DramaWatch Weekly: An Equinox Mid-Monther

Spiders, Mermaids, and the joys of mid-run theater, when shows are gliding along at their heights

The date: March 21. The weather: rain, thunder, and sun. The shows: small ones opening, biggies mid-run. We’re over the Ides. We’ve driven out the snakes. But we await the full flowering of the resurrection. Will you meet me halfway in an Equinox Mid-Monther?

The Mermaid Hour, (previewed adeptly last week by TJ Acena), opens at Milagro mañana with a few utterly unique circumstances to recommend it: it’s hand-picked by the National New Play Network for a Rolling World Premiere; it’s directed by the masterful Sacha Reich (of Jewish Theatre Collaborative); and in an ongoing and hotly charged theater community conversation about who gets to play transgender characters, it’s something of a clap-back: cast as writ, with a trans adolescent actor in the lead. Represent.

Kevin Jones, Ben Newman, and Val Landrum in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Photo: Russell J Young

Between Riverside and Crazy is mid-run at Artists Rep. By the same playwright as The Motherf-cker with the Hat (which I quite enjoyed), it’s resonating on many levels with Marty Hughley, who calls it “a deceptively complex and artfully constructed play, delivered here with terrific verve and attention to detail.”  Local luminary Kevin Jones stars as a curmudgeonly ex-cop clinging to his longtime apartment in a rapidly changing neighborhood and “fronting” that everything’s fine. Sounds relatable AF right about now.

(Mid-run, by the way, is a perfect and under-sung window in which to catch a show: over opening-night jitters, pre home-stretch fatigue. Take it or leave it from someone who’s watched copious shows sprint through previews and lope to close: a show hits its stride mid-run.)

Sam Reiter as Margaret of Anjou in “She Is Fierce.” Photo: Dylan Wiggins

Aaand, what’s in the Shoebox? Two curios.

Enso Theatre’s latest begs clarifications: though its title, She is Fierce, surely riffs on the Hermia/Helena feud of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this is taglined “a play not by Shakespeare.” Furthermore, though it features “a bedraggled [yet presumably fierce] queen” bemoaning her lost love affair, it eschews the domain of your Hedwigs or your Ru’s-Paul (RuPaul, BTW, soon live at Portland’5). This is “queen” in the classic sense of the word, royalty. Anne, the ill-fated wife of Richard III, toasts her pending demise at age 28 with a glass of wine and a wry soliloquy.

That’s mid-run (see above), and bumper-to-bumper with Hellcab, a staged-reading redux of a Theatre Vertigo vehicle. That’s what Vertigo’s doing this season, their 20th: leafing through their files from prior years, reminiscing and reviving…scrapbooking, you might say, from a precious collection compiled in a teahouse and a Shoebox.

“Spider Drive,” at The Headwaters.

Oh, here’s something: Spider Drive? Staged at the Headwaters, produced by Torchsong, penned by an ardent and affable local, William Thomas Berk, this is a brand-new “modern noir rock musical.” (I met Berk years back amid the Post5-ers, and ran into him recently while buying bouillon cubes at Sheridan Fruit. This is in some ways still a small town.) FWIW, I’ve read a Berk script—not this one—before, and I saw potential. And I’ve seen a brand-new rock musical—not this one—performed at Headwaters, and I found it worthwhile. Can I promise Spider Drive will be the new hotness? Nope. But it’s at least conceivable that an adventure to that side of the tracks this week might reward you.

Is that all? Surely not, but the rest of the work can be yours. Feel free to comment on other shows that you see blowing through this mixed March wind.

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