THEATER


by KATIE TAYLOR

French actress and cabaret star Jacqueline Dufresnoy, called by a friend “a faithful child of the Catholic church,” booked Notre Dame cathedral for her first marriage in 1960 to a handsome and somewhat racy sports journalist. The huge crowd waiting on the steps outside gave the happy couple a terrific sendoff, except for the ones who threw garbage at them.

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On stage, on screen and on vinyl, Dufresnoy was known as La Coccinelle — Ladybird — either a cute reference to her favorite polka-dotted dress as a child or a derogatory French term for a transvestite, depending on which account you read. She was born Jacques Charles Dufresnoy in Paris in 1931.

Scene from Europa di Notte — a truly terrible movie, but a good example of Dufresnoy’s stage charisma.

Prurient little Italian news clip from the early ‘60s.

Bonus shot: “Avec mon p’tit faux cul” (With my little fake ass). Best song title ever.

Previous Double Shot: Barrel of Monkeys

Your barista is Katie Taylor, a Portland-based writer, opera singer, director and librettist. Contact Katie at mondaydoubleshot@gmail.com.

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Review: Imago Theatre’s ‘Pimento + Pullman’

Angels, clowns, and cosmic questions in a Thornton Wilder/Jerry Mouawad double feature

For four nights only ending Sunday, with a free ticket promotion for its newsletter subscribers, Imago presents Pimento & Pullman, a lighthearted living-room short that Imago’s Jerry Mouawad has written in-house followed by a haunting train tale by the playwright perhaps best known for Our Town, Thornton Wilder.

Woods, Triffle, Mullaney: three clowns in a fountain. Photo: Jerry Mouawad

Woods, Triffle, Mullaney: three clowns in a fountain. Photo: Jerry Mouawad

Pimento

A pimento, as you probably know, is a pepper, most easily recognized as the red chunk in a green olive. Imago’s Pimento, too, is a spicy nugget served with a grain of salt. In this uproarious little short by artistic director Mouawad, a mother (Carol Triffle) tries to encourage, yet manage, a courtship between her young daughter (Stephanie Elizabeth Woods) and her suitor, a decorated young soldier (Mark Mullaney). Using commedia dell’arte style clowning techniques, falling all over each other and babbling variously in fake German, fake French, and fake Japanese, the trio still manages to embody the many micro-emotions that would accompany that scenario in real life…and eventually, believe it or not, they play beautiful music together.

This piece is an appetizer for, or a garnish on, the longer work of the evening, Wilder’s Pullman Car Hiawatha…and as such, it’s not meant to match but to augment and contrast. Like its namesake, it could go with a lot of things. It’s tonally in-mode with Imago’s signature Frogz and Big Little Things, though its “adult” content puts it at odds. Its theme goes with the more serious fare it’s set with here…but its antics are much sillier. In this way, it’s most similar to touring group Wonderheads’ Grim and Fischer, a sprightly mask show about an old woman battling death. At any rate, Pimento brings its own piquant flavor and whets the appetite for the next offering, making great use of its 15-minute runtime.

Pullman Car Hiawatha

“Let’s get everyone together here,” prompts the narrator (played by Bill Barry) of Thornton Wilder’s Pullman Car Hiawatha. He apparently means not only the passengers and porter on a 1930 train from New York to Chicago…but also the conversations they’re having, the train cars that hold them, the fields and towns the train happens to pass, the planets of the universe, “the weapon,” and two silent “archangels” who seem to have been running the show from the get-go.

Oh, Wilder. What a pantheist, seeing the sublime in literally every thing. Or arguably a deist, letting an omniscient narrator observe the proceedings with minimal interference. At any rate, Pullman mimics Wilder’s more popular Our Town in these key ways.We even get a character here, as in Our Town, who’s transformed into a ghost and observes the retreating world with a new appreciation for the little things.

The passengers’ clothes and suitcases, which mostly adhere to the script’s suggestion of era, give the show an antique distance and also nod to classic noir: here a fur coat, there some heeled maryjanes, everywhere a fedora. Scene changes are accompanied by a rumble of jazz, and sometimes, of course, the rhythm of the train as lights speed across the stage to show movement.

