Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

Backstage comedy on a mountaintop

Portland filmmaker Anthony Orkin's "Hello from Nowhere" blends romantic mixups and Gilbert & Sullivan on a Mount Hood camping trip.

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From left: John Armour, Summer Rain Menkee, G. Scott Brown, DeNah Angel in “Hello from Nowhere.” Photo: Crunchy Pictures

To sit in solemn silence on a mountaintop.

This is all that John (John Armour) really wants from his backpacking trip, which forms the basis of the movie Hello from Nowhere, written and directed by Portland filmmaker Anthony Orkin. But there is precious little silence to be found in this musical comedy, which begins streaming November 8 (don’t forget to vote).

John and his partner Lanie (Summer Rain Menkee) are on a couples getaway with Brendan (G. Scott Brown) and his new girlfriend Denise (Denah Angel), who are visiting from New York City and venturing into the Pacific Northwest backcountry for the first time. At their lakeside camp, the pair of lovers meet Jason (Sean Paul Ross), a kilt-wearing mountain man who claims he’s been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. But there is more to Jason than meets the eye, and his virile presence brings the campers’ simmering relationship problems to a boil.

Somehow, Gilbert and Sullivan fits into all of this. The couples have memorized the vocal parts to a fictional G&S revue, which Lanie and Brendan performed back when they were high school sweethearts. For Denise and John, this musical education was not a labor of love, but the consequence of their decisions to date actors. John is especially sick of the patter—and makes this known. Jay Brandon Martin’s impressive orchestral score keeps the mood light.

Love (the adulterous kind) is in the air, and characters break into song every other scene.

Although Lanie and Brendan’s old flame threatens to be rekindled, it’s the spark between Denise and the mysterious Jason that catches. Luckily there are no forest fires: Hello from Nowhere is less a fully-fledged sex farce and more like a Portlandia skit with an eighty-minute runtime.

That said, the film’s initial cheesiness gives way to palpable relationship stakes in the second act. After the gang invites Jason over for dinner, one-too-many rounds of drinking games results in everyone’s feelings getting hurt. The loose-lipped honesty is fueled by wine—and the pure grain alcohol Jason carries around in a flask. “No water weight,” he says slyly, in reference to John’s disdain for an overstuffed backpack.

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Everyone’s wired on hooch and resentment, and nobody gets any sleep. John storms off after Lanie turns him down for sex (apparently this happens a lot) and Denise suspects Brendan still harbors feelings for Lanie. Jason volunteers to go looking for John, and the odd couple share a moonlit moment on an overlook, which John says resembles a postcard—one that might read “Hello from Nowhere.” The tender mood is spoiled when Jason shows his true colors, and the film plays genre hopscotch: moving from comedy to thriller before returning to the world of operetta.

The movie is filmed on Mount Hood, and Orkin finds innovative ways to weave the setting’s natural splendor into his storytelling. My favorite example of this is when John, Brendan, and Jason walk down to a stream to pump water. After they arrive at the riverbank, Orkin (who also edited the film) cuts to a cascading waterfall, followed by shots of river rapids in quick succession, ending with a steady stream that flows into Brendan’s purifier.

Elsewhere, aerial footage and lingering mountain shots showcase Mount Hood National Forest in less specific, if still stunning, contexts. Although the dramatic peaks and pines feel more redolent of Wagner than Gilbert and Sullivan, the familiar territory will be of interest to audiences, many of whom have doubtless camped on Mount Hood once or twice.

Hello from Nowhere is an insider film—it’s tailored to theater people—and I wonder what a viewer who never acted in a school play might take away from it. (Don’t go camping with actors, maybe?) That said, the cast is charming enough to pull off the film’s quirks. It’s a tight ensemble, and the actors deliver consistently hilarious performances without becoming caricatures, seeing Orkin’s endearingly odd concept through to a satisfying end.

***

  • “Hello From Nowhere” streams on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube Movies, and other streaming platforms beginning Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Max Tapogna writes about theater, music and culture for Oregon ArtsWatch. His writing has been published in Bloomberg Pursuits, Document Journal, Willamette Week, Portland Mercury, Crosscurrents Literary Magazine and more. As an actor, Max has had the pleasure of performing with companies like Shaking the Tree and Broadway Rose. Originally from Portland, Max currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.
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One Response

  1. I’ve seen this movie. In fact I’ve run lines with “Jason”, played by my son Sean Ross Paul. I agree with Max’s review, it’s written for theater people. But all the actors won me over. It’s scary for a mom to watch her son play a bad-guy. So I was especially impressed with how, as a viewer, he elicited a range of emotions including sympathy. Well worth the watch.

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