright E. M. Lewis feels it, and that the actor Vin Shambry delivers it in the latest production at CoHo Theater. The show is always on.

“The movie theater lives in my head and there’s only one show, There’s only ever one show!

That show — brought to you by the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, an enduring frontier ethos, a complex accidental alloy of other historical, cultural, demographic and economic factors, and (maybe) executive producer Wayne LaPierre — is the Gun Show.

Vin Shambry, carrying the debate onstage. Photo: Owen Carey

Vin Shambry, carrying the debate onstage. Photo: Owen Carey

The Gun Show is the title of Lewis’s compact yet high-caliber theatrical, a short one-hour blast of personal recollection, rhetoric and genuinely conflicted questioning about the gun show that plays out in varying versions throughout our society, our political forums and our private lives. Some versions center on practicality, some on recreation, others on fear, danger, mayhem. Some are more personal, for good or ill, than others. All, increasingly, share a broad backdrop of lamentable violence, controversy and division.

Continues…

  • AAFE 300x250 Ad 2016
  • Gun-Show-Oregon-Arts-Watch-Ad-V1
  • bv_oaw_season_300x250
  • 300X250_artswatch
  • 300x250-trevor
  • NFN_300x250
  • Artslandia Daily Calendar