The passengers move around plenty, changing their seating arrangement in a flurry of clockwork-tight chair dances to present their travel from multiple angles. Some even switch character and accent midstream…we’re just getting a sense of the variety of lives. A mentally fragile woman (Sascha Blocker) struggles with a ham-handed doctor (Cedar Braasch) and a reassuring nurse (Laura Loy). A young man (Mark Mullaney) muses about his love, Lillian. An older couple (Terry Lybecker and Carol Triffle) bicker, and an Asian porter (Samson Syharath) complains in his native tongue about the passengers’ needy demands.

Where the passengers are era-bound and complex, the chairs and one long diagonal staircase are simple, stark, and modern. So are the “archangels,” dressed in slim suits and dark glasses like modern FBI, CIA, or Secret Service agents. They’re agents of something, all right, manning the lights and cuing the tunes that permeate the train passengers’ fitful night.

It’s these two characters (played by Rafael Miguel and Sam Bridgnell) that lead the willing into a philosophical rabbit-hole. It’s unclear in this production whether the agents are sinister, like the manipulators of The Matrix, or benevolent like most angels are storied to be…or simply in limbo like Dogma‘s Bartleby and Loki. They hardly speak, but their angular movements range from coldly procedural, to tender, to almost homoerotic. This brings to mind another pair of angels: the Biblical ones who visited Lot in Sodom (incidentally, a silent film titled just that came out in 1933…and bear with me…).

In the Bible story, Lot receives angels as guests in his home, but the citizens of Sodom surround his house and threaten to assault them, then settle for abusing his daughters. Turns out the angels are on a spy mission to decide the fate of the city, and once they observe the townspeople’s aggressive behavior, they declare the place fit for demolition. Although theologians have overemphasized the supposed genders of the characters involved…what we really have is a morality tale against a society that puts rabid individual self-interest over the safety and sovereignty of others — a rape culture, if you will.

Now, Wilder’s troubled little train-people are way less messed up than the ones in this older story. They may obsess over their own needs, but not at others’ peril. Still, In Pullman just as in Sodom, angels deliberate over who deserves to “go” with them and who must stay, and whether to “take” the whole train. Scorched earth policy, or careful selection? Choose those who are mistakenly eager, or take the wisely reluctant? Suffice to say, these archangels’ dilemmas have a long literary precedent.

Less obvious is the story’s connection to Song of Hiawatha, a Native American myth set to verse by Longfellow. While this story is about surrender and community, that one seems much more about individualism and righteous conquest…but it’s probably quoted along with a barrage of other literature midway through the play. Actors portraying fields and other atmosphere recite and credit passages while crossing the stage on a porter-operated handcar, their words almost too fleeting to catch.

Novel staging elements at Imago are like a gun in Chekhov: if they’re there, they will be used. Therefore, view the stair steps that crane dangerously into the rafters with appropriate suspense. Someone is either going up, or coming down.

Review: The Hen Night Epiphany

Corrib Theatre's first complete play fully fledges.

 

Among ladies who call each other “Lads” and toast each other with “bitch whiskey,” you’d think there’d be no secrets, no topics too taboo. But you’d be wrong, as we gradually learn in Jimmy Murphy’s The Hen Night Epiphany.

HEN NIGHT 3

Bride-to-be Una has decided to spend her hen night (aka bachelorette party) introducing her friends to her future home, a real fixer-upper in the hills outside of Dublin. After kicking up a fuss about their hike from the car, the remoteness of the place, and the accommodations (tents in an overgrown and littered yard), the gang settles in for a long evening of drinking…but each of their thoughts are elsewhere. Triona has been arguing with her long-term live-in man-child boyfriend, and this event has keened her worry that they’ll never marry. Kelly, a serial short-term dater, has just split with a would-be wedding escort who she’d seemed to really like. Anta, Una’s godmother, is racked with lingering guilt about her late husband. And Olive, Una’s future mother-in-law, has doubts about the match and the house; she resents Una for spiriting her son away from town. All subsequent plot details would be spoilers—not of action, but of the various revelations that surface as the evening wares on, leaving the characters with nothing to do but talk.

