DramaWatch: Two pair and a kicker

In the cards on Portland stages this week: a pair of plays by Native American writers, Chekhov in New Jersey, improv off the Deep End

Sometimes as shows and curtains open and close, a writer flounders for a framing device. I know: Let’s play poker. “Two pair is a poker hand containing two cards of the same rank, two cards of another rank and one card of a third rank (the kicker).” This week in Portland theater deals us just such a hand.

Let’s start (as never) with two comedy-improv-mixed-use-spaces of seemingly equal rank: Siren and Deep End. Siren’s showing Rosie Rose Productions’ The Three Sisters of Weehawken, Deborah Zoe Laufer’s Chekhov adaptation plucked from Russia and plopped into a New Jersey town that we can only assume contrasts to Moscow at least as starkly as Chekhov intended when he observed: “In Moscow, you can sit in an enormous restaurant where you don’t know anybody and where nobody knows you, and you don’t feel, all the same, that you’re a stranger. And here, you know everybody and everybody knows you, and you’re a stranger … and a lonely stranger.”

Meanwhile, Deep End Theater is debuting Two Houses: A Story of Love, Improvised. How does an improvised love story work? Sounds like a steady crew of actors takes on different audience-prescribed roles each night within a loosely-tied structure devised by a.d./improv mastermind Domeka Parker and director Mariah Munoz. Just like real-life love, it could work if they commit.

Cherokee actor/writer DeLanna Studi in her play “And So We Walked” at The Armory. Photo: Bert VanderVeen for Triad Stage

Now moving up to major suits: Artists Rep and Portland Center Stage at The Armory both open previews this week, each with a Native American-themed play. At The Armory, And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears shines the spotlight on DeLanna Studi (recently seen in the Armory’s Astoria series) for her autobiographical account of retracing the Trail of Tears with her Cherokee father.

Larissa FastHorse, author of “The Thanksgiving Play” at Artists Rep. Photo: Conor Horgan

At Artists Rep, the world premiere of Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play (which kicks off on another holiday, Easter, and also coincidentally with April Fool’s Day this year) skewers the school system’s well-meaning attempts to reconcile tragic aspects of American history with family-friendly pilgrims-and-Indians fare. The “Sunday Sounday” performance will feature a preshow by Warm Springs rapper Scott Palama.

Okay, that leaves the kicker, for which you can take your pick: CoHo’s Good Morning, Miss America closes this weekend, stoking sympathy for those who struggle to maintain their adult autonomy while caring for their aging parents. (See Danielle Vermette’s ArtsWatch profile of the author, Phyllis Yes.) Bag&Baggage’s one-night-only staged reading of Linda Needham’s Rogues and Vagabonds promises “Shakespeare in Love meets The Breakfast Club.” Milagro’s The Mermaid Hour continues this week and is owed a correction: the teen star identifies as genderqueer rather than trans. Surely there are more plays equally and beautifully mismatched from the general milieu, about which you may comment below. Double or nothing.

Lorraine Bahr as Jane in “Good Morning, Miss America.” Photo: Phyllis Yes

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