DramaWatch Weekly: Casually Optimistic

On tap: A blood-red Scottish Play, a Scarlet letter, Death visits a maiden, some hollering sessions, two trains running, a season of musicals

I’ve been writing some nice things lately about actors. Maybe more than before, but no less truthful. Lest you think me a suckup, let’s settle the scales. Here are a few current and soon-to-open plays that may be great for all the wrong reasons.

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Jamie M. Rae is a Macbeth in blood-red. Photo: Gary Norman

I’ve heard from some that The Scottish play we mustn’t say—Macdeath?— is slaying at Shaking The Tree, yet I’ve also heard from ArtsWatch’s TJ Acena  that it’s got spacing and pacing problems, and that Macboof is a little aloof. Anyway, staged with translucent walls in an already-small space for ample shadow-play, and starring Jamie Rea as the titular killer, it should at least defy cliche.

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Rebecca Teran as Hester Prynne in “Scarlet.” Portland Playhouse photo

Another reanimated classic is Portland Playhouse’s Scarlet. The first production in the company’s historic church space since its renovation, the play is Portland playwright Michelle Horgen’s modernization of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Hang on: How do you modernize the societal oppression and shaming of wom—? Okay yeah. That should work fine.

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As should Bag & Baggage’s Death and the Maiden, “set in a country that has only recently returned to democracy and still struggles with a fascist, violent history.” B&B longtimer (and newly-appointed Assistant AD) Cassie Greer will direct this taut drama, opening March 9.

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At the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, PassinArt: A Theatre Company is opening a revival of August Wilson’s 1990 play Two Trains Running. It’s about, among other things, an African American community facing urban renewal and gentrification. Hmm. Still works.

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Bibiana Lorenzo Johnston as Doña Teresa and Yan Collazo as Don Lucas in Milagro’s “Astucias.” Photo: Russell J Young

It’s closing weekend for Milagro Theatre’s Astucias por heredar, a bilingual comedy of manners rescued from its censorship in late 18th century Mexico, about a wealthy courtier battling scheming scamps who are trying to steal his money.

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Frank Boyd, hollering. Photo: Maria Baranova

Artists Rep is about to present The Holler Sessions, Frank Boyd’s one-man passion project (co-devised by Brooklyn theater ensemble The TEAM) about a jazz radio DJ riffing and ranting about his love of a nearly lost art. “I’ve always wanted to get The Holler Sessions to Portland because I think of Portland as a place that holds art, creativity and general-weirdness as core values,” says Boyd. Bad news, Buddy; Portland—and even Artists Rep—is downsizing its arts and its weird. But can we interest you in more coffee? Beer? Coffee? Beer? Athleisure Acai Coffee-Beer?

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Cast of the Broadway musical “Come from Away,” 2016. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Broadway in Portland just released its 2018-19 season, and my money’s on Come From Away, which— according to my sources—appropriately romanticizes Newfoundland’s culture, while unfortunately opening its floodgates for Fisherhipsters. Once the actual province reverts to a mall-full of bistros serving seal paté, at least you’ll want to have seen the seminal Broadway musical.

 

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