This show is a milestone for the relatively new Corrib Theatre: it’s the company’s first fully-staged production in a true theater space. Where prior shows have been fully acted but staged in tastefully bare rooms, for this one Kristeen Willis Crosser packs the CoHo set chock full of scenic elements that double as props. Summer Olsson chooses simple, modern costuming (knit casual separates, Teva sandals) and a dab of special-effects makeup to help sell the story.

“I like that Jimmy Murphy sets the play squarely in the 21st century,” remarks director Gemma Whelan. To wit: Una obtained the house after tenants who couldn’t pay their mortgage during the recent crisis were hastily evicted. The yard is still littered with their children’s toys. The other modern touch is equally impossible to miss: the women frequently excuse themselves to talk on their cell phones, demonstrating that there’s no longer any such thing as a true “getaway.” Even so…some distance from Dublin seems to provide perspective on problems that are not at all contemporary, but rather timeless and undeniably gendered.

Murphy’s capture of a female group dynamic is amazingly acute—and in this cultural moment, it has to be. With growing awareness of the Bechdel Test and a TV climate forever impacted by the strong female roles in Jenji Cohen’s Orange is the New Black, there’s a sense that storytelling can’t default back to man-centricity to the same extent that it so often has in the past. Though most of Hen Night‘s conversation (in defiance of Bechdel) is about men, its loyalties lie with the female perspective…and anyway, since they’re talking about a wedding, the women’s romantic relationships dominate the conversation more naturally than they otherwise might.

There’s a faintly discernible divide in this production along Actors’ Equity lines: those who happen to have it also happen to give slightly stronger performances. Jacklyn Maddux is compelling as the haunted, tentative Anta, painstakingly deciding how much she should or shouldn’t say. Luisa Sermol as Olive reprises some of her no-nonsense pluck from Xmas Unplugged, but this time it’s ominously overshadowed by the demon of denial. Amanda Soden as Una favors us with a variation of the loyal friend she played in Foxfinder…only this time she’s the somewhat reluctant center of attention, desperate to laugh off the group’s growing concerns with a tomboyish charisma that makes her appropriately hard for the others to oppose. Dana Millican as the high-strung, conservative Triona and Jamie M. Rea as Kelly are each plenty credible, but here and there a facial flicker betrays them. Rea, however, is particularly coordinated in her use of props, balancing unwieldy stacks of yard debris adeptly with the rigors of her role. In the small theater, such persona-inhabiting work puts everyone on the spot.

For those who’ve been following Corrib’s season, Hen Night falls squarely between the bawdy, elated energy of A Night in November and the poetic hopelessness of Tales of Ballycumber. Like the milk and liquor that combine to make “bitch whiskey,” it’s a heady mix.

Drammy Awards: a Playhouse double play

Portland Playhouse's 'Light in the Piazza' and 'A Christmas Carol' take both top production trophies

Portland Playhouse pulled off a tough double play at Monday night’s Drammy Awards, taking top honors in both major production categories – best play of the season for its stripped-down version of A Christmas Carol, and best musical play for The Light in the Piazza. 

The crowd gets into the action for the opening puppet-show strut to "The Circle of Life." Photo: Henk Pander

The crowd gets into the action for the opening puppet-show strut to “The Circle of Life.” Photo: Henk Pander

The celebration of the best achievements in Portland theater during the 2013-14 season packed the house at the Crystal Ballroom with theater folk and theater fans, many dressed to the nines and others to the twos or threes. The mood was convivial verging on rowdy, punctuated during one long stretch by the drone of a punk band playing loudly somewhere downstairs, and hosted with wit and dash by actor Isaac Lamb, who occasionally ceded the spotlight to his vigorously tap-dancing wife-to-be, Amy Beth Frankel. If anyone caught their act on videotape, it could go viral.

Dapper Isaac Lamb, the Drammys' emcee. Photo: Owen Carey

Dapper Isaac Lamb, the Drammys’ emcee. Photo: Owen Carey

Piazza was the evening’s closest thing to a runaway, walking off with five prizes: best production, actress in a musical (Meredith Kaye Clark), supporting actress in a musical (Jennifer Goldsmith), supporting actor in a musical (David Meyers), and musical direction (Eric Nordin). A Christmas Carol took top awards for ensemble in a play and director in a play (Cristi Miles) in addition to best production.

