Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven

DramaWatch: two great musicals

This week features openings of two of the best musicals in the past 20 years: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "The Light in the Piazza"

There are those among us who — brace yourself for this — dislike musicals. Perhaps they hate them, with an active, withering passion, but more likely they simply dismiss the form altogether as sentimental or soapy or sappy or just stupid.

Theater folk understand how much craft and care and sheer intelligence of various sorts it takes to make a musical actually work, but anyway … The form’s detractors can find plenty of ammo for their view (Cats, anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, etc., etc.). A bad musical can be as dreadful as art gets.

And yet.

Do it right and the thrill is magnificent. Do it boldly and creatively, taking the form in new directions, and the overall effect is something that I’d argue is hard to duplicate in any sort of entertainment.

Dale Johannes in Triangle’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Photo: Henry Liu

This week in Portland we get new local productions of two of the most boldly creative, and thrilling musicals of the past 20 years.

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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: Variety Valentine

From laughing/crying nothing girls to "The Pride" to a long-lost comedy to offbeat Valentine shows, the theater week should be a snap(shot)

Few titles are as directly descriptive of plot as CoHo’s forthcoming This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing, an all-ages fable about three sisters who take diverging paths through the wilderness into womanhood. Eenie, meenie, miney mo; I wonder which sister is played by Jen Rowe? I’m guessing Albienne, the fighter?

“This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing.” Photo courtesy CoHo Productions

Defunkt opens The Pride, a widely split narrative that jumps a 60-year span to connect characters who share (almost?) nothing but a name. I love a good split narrative because the story—Humanity!—is already implied, and the rest of the exercise is just exploring the subtler curiosities of character. Spoiler: we’re all connected. But what will these particular people say and do?

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ArtsWatch Weekly: vote, and other opportunities

Looking back, looking ahead: a week's worth of theater, dance, music, film, and art in and around Portland

After all that feuding and fussing it’s election day, and nothing on this week’s calendar is more important. In Oregon, with its vote-by-mail elections, that means today is last chance, not first chance. Remember, ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday, not just postmarked by today. That means it’s too late to mail your ballot: You’ll need to drop it off. You can do that at your branch library and other designated spots. If you haven’t turned your ballot in yet, stop reading this right now and get ‘er done. If your vote is safely cast, scroll on down and take a look at a few visual reminders that the United States has been doing this for a long time. Except for the Bingham painting, the images come from the Library of Congress’s 2012 book Presidential Campaign Posters: 200 Years of Election Art:

"The County Election," George Caleb Bingham, 1852, oil on canvas, 38 x 52 inches, Saint Louis Art Museum

“The County Election,” George Caleb Bingham, 1852, oil on canvas, 38 x 52 inches, Saint Louis Art Museum

 


 

A FEW THINGS HAPPENING THIS WEEK:

Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival. The 43rd edition of the Northwest Film Center’s annual regional showcase runs Thursday through Tuesday at the Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium and Portland State University’s nearby 5th Avenue Cinema and Skype Live Studio. Shorts, features, and documentaries ranging from the battle over water rights to an internet horror tale to life in a modern medieval village.

Epoch. An evening of new dance from Samuel Hobbs (November) of push/FOLD and ArtsWatch dance columnist Jamuna Chiarini (The Kitchen Sink), with music by Hobbs and Lisa DeGrace. Friday and Saturday, BodyVox Dance Center.

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