Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

DramaWatch: The elves of Fröstland, and other holiday fancies

From 3 Leg Torso to Anonymous Theatre to Portland Revels and a Dickens of a lineup, it's a holiday sort of season onstage.

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3 Leg Torso, roasting a squeezebox on an open fire.

As we dive ever deeper into the holiday season, the theater calendar grows thinner until the “second season” begins in January: Seems other stuff is going on. But a few fresh sprigs are popping out on the theatrical holiday tree, and some good holdovers offer the stagestruck some pretty packages to unwrap.

We’re always interested, for instance, in what the irreverent souls in the eclectic band 3 Leg Torso are up to, and this week it seems they’re back in their old December haunt of Fröstland, this time with some fresh tales of the wild and wacky lives of … well, elves. The Elves of Fröstland: The Next Generation carries our reluctant heroes’ saga forward.

Back in 2020, it seems, the Torso-ites found themselves stuck in a cold and frosty cabin somewhere in the Far North, assigned to make toys for Santa. Fortunately, they brought their instruments, and making music, they discovered, made the whole experience magic. This time around, as they’re packing up and ready to return home, a fresh storm leaves them stuck in the cabin. Fortunately (again), a stream of highly interesting visitors keeps popping up at the cabin door, and the musical merrymaking continues. (Here at ArtsWatch, by the way, we don’t make this stuff up: We merely report it.)

Among those unexpected guests are the excellent Pepe Raphael, Jet Black Pearl, the Scandinavian folkies Varelse, the Russian and Eastern European-inspired band Chervona, and The Amazing Bubble Man. A group like this could heat up any cabin. A highly suspect media source, one Aléb Hgolab of the equally suspect Frostländ Herald, declares: “It’s a theater show that combines elements of Gilligan’s Island, Spinal Tap and The Donner Party. The drama is endless!”

Performances are Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18, at the Alberta Rose Theatre; there’s also an online viewing option through New Year’s Eve.

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We wish we could show you a photo from Fezziwig’s Fortune, the new play by Portland writers Josie Seid and Sara Jean Accuardi that’s playing for one performance only, at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, at Beaverton’s Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately; we wouldn’t want to spill the beans) we can’t. That’s because, until showtime, nobody–not even the other members of the cast–knows who’s performing in the play. They don’t call the producing company Anonymous Theatre for nothing. Anonymity–nay, sworn secrecy–is what it’s all about. It’s like opening a present on Christmas morning, and not even the present knows what’s inside. But, trust us: These are always highly entertaining events. Oh, the play? Seid and Accuardi pluck Mr. Fezziwig out of A Christmas Carol and give him his own star turn. What, as they say, the Dickens!

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Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

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A KOIN-6 TV interview with Portland Revels artistic director Bruce Akpan Hostetler.

The popular, family-friendly Portland Revels returns to live performances after a pandemic hiatus with its new show, The Midwinter Revels: Andalusian Night–A Celebration of the Solstice. Set in 14th century Andalusia, Spain, it’ll feature among others the Spanish and Moroccan musicians of Seffarine, the Portland Brass Quintet, and flamenco dancer Laura Onizuka. Friday through Sunday, Dec. 16-18, at the Newmark Theatre, with a children’s show Dec. 29-30.

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The always entertaining Willamette Radio Workshop, which performs radio-style drama live, with all the studio bells and whistles, both enters and exits the stage calendar this week with two performances of its show A Radio Christmas Carol, Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Victorian Belle Mansion in North Portland, and Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Kiggins Theater in downtown Vancouver, Wash.

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Meanwhile, Experience Theatre Project gets into the holiday spirit(s) on Saturday, Dec. 17, with A Drunk Christmas Carol, Vol. II, a freewheeling performance and fundraising event that also includes an ugly sweater contest, a silent auction, a raffle, and more. The company explains: “Watch a classically-trained theater troupe perform a Reader’s Theatre version of Charles Dickens’s classic tale… right after two actors chosen at random take five shots of whiskey. Hilarity and mayhem are sure to ensue as the three sober actors attempt to keep the script on track while tormenting the over-confident, self-absorbed drinking actors. … What could possibly go wrong?” (We refer you back to our cautionary note: ArtsWatch doesn’t make this stuff up. We just report it.) This is, as you might expect, a 21-and-over event.

LAST CHANCES

A few shows are entering their final weekend: Watch now, or forever hold your peace:

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  • Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, John Patrick Shanley’s breakthrough hit (he later wrote the Pulitzer-winning play Doubt and the screenplay for Moonstruck) finishes its run Sunday, Dec. 18, at Bag&Baggage, in Hillsboro.
  • The excellent solo show Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord also closes Dec. 18, in the intimate Ellyn Bye Studio of Portland Center Stage.
  • Hannah Kahlil’s futuristic play about virtual reality, Metaverse, ends Dec. 18 at Corrib Theatre.
  • Lindsay Partain’s The Way You Made Me ends Dec. 18, at CoHo Theatre.
  • And At Wit’s End, Helen Raptis’s nicely received solo turn as humorist Erma Bombeck, reaches its end end on Saturday, Dec. 17, at Triangle Productions.

HOLDOVERS

John San Nicolas, Ashley Song, Jimmy Garcia, Treasure Lunan, and Jamie M. Rea in Portland Center Stage’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” Photo: Jingzi Zhao
  • Portland Center Stage’s mainstage hit It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, based on the classic holiday movie, continues through Dec. 24 at The Armory.
  • Portland Playhouse’s popular musical-theater version of A Christmas Carol continues through Dec. 30.
  • Fuse Theatre Ensemble’s queer-centric production of the Thornton Wilder Classic Our Town continues through Dec. 24.
  • Imago Theatre’s wonderful kids-of-all-ages critter show ZooZoo continues through New Year’s Day.
  • And Broadway Rose’s light-hearted musical revue A Very Merry PDX-mas continues through Dec. 22.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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