Well Arts Institute's Youth Program accepted the Mary Brand Award. Photo: Ann Singer

Ann Singer, Well Arts Institute’s youth program coordinator, accepted the $2,000 Mary Brand Award from Julie Accuardi of the Portland Civic Theatre Guild.

Oregon Children’s Theatre took four awards for its sweet and funny high school outcast musical Zombie in Love, and Kristeen Willis Crosser was a double individual winner, taking home the hardware for scenic design (Gidion’s Knot) and lighting design (A Bright New Boise), both at Third Rail Rep. One category, best actress in a play, ended in a tie vote. Amy Newman (Gidion’s Knot) and Maureen Porter (Crooked, CoHo Productions) shared the prize.

After an hour of drinking, preening, and general hobnobbing, the ceremony got off to a rousing start with a long Irish yowl of a song from Chris Murray, who’s starring as the not-quite-murderous Irish lad Christy in The Playboy of the Western World at Artists Rep, followed by a Lion King-style puppet show threading rambunctiously through the crowd. Among the costumed paraders were a donkey, a latke, a fish, a teapot, a snake, and several bottles of booze. They set the tone for much of the rest of the evening: congenial, creative, a little outrageous, fun, and quite long. At the end of the ceremony, Lamb performed a hilarious Portlandified riff on the “River City” song from The Music Man that would’ve made a knockout opening number. By the time it finally came, much of the crowd was already heading for the bars or home – a shame, but an understandable one.

Horsing around at the opening puppet parade. Photo: Henk Pander

Horsing around at the opening puppet parade. Photo: Henk Pander

The 17-member Drammy Committee of writers and theater professionals considered almost 120 productions from the awards’ 36th season. Several current shows opened too late for consideration. This year, after several years of choosing multiple winners in each category, the committee returned to picking a single winner from a pre-announced list of finalists in each category, making the Drammys feel more like the Oscars or Tonys. The finalists in each category are listed here.

The cast of Portland Playhouse's "A Christmas Carol" celebrate their best-production Drammy. Photo: Owen Carey

The cast of Portland Playhouse’s “A Christmas Carol” celebrate their best-production Drammy. Photo: Owen Carey

Grant Turner, founder of Northwest Classical Theatre,  drew appreciative nods during his acceptance speech for his Special Achievement Award. “Take the time to hone your craft,” he advised, “and don’t take (a play) on until you’re able.” He continued: “Believe in your authors, and your audience will believe in you.”  Turner, who started the Shakespeare-centric classical company more than 15 years ago, is moving to eastern Oregon but will return to Portland for specific projects.

Van Voris (left) and Hoffman indulge in some interpretive oratory. Photo: Owen Carey

Van Voris (left) and Hoffman indulge in some interpretive oratory. Photo: Owen Carey

Actors Todd Van Voris and Gavin Hoffman sent titters racing around the room with their dramatic readings of “actual posts on PDX Backstage.” And when the Light in the Piazza company gathered onstage to accept the best-musical award, Susannah Mars drew extended cheers and a couple of boos when she proudly announced, “We did a musical without microphones!

It was that kind of night.

 

2014 DRAMMY AWARD WINNERS

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY

Michael Fisher-Welsh
The Quality of Life
Artists Repertory Theatre

 

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

Kristeen Willis Crosser
Gidion’s Knot
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

 

BEST PROPERTIES DESIGN

Drew Dannhorn
The Giver
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST DESIGN AND FABRICATION AWARD

John Ellingson
James and the Giant Peach
Northwest Children’s Theater

 

SPECIAL THEATRICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Atomic Arts
Trek in the Park
2009-2013

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Jennifer Goldsmith
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

Annalise Albright Woods
pool (no water)
Theatre Vertigo

 

BEST YOUNG PERFORMER

Blake Peebles
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

David Meyers
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY 

Dan Murphy
Plaid Tidings
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST PIT ENSEMBLE

9 to 5: The Musical
Stumptown Stages

 

PATA SPOTLIGHT AWARDS

Stage Manager: Emma Lewins
Crew Member: Don Crossley
Ballyhoo (formerly known as “Other”): Val and Jim Liptak

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Jen LaMastra
James and the Giant Peach
Northwest Children’s Theater

 

