DramaWatch Weekly: Hamilton-plus

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway mega-hit grabs the spotlight. But Portland and Ashland stages are overflowing with other top bets, too.

Don’t look now, but the two-ton elephant’s about to plop down in the living room. That’s right: Hamilton, the touring version of the Broadway mega-hit, opens on Tuesday, March 20, in Portland’s Keller Auditorium for 24 performances through April 8, and if you don’t have your tickets yet – well, good luck. That pencils out to 72,000 available seats, and most of them are long gone.

So you’re on the outside looking in: How to score a ticket? Lottery, baby! Every performance will have 40 tickets available for 10 bucks each, and you can hit the lottery line for each show two days in advance, starting Sunday for opening night. Here’s the link. Or, you could go through one of the ticket-resale sites and offer your first-born child, your mother-in-law, and a case of Eyrie 1975 South Block Pinot noir.

Shoba Narayan, Ta’Rea Campbell and Nyla Sostre head for Portland with the “Hamilton” national touring company. Photo © Joan Marcus 2018

Veteran West Coast theater critic Misha Berson saw the company during its Seattle run before its Puddletown engagement and filed this report for ArtsWatch readers. “Hamilton comes at you at 100 miles per hour, a power vehicle running on all cylinders,” she writes. “It’s the theatrical equivalent of IMAX but all human, all live, and with none of the techno-tricks designed to hypnotize and overwhelm. What seduces you here is a group of mostly black actors in velvet breeches and ruffled shirts, singing ‘I’m not throwing away my shot!’ with a visceral intensity you can feel from the balcony, and an array of drifting, be-gowned young women exhorting you to ‘Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now’.”

Go ahead: Mortgage the house. Or you could get lucky in the lottery.

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FORTUNATELY, THE CITY’S BUZZING with interesting shows right now, and it’s a good time to catch up (or catch a promising show about to open).

Building together: Mexico’s Teatro Lînea de Sombra comes to The Headwaters.

Opening, for instance: Friday through Sunday only at The Headwaters, the always adventurous Boom Arts presents the U.S. premiere of Rebuilding Small Territories, from Mexico’s Teatro Lînea de Sombra, about a real-life Colombian town that was built and inhabited by women displaced by violence. Each performance culminates in an interactive installation.

Paige Rogers as the Duchess of York in “She Is Fierce.” Photo: Dylan Wiggins

OR MAYBE YOU’RE IN THE MOOD for a little not-Shakespeare. That’s what the young Enso Theatre Ensemble has on tap with the U.S. premiere of She Is Fierce: Short Plays Not by Shakespeare, which originated with the Dutch company Het Vijfde Bedridjf (The Fifth Act). Among the characters you’ll meet are Lady Anne Neville, who famously if briefly became Queen of England after being outrageously wooed (at least, in Shakespeare’s version) by the scheming Richard III. It’s quite possible, in Enso’s version, that she has second thoughts. Opens Friday, runs through March 31 at the Shoebox Theatre.

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PLENTY TO CATCH UP WITH, TOO. A quick look at a whole bunch of shows in mid-run or nearing the end:

Michelle Maida and Twig Webster in “Our Mother’s Brief Affair” at Triangle. Photo: David Kinder/Kinderpics

At Triangle Productions you can catch long-ago Portland stalwart Twig Webster, one of the leading lights of the old New Rose Theatre, back in town to star with Michelle Maida, Deanna Wells, and Alex Fox in Richard Greenberg’s sweet and often funny Our Mother’s Brief Affair. Through March 31 at The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza. Watch for ArtsWatch’s review soon.

Intimate enemies: Jennifer Lanier (left) as Powell and Amy Driesler as Dunn in “Men on Boats.” Photo: Owen Carey

MEN ON BOATS, Third Rail’s production of Jaclyn Backhaus’s rollicking ride through the Old West, continues through March 24 at Imago Theatre. It’s a historical adventure, with a lot of contemporary winks and an overload of frenetic action and an eventual heartfelt personal clash, about an epic 1869 journey into the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. The author notes, “The characters in Men on Boats were historically cisgender white males. The cast should be made up entirely of people who are not.” Accordingly, all 10 of Third Rail’s actors are women, and a lively lot they make.

Julana Torres and Bobby Bermea in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Photo: Russell J Young

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY, Stephen Adly Guirgis’s play starring Kevin Jones as Walter “Pops” Washington, a New York City cop who’s retired after 30 years because he was shot by a white rookie cop, opened Saturday and continues at Artists Rep through April 1. Artists Rep had a hit in 2014 with Guirgis’s The Motherfucker with the Hat. In his ArtsWatch review, Marty Hughley calls Riverside “a deceptively complex and artfully constructed play, delivered here with terrific verve and attention to detail.”

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

GOOD MORNING, MISS AMERICA, Portland writer and visual artist Phyllis Yes’s new play about “the psychological and logistical challenges of caring for ailing and aging parents who have lost their autonomy and ability to care safely for themselves,” as Danielle Vermette puts it in her fine profile of Yes for ArtsWatch, continues through March 31 at CoHo Theatre.

