Murri Lazaroff-Babin

Chapel Theatre’s “Anatomy” lessons

Kat Ramsburg's "Anatomy of a Hug" grapples with the challenge of connection in a fraught mother-daughter relationship.

Living with roommates can be tough. Sharing space, overlapping schedules, compromising privacy — it all can be tricky. And if you wind up stuck with someone that, for whatever reason, you’re not inclined to like, the situation can get ugly.

Even so, it’s a bit of a shock when Amelia, giving a cursory tour of her apartment to an older woman named Sonia, snaps at her that they shouldn’t “share any personal information.”

But then, you surely could add “mother and daughter” to the list of emotionally loaded living situations.

Chapel Theatre Collective’s “Anatomy of a Hug” deals with the difficulty of getting close when you’ve become a wooden character in your own life story.

And what else might make things especially tense? Let’s see…how about if mom’s been in prison for killing dad? And the daughter is convinced that she was also a target of the crime? And mom’s out now through a compassionate-release program because she has terminal cancer?

That’s the potent set-up for Anatomy of a Hug, a well-crafted drama by Los Angeles playwright Kat Ramsburg, on stage now as the debut production from the Chapel Theatre Collective. It’s a smart, emotionally perceptive piece of writing, with the acidity of its premise balanced by just enough romantic sweetness.

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The Quiet Men, ready to explode

Corrib Theatre's tense, potent production of Owen McCafferty's "Quietly" drags the Irish Troubles into the present in a Belfast Pub

The power of Owen McCafferty’s Quietly, Corrib Theatre’s latest production, takes you by surprise.

It starts slowly and, naturally, quietly. In fact, when it begins, it’s just a lone barman, Robert (Murri Lazaroff-Babin), sending texts to his love – or loves? The texts set up that they have moved to Belfast, where this play is set, from Poland. No one seems entirely happy about it.

Enter Jimmy (Ted Rooney), a depressed or angry (is there really a difference?) regular at the bar, clearly comfortable shooting the breeze with Robert, but not talking about anything particularly important. Their conversation mostly centers on a soccer match between Poland and Northern Ireland playing on a TV — and a 1974 soccer match between Poland and West Germany. But Jimmy hates soccer, so this conversation is meaningless. Or is it?

From left: Tim Blough, Murri Lazaroff-Babin, Ted Rooney. Photo: Adam Liberman

Jimmy mentions that someone might stop by to talk to him, and to ignore any yelling. Robert has plenty of worries of his own, what with some local folks not appreciating having a Polish bartender. So he doesn’t want any trouble.

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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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