BEST MAKE UP DESIGN

Caitlin Fisher-Draeger
The Revenants
The Reformers

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Meghan Chambers
Crooked
CoHo Productions / Philip Cuomo and Maureen Porter

 

BEST PROJECTION DESIGN

Jeff Kurihara
The Giver
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Kristeen Willis Crosser
A Bright New Boise
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

 

Catherine Egan accepts her award for movement design for Push Leg's "Nighthawks." Photo: Owen Carey

Catherine Egan accepts her award for movement design for Push Leg’s “Nighthawks.” Photo: Owen Carey

BEST MOVEMENT DESIGN

Catherine Egan
Nighthawks
Push Leg

 

BEST DEVISED WORK

Nighthawks
Push Leg

 

Special Achievement Award winner Grant Turner. Photo: Owen Carey

Special Achievement Award winner Grant Turner. Photo: Owen Carey

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

 Grant Turner
Founding Artistic Director
Northwest Classical Theatre Company

 

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION

Eric Nordin
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL

Marcella Crowson
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

David Studwell
Fiddler on the Roof
Portland Center Stage

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Merideth Kaye Clark
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL

Plaid Tidings
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

Solo performance winner Damon Kupper in front of an image from his show, "Last November." Photo: Owen Carey

Solo performance winner Damon Kupper in front of an image from his show, “A Night in November.” Photo: Owen Carey

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE

Damon Kupper
A Night in November
corrib theatre

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY

 A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT

Michelle Elliott
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE    

Danny Larsen, Music
Michelle Elliott, Lyrics
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

 

PORTLAND CIVIC THEATRE GUILD AWARDS 

Mary Brand Award $2,000
Recipient: Well Arts Institute

Portland Civic Theatre Award in Support of Theatre $3,000
Recipient: Action/Adventure Theatre

The Leslie O. Fulton Fellowship $5,000
Recipient: Jill Westerby Gonzales

 

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY

Cristi Miles
A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

Best actor winner Allen Nause," "The Caretaker" at Imago. Photo: Owen Carey

Best actor winner Allen Nause,” “The Caretaker” at Imago. Photo: Owen Carey

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Allen Nause
The Caretaker
Imago Theatre

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY (tied)

Amy Newman
Gidion’s Knot
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

Maureen Porter
Crooked
CoHo Productions / Philip Cuomo and Maureen Porter

 

Best actress co-winner Maureen Porter, "Crooked," CoHo Productions. Photo: Owen Carey

Best actress co-winner Maureen Porter, “Crooked,” CoHo Productions. Photo: Owen Carey

BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

 

 

‘Bike Play 6′: at the intersection of theater and transport

Working Theatre Collective's free-wheelin' outdoor play meets the Pedalpalooza crowd on their turf.

It’s probably not surprising that I ran into the Working Theatre Collective’s Ashley Hollingshead and Noelle Eaton at Laurelthirst Pub, watching a supergroup of local female musicians re-create an Anne Murray record. It was just the sort of act that matches WTC’s ouevre (INDEPENDENT WOMEN, the Tomorrow! trilogy), and featured Action/Adventure theater mainstay Cristina Cano as well as the creators of the musical Aika &Rose.

bikeplay

Ostensibly off the clock, Hollingshead agreed to talk about WTC’s upcoming Bike Play, happening June 19-22. Bike Play 6: Bike Play’s Big Adventure is part of Pedalpalooza (Yes, the same Pedalpalooza that champions the World Naked Bike Ride) and the only show, as far as we know, that’s staged in area parks and requires its audience to ride their bikes between scenes that are sequentially staged in public places along a customized route.

But here’s Hollingshead’s take, as reconstructed from a scribbled-on grocery receipt:

“A lot of people lump Working Theater Collective right in with Action/Adventure, and that’s fine,” says Hollingshead. Even so, the theatrical entity holds its own distinct production history.

Each year, Bike Play has a general theme. Last year was superheroish (akin to Action/Adventure’s Sidekicks), and an earlier season was Noir. This year’s installment will riff loosely on the plot of Peewee’s Big Adventure, the Paul Reubens/Wayne WhiteTK classic 80′s film that depicts one long caper after a stolen bike. And the show’s actors should have no trouble “finding their motivation”: “At least half of our cast has had their bikes stolen,” says Hollingshead.