Rebecca Teran is Hester Prynne in “Scarlet” at Portland Playhouse. Photo: Brud Giles

SCARLET, writer/composer/lyricist Michelle Horgen’s marvelous new adaptation and updating of The Scarlet Letter, is getting a bang-up world-premiere production at Portland Playhouse, and has been held over through  April 1. Read DeAnn Welker’s ArtsWatch review here.

La’Tevin Alexander Ellis (and Cassius Clay) triumphant. Photo: Owen Carey

AND IN THIS CORNER … CASSIUS CLAY, Idris Goodwin’s fine play about the making of the great boxer and civil rights leader who would become known as Muhammad Ali, continues through March 25 in the Dolores Winningstad Theatre. Read DeAnn Welker’s ArtsWatch review of Oregon Children’s Theatre’s knockout production, and Bobby Bermea’s ArtsWatch profile of La’Tevin Alexander Ellis, who stars as the young fighter.

Mandana Khoshnevisan and Nathan Dunkin in “Death and the Maiden.” Casey Campbell Photography

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, Ariel Dorfman’s fine and relentless play about the aftermath of torture and political repression, continues through March 25 at Bag&Baggage in Hillsboro. “The production is dense, and challenging, and complicated. It asks us very difficult contemporary questions,” director Cassie Greer told ArtsWatch’s Michael Sproles in his look at the play and its production. “How do we make sense of the #MeToo movement? How can a democracy stand idly by when witnessing the global refugee crisis, or the extermination of the Rohingya? And it does so in a deeply engaging way, through the frame of three people in a room confronting their pasts.”

From left: Tina Chilip, John D. Haggerty, and Lena Kaminsky in “Kodachrome.” Photo: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

PORTLAND CENTER STAGE has The Armory overflowing with a pair of current shows: Adam Szymkowicz’s Kodachrome, an Our Town-like look at a small English town, through March 18 in the Ellyn Bye Studio, and Andrew Hinderaker’s The Magic Play, with actual (meaning, cleverly produced trick) magic as part of the action, on the Main Stage through March 25.

Wrick Jones (left) as Memphis, Kenneth Dembo as Wolf, Cycerli Ash as Risa in PassinArt’s “Two Trains Running.” Photo: Jerry Foster

TWO TRAINS RUNNING, August Wilson’s smart, rhythmic, and surprisingly funny play about the devastating effects of urban renewal on a once-thriving African American community in 1969, is getting a very good production from PassinArt: A Theatre Company that “has great heart, and a dash of glee, and a rollicking pleasure in the sheer art of storytelling that does nothing to blunt its sense of truth and consequences.” Through April 1 at Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center. See Bob Hicks’s review for ArtsWatch here.

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

MACBETH, in Samantha Van Der Merwe’s strikingly designed version at Shaking the Tree, continues through Saturday. “She’s created a visually striking production of a play done so often it’s easy to forget, making it feel alive and relatable without coming across as heavy-handed,” TJ Acena writes in his ArtsWatch review. “It may not all come together perfectly, or it may come together in a way that won’t appeal to every one, but it’s bold and not easy to forget.”

Paige McKinney and Morgan Lee: The pain and “The Pride.” Photo: Rosemary Ragusa

THE PRIDE, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s intimate drama about two men and a woman sorting out their feelings for one another, also closes on Saturday. “It is truly the performances that make The Pride resonant,” Alia Stearns writes in her ArtsWatch review. “… (T)hese actors give life to people in profound pain. They gush loneliness to a degree that makes it pool beyond the very valid concerns of homosexuality and leave it soaking into the fabric of humankind. It is impossible to watch them without reflecting on the basic need to connect.”

Kristen Paige and Rob Kimmelman, discombobulated in “Stage Kiss.” Photo: Alicia Turvin

STAGE KISS, Sarah Ruhl’s multifaceted comedy about a kiss that comes with a question (did it feel like “an actor kissing an actor or a person kissing a person?”), continues through March 25 at Twilight Theater Company. Read DeAnn Welker’s review here.

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The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s rollicking “Destiny of Desire.” Photo: Jenny Graham.

FINALLY, IF YOU’RE HEADING TO ASHLAND to take in the early openings at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (the Bard’s Othello and Henry V, Karen Zacarías’s “wildly entertaining” Destiny of Desire, Kate Hamill’s new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility) ArtsWatch has two good takes for you: Daniel Pollack-Pelzner’s assertion of the festival’s role in changing the social order, and Barry Johnson’s acute breakdown of the early productions and the influence of artistic leader Bill Rauch, who will leave soon to become the first artistic director of the new Perelman Center on the site of the fallen World Trade Center in New York City.

Which gets us back about as close as we can get to Broadway and Hamilton – no lottery needed.

 

 

 

 

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