Spectravagasm ‘Holidaze’: Come one, come all

The reliably great comedy series is finally accessible in more ways than one

Can this be the year that Spectravagasm stops feeling like a secret? Because I’m tired of having to explain how funny it is. Everyone should just go see it.

If the tight-knit crowd who’ve already followed this show for years can don their earmuffs for a moment, we’ll review: Spectravagasm is a series of original sketch comedy shows that each address one of life’s broadest topics. So far, they’ve skewered religion, death, drugs, gender, art, love, camp—and now, finally, holidays. Armed with a bouncy, sarcastic ensemble cast, a barrage of kitschy video segments, a Spectravagasm theme song that changes lyrics to support each show’s theme, and at least one all-new musical number every time, Spectravagasm is one of the most complete packages available in Portland-artisan-crafted theater entertainment. Why doesn’t everybody know?

L to R: Keith Cable, Jessica Tidd, Jim Vadala, Sam Dinkowitz, Jessi Walters, Phillip Berns

L to R: Keith Cable, Jessica Tidd, Jim Vadala, Sam Dinkowitz, Diane Kondrat, Jessi Walters, Phillip Berns. Photo: Kathleen Kelly

I can see a couple reasons for this. Up ’til now, Spectravagasm has always been a Post5 Theatre property, holding down that house’s late-night spot after whatever play they were officially billing as part of their season. Post5, up through its closure last week, had always occupied the city’s geographic fringes, starting on 82nd Avenue and finishing in Sellwood. Furthermore, there’s seemed to be an unfortunate inverse correlation between the buzz ‘gasm has generated over the years and the time that’s been put in. Why? Because the show’s producer and mastermind, Sam Dinkowitz, performs in many other shows around town—perhaps most relevantly committing his last three Christmases to Twist Your Dickens at Portland Center Stage. While that role raised his profile, it also limited the time he could pour into his pet project; hence, the ‘gasms that finally garnered the most public buzz—”drugs” and “art”—also least demonstrated the scope of the troupe’s talents.

Now, maybe, some new stars finally align. For one, Twist isn’t happening this Christmas. And as announced week-before-last, sadly, neither is Post5. Dinkowitz and crew have used his downtime to perfect their latest offering, lengthening and deepening the narrative through-line, noodling endlessly with the video extras, and tightening up the song-and-dance numbers ’til the punches of humor rain down relentlessly. Moreover, the Post5 closure has unearthed Spectravagasm: Holidaze from a Sellwood church basement and catapulted it into the Central Eastside. Shaking The Tree Theatre, mere blocks from a boom of new micro-unit apartments and a rash of micro-brewery devotees, is as well-situated to draw newcomers as are Spectravagasm‘s accessible jokes. I triple-dog-dare any basic bro to stumble over from the nearby Blitz Sports Pub and not laugh his ass off. I can already hear the newbs’ glowing reviews: “It’s like…Saturday Night Live…but like, live!”

It is, Bro. It’s like that. And better.

[cue infomercial voice] In Holidaze, you get Santa and the elves…but that’s not all! You also get the Grinch, the Easter Bunny, Patty the St. Patrick’s Day Drunk Leprechaun, and many other new and old favorite holiday mascots. But wait, there’s more! For a limited time you also get deities like Jesus, Satan, God, and the golden voice of Portland Theater God Todd Van Voris! For Spectravagasm fans, there’s the return of pan-gendered emcee Esperanza and The “I’m a wizard!” Wizard! Wistful for Twist Your Dickens? Spectravagasm has recruited your old friend George Bailey, complete with snow-covered hair and a nervous affectation!

Seriously, though, Holidaze returns the Spectravagasm series to its greatest glory, smacking with slapstick and brimming with profanity, bristling with irreverence and infused throughout with indignant social comment. Returning cast members Dinkowitz, Jessi Walters, Phillip J. Berns, Jim Vadala, Jessica Tidd, and Keith Cable attack their roles with mischievous glee, and gruff new cast member Diane Kondrat pops off like a starter’s pistol.

As a gateway drug for Portland theater come-latelies, or as the latest pillar upholding an eight-show legacy of original humor, Spectravagasm: Holidaze is everything it needs to be. Tell your friends. Hell, tell strangers.

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Spectravagasm: Holidazed runs through December 16 at Shaking The Tree Theatre, 11pm-1am following Venus and Adonis.

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