WTC cites legendary, longsuffering bike rider Peewee Herman (played by Paul Reubens) as the inspiration for their newest play.

WTC credits legendary, longsuffering bike rider Peewee Herman (Paul Reubens) as the inspiration for its newest play.

Now well-known within its niche, Bike Play gets a lot of repeat attenders. Hollingshead knows this because she fields many early schedule requests from out-of-town visitors who want to plan it into their trips to Portland. About 85%, she estimates, are avid bikers but rare-to-never theatergoers. “This is the only play a lot of this audience sees all year,” she notes.

Always “a short, fast rehearsal process,” bike play pulls its act together in about two weeks, stretching a simple storyline across an intricate (but safe) route. This year’s prep included watching the Peewee movie that inspired them. Though unsure of the particulars at the time of the interview, Hollingshead reveals that this year’s production will include singing and dancing, acrobatics, chase sequences, and maybe even puppetry (Last year, in a Labyrinth-like sequence, several actors animated a giant face made out of bike parts, with an expressive inner-tube mouth lip-synching dialogue.).

As for the actual path: “We make an effort to switch up the route each year, to use location in a novel way with the story, and to include places you normally wouldn’t go.” For an audience that by-and-large knows no bounds but draws the line at conventional indoor theater, that’s no small feat.

Great shakes: a Drammy tribute to Grant Turner

NW Classical Theatre's departing leader will take home a special award from Monday's Drammy ceremony

Grant Turner’s career epiphany came during his freshman year of college, but not within the halls of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. Instead it was at the movies. While back in his native Portland for the winter break, Turner went to Cinema 21 to see Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film version of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

And Turner had no idea what was going on.

He’d encountered the Bard before. In grade school, he’d seen the famous Franco Zeffirelli film of Romeo and Juliet. He’d even faked his way through a small part in a middle-school Hamlet and, a few years later at Centennial High, a class about Shakespeare. He says he never understood a word of it.

Turner (left) as Iachimo in "Cymbeline," with Tom Walton

Turner (left) as Iachimo in “Cymbeline,” with Tom Walton

Soon, the young theater major switched his focus from musical theater to classics. In the years since Branagh turned the light of understanding on for him, Turner’s become so adept at illuminating Shakespeare for others — actors and audiences alike —that he’s earned the 2014 Drammy Award for Special Achievement in Portland theater.

Turner and dozens of other theater artists will be honored Monday night at the Crystal Ballroom in the 36th annual Drammy Awards ceremony. Isaac Lamb – he of the world’s most famous marriage-proposal viral video, but more importantly a marvelous Portland actor and singer – will host the event, which starts at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. for drinks, socializing and a slideshow of images from the 2013-’14 theater season.

Continues…

40 whacks and a bad attitude

Center Stage's Lizzie Borden musical chops a rock 'n' roll path into the American legend of family and violence

Turns out, it wasn’t 40 whacks.

Abby Durfree Gray Borden, Lizzie’s stepmother, took 19 blows to the back of her head on that fateful August day in 1892. Andrew Jackson Borden, Lizzie’s father, was dispatched with an efficient 11.

So much for legend.

As most schoolkids know, Lizzie, the most famous daughter or son of the mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts (sorry, George Stephanopoulos and Emeril Lagasse), was acquitted of the double ax murders. It took the jury just an hour and a half of deliberation to set her free, and no one else was ever charged.

Mary Kate Morrissey (left) as Lizzie, Kacie Sheik as Alice. Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Mary Kate Morrissey (left) as Lizzie, Kacie Sheik as Alice. Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Still, almost everyone thinks she dunnit. What most of us know about Lizzie Borden is neatly summed up in that famous, wryly understated doggerel, which neatly catapults her into the rarefied ranks of American folklore:

 Lizzie Borden took an ax

And gave her mother 40 whacks.

When she saw what she had done

She gave her father 41.

Lizzie, the new Broadway-hopeful musical at Portland Center Stage, bops along somewhere between folklore and fact. An unrepentant rock musical that mimics the overblown expressive style of arena rock, it revels in its own inventions (or at least, unprovable assertions): Lizzie’s dad repeatedly molested her; Lizzie and her neighbor, Alice Russell, were lovers.

Continues…

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