A.L. Adams

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.

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DramaWatch Weekly: Crikey!

Blimey: Some Portland stages are getting all Irish on us. Plus a Magic Show, a White Hound of the North, and mom's brief scandalous affair

Fun linguistic facts: Did you know “blimey” is short for “blind me,” and “crikey” for “croak me?” And just like that, an expression of simple surprise becomes a murmured self-annihilation. Thank James Joyce for putting it to paper, and thank the Irish for their wry twist on the human condition, which, this month, we celebrate.

At least two companies seem to be making St. Patrick’s festivities official, mentioning “Irish Month” in promoting intimate Irish shows: Portland Story Theater’s Luck of the Irish and Readers Theater Repertory’s Lovers: Winners.

The former will fill the Old Church to the brim with music and blarney for a 90-minute step-dancing, harping, fiddling variety and storytelling show.

The latter, a dramatic reading of Brian Friel’s Lovers: Winners, eavesdrops on two teenagers struggling to focus on studying for their exams, even as “an unforeseen event propels them into disgrace.” Ooooooo. (Call 971.266.3787 to make reservations. The Blackfish Gallery fills up fast.)

Oh! And it looks like fly-by-night micro-company Speculative Drama and Susurrations will soon debut an Irish-infused White Hound of the North at The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven (reserve at events@thesteepandthornywaytoheaven.com)

Of course, you can’t mention Irish Theater in Portland without checking in on Corrib. One may even wonder if, like serious partiers shun New Year’s Eve as “amateur night,” serious Irish folklorists snub St. Patty’s. Sure enough, looks like they’re laying low in the afterglow of Lifeboat, and in more ways than one, prepping Quietly for April. Two Irishmen meet in a Belfast bar 30 years after The Troubles to remember events and reconcile a rift.

 

Oh: And how about a little sleight-of-hand? Portland Center Stage opens Andrew Hinderaker’s “The Magic Play” this weekend on the Main Stage at The Armory. That’s Jack Bronis as “Another Musician” waving that giant Queen of Hearts. Photo: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

What sort of affair is Our Mother’s Brief Affair? Sounds like a talkie on a park bench rather than a song-and-dance soiree. Triangle Productions opens it this weekend. Like Mother’s iconic Burberry trench coat, it sounds like a subdued character study in revealing, concealing, and putting on airs.

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DramaWatch Weekly: Casually Optimistic

On tap: A blood-red Scottish Play, a Scarlet letter, Death visits a maiden, some hollering sessions, two trains running, a season of musicals

I’ve been writing some nice things lately about actors. Maybe more than before, but no less truthful. Lest you think me a suckup, let’s settle the scales. Here are a few current and soon-to-open plays that may be great for all the wrong reasons.

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

I’ve heard from some that The Scottish play we mustn’t say—Macdeath?— is slaying at Shaking The Tree, yet I’ve also heard from ArtsWatch’s TJ Acena  that it’s got spacing and pacing problems, and that Macboof is a little aloof. Anyway, staged with translucent walls in an already-small space for ample shadow-play, and starring Jamie Rea as the titular killer, it should at least defy cliche.

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Well, Fertile Ground happened, and while I offered a few prognostications, for the first time in many years I didn’t get out to see those shows. Can you please use the comments to tell me, and more importantly each other, what you loved? With a festival that’s so egalitarian by nature, community opinions should hold the most sway anyway.

Now then:

The word around ArtsWatch via our reviewer TJ Acena is that Magellanica, which recreates the feeling of its setting, Antarctica, with a glacially paced 5+ hour runtime, is “worth it.”  I believe it. If I had to pick a group of people to get marooned in the Antarctic wilderness with, I’d actually consider Artists Rep’s company of actors. They’re versatile and compassionate, and they can make fire.

Alisha Menon is the Girl Prince in Northwest Children’s Theatre’s “Chitra.” Photo: David Kinder

Corrib’s all-age-appropriate Lifeboat closes at Northwest Children’s Theater this weekend, making way for Chitra, The Girl Prince, NWCT’s second major collaboration with Indian dance expert Anita Menon (the first being 2015’s Jungle Book). Nice to see Ken Yoshikawa pop up in a kids’ production and what looks like a romantic lead. His earnestness will not be lost on all ages.

What else?

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DramaWatch Weekly: Double Chekhov, Ghost Hunters

It's January. Time to shake off that holidays hangover and get on with the shows.

