Jana Lee Hamblin

Reborning: a strong debut for a new theater company

Beirut Wedding kicks into action with a funny and provocative drama, a CoHo cross-promotion, and music from Portland bands

Bobby Bermea and Jamie Rea’s new theater company, Beirut Wedding, makes some wise moves right out of the gate. Open the program, and a coupon falls out, recommending that if you like this show, Reborning, then you may enjoy CoHo Theatre’s concurrent play, The How and The Why. Indeed you may. Since both shows prominently feature the relationship between an older and a younger woman, and both confront the complexities of motherhood, it’s a natural pairing.

But what’s more: on trend with upcoming shows at Portland Center Stage and Artists Rep, they’ve scored their debut show entirely with local music, listed the bands in the program, and given them a shoutout in the curtain speech. (As a former PDX Pop Now volunteer, it warms my heart whenever creative groups source their music locally. With every genre, subgenre and non-genre well represented, there’s no good reason not to. Beirut Wedding has chosen roaring hard rock and smart, sardonic rap from Tiny Knives, Myke Bogan, Candace, A Volcano, and We the Wild.)

Murri Lazaroff-Babin and Tiffany Groben. Photo © Russell J Young

Murri Lazaroff-Babin and Tiffany Groben. Photo © Russell J Young

Such community partnerships extend the reach and deepen the creative context of a show. Every company that hasn’t, should try them.

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Monkey business at Artists Rep

In Nick Jones's tick-tock "Trevor," Jon San Nicolas is the most human chimp in town. Laugh, nervously, at your own discretion.

Two scenes:

– On Saturday evening, before opening night of Nick Jones’s sort-of-comedy Trevor at Artists Repertory Theatre, I’m sitting at Gilda’s Italian Restaurant in the Commodore Hotel building, across the street from the theater. I’m here because a Portland Timbers soccer match is beginning soon just down the street at Civic Stadium (I refuse to use the ballpark’s current corporate nom-de-plume), and in order to find parking for less than twenty bucks my wife and I decide to show up early and spend a good deal more to have a nice dinner beforehand. The place is packed with pre-theater folk (Profile Theatre has a show tonight, too), a mob of soccer fans all dressed in green, and presumably a few people who just happened to make reservations for 6 o’clock on this particular Saturday. The din’s incredible, like the high-pitched thrumming of generators at an electrical power station, and the servers are hustling around at warp speed, taking orders, carrying platters, running filled wine glasses upstairs and down. In the open kitchen you can see the cooks moving in an orchestrated whir like the blades on an electric mixer, chop-chop-chop. What stands out is the professional efficiency of the staff, who move quickly and unobtrusively from table to table, checking on the wine, refilling the bread plate or the water glass, whisking away dirty plates, bringing a new fork if needed. On a hectic evening, only by running as a well-rehearsed team can a restaurant staff create the illusion of ease and calm and keep the whole edifice from falling into chaos.

Hamblin, San Nicolas, Luch, Gibson: couch potatoes and more. Photo: Owen Carey

Hamblin, San Nicolas, Lucht, Gibson: couch potatoes and more. Photo: Owen Carey

– On Sunday morning, as I sit down at my kitchen nook to begin to write this piece, a sonic boom sounds from the dining room behind me, and a blur of black fur, ears bent back like paper-airplane wings, streaks to the back of the house. On the dining room floor is a potted plant, messily unpotted – ceramic shards are scattered like little poison darts around the room. Dirt is blanketing the rug, burrowing beneath it, unaccountably splattered on windows and sills seemingly a safe distance from the scene of the crime.

I mention these two occurrences because (a) the success of Artists Rep’s Trevor is extraordinarily tied to the skills of its running crew, who have an unbelievable mess to set up and then clean up nightly and must run the show with the precision of a madcap farce, although that’s not precisely what Trevor is; and (b) if a five-pound, five-month-old kitten can inflict this much damage in a dining room, how much more havoc can a 150-pound grown chimpanzee create if let out on the loose?

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