Twig Webster

DramaWatch: Third Rail’s the charm

The lowdown on this week's openings and closings, new seasons on the way, and a blast of a party coming up for Third Rail Rep

“When Third Rail first came on the scene,” says Maureen Porter, “there was little else happening. It was a different scene and a different city.”

So it was, back in 2005 when Third Rail Repertory Theatre — already a couple of years worth of planning meetings into its life as a fledgling company — rocketed onto theatergoers’ radar with an acclaimed production of Craig Wright’s Recent Tragic Events. An artists’ collaborative that started out as a fully professional Equity company, they were the little guy that could, quickly coming to be considered in the front rank of Portland theaters alongside Portland Center Stage and Artists Rep; significantly smaller in budget and number of productions, but consistently punching above their weight with top-quality work.

Maureen Porter

Not long after Third Rail began to solidify its reputation, I switched from my longtime position at The Oregonian, covering popular music, to writing about theater — an art form about which I knew all too little. (Yes, yes, I know — some things never change.) I quickly fell in love with theater, and Third Rail was (along with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and, I suppose I’d have to say Artists Rep) why. The company picked great plays, comedies with devilish bite, dramas with surprising, insightful slants. The acting was consistently arresting, featuring a steady core of talented company members. The direction (in the early years, always by founding artistic director Slayden Scott Yarbrough) showed a scrupulous attention to detail, textual interpretation carried out coherently and cohesively through  all aspects of design and performance. The tremulous containment of Gretchen Corbett as a woman in political danger in A Lesson From Aloes; Porter’s fantastic (literally) bipolar mood swing in The Wonderful World of Dissocia; pretty much every little thing about Enda Walsh’s antic yet high-minded Penelope (a take-off on the Odyssey, set in an abandoned swimming pool)…for several years, it was high point after high point.

Continues…

Brief affair, puzzling twist

Triangle's intimate, beautifully performed family story "Our Mother's Brief Affair" jumps the expositional tracks, and it's difficult to care

By ALIA STEARNS

Children view their parents as sexless creatures, even though a child’s entire existence is the product of raw parental sexuality. And, it is mothers more often than fathers who are placed on a rigid, unearned pedestal of purity and selflessness by their offspring. In Our Mother’s Brief Affair, at Triangle Productions, author Richard Greenberg explores the life of Anna (Michelle Maida), a mother who is neither selfless nor pure, and her relationship with her twin children, Seth (Alex Fuchs) and Abby (Deanna Wells).

Deanna Wells, Alex Fox, Twig Webster, Michelle Maida: intimate mysteries. Photo: David Kinder/Kinderpics

Anna steps onto the stage before the lights go low, sitting on one of the two benches that make up the entirety of the set and occupying herself quietly as the audience continues murmuring pre-theater chatter. When Seth steps on the stage, he launches into the first of the night’s bouts of exposition. An obituary writer by trade, he has trouble fully capturing his mother as he has come to know her. She isn’t a cold