Hello. The holidays are over and now plays can be about anything again. Next week brings Fertile Ground, brimming with homegrown theater offerings of every conceivable topic and timbre. There’ll be almost too much to mention then, so this week by comparison is short to summarize.

For those who can’t wait ’til next week, a couple of plays are opening early that you can Chekhov your list.* Northwest Classical Theatre brings Patrick Walsh’s adaptation of The Three Sisters to its old stomping grounds the Shoebox (with a familiar face from last season’s Playhouse Creatures gracing the cast). I, for one, miss the days when NWCT used to hang their collection of velvet cloaks in the Shoebox’s breezeway. Glad they’re back.

Dainichia Noreault as Irina, Elizabeth Jackson as Masha, Christy Bigelow as Olga in Northwest Classical Theatre Collaboration’s “Three Sisters.” Photo: Gary Norman

Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble presents Štĕpán Šimek‘s “visceral, in-your-face” take on Uncle Vanya at Reed College. Expect surprises. (Though in the context of Chekhov, what does that mean? A gun not firing? Who knows?)

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Good morning. Happy holidays. Here’s something of particular interest to all-ages aficionados and puppet-heads:

A.L. Adams

This year’s Revels show features “life-sized puppets,” and combines the legends of Gryla and the Finnish folkloric fox figure. (Say that five times fast!) Like a modern jerk, I have YouTube-searched both for our general edification. Gryla is a Krampus-like Christmas ghoul who eats naughty children. She’s got 13 merry bearded sons (suspiciously similar to the 7 dwarves) whose names denote their idiosyncracies. “Pot-Licker” and “Window-Peeper” are two of the cohort.

Into the woods with the Christmas Revels.

The Finnish fox figure—or Fire Fox—yes, like the browser—moves so fast that its fur sparks static and forms into the Northern lights. Do you want to see this notorious child-chomper and this sparkling vulpine wonder singing and dancing on stage? I kinda do. Revels. Be there or be eaten.

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DramaWatch Weekly: A Dickensian Nor’wester and scattered Revels

ArtsWatch forecasts this week's holiday theater weather.

This weather, huh? What’s the forecast for this weekend and beyond?

A.L. Adams

To the southwest, there’ll be scattered Revels, with peak conditions for viewing Nordic Lights, and some precipitation rolling in from the Mediterranean will leave conditions Pericles Wet, while a family drama high pressure front builds up between Morrison and Alder. A Dickensian chill will sweep along the east river bank, building into a twister as it crosses into Northwest and breaking into gales of wry laughter as it heads for the Hils. It will miss Tigard altogether, which will experience mild enough conditions to continue its Holiday Parade already under way. Meanwhile, the Northeast will experience bursts of gospel, and as you head toward Columbia, be on the lookout for flaming radicals.

Dickensian drama is blowing in with the return of Portland Playhouse’s popular “A Christmas Carol” (above), Scott Palmer’s “Charles Dickens Writes ‘A Christmas Carol'” at Bag & Baggage in Hillsboro, Second City’s “Twist Your Dickens” at The Armory, and Phillip J. Berns’s “A Christmas Carol: A One Man Ghost Story.” Photo: Portland Playhouse

As you head Southeast, expect some choppy seas, and an abrupt shift as Utopia closes at Hand2Mouth and a dystopia opens at Theatre Vertigo: Victor Mack will direct José Rivera’s Marisol, a near-contemporary of Angels in America with some similar motifs—mental illness and spiritual warfare between angelic beings—along with some surprisingly ripped-from-current-headlines themes—namely, the struggle of a Puerto Rican woman against an unjust god who is dying and “taking the rest of the universe with him.” Also the frenzied desperation of an urban hellscape where citizens driven into homelessness by debt and personal injury gnash and wail in the streets.

Langston Hughes’s “Black Nativity”: a shining star. PassinArt photo/2016

Happy holidays, y’all. Jacob Marley left a message; something about “mankind being our business?” He said he’ll try again—repeatedly throughout our city, then at Vertigo on Christmas week, when Phillip Berns reprises his solo version of the classic.

Imago’s’classic “Frogz” leaps back into the swim. Photo: Imago Theatre

But what were we talking about? Oh yes. The weather. Northwest Children’s Theater will experience spells of magic, to subside by midnight. And tell the kids next weekend’s conditions should be ideal for watching FROGZ. Til then, stay warm, from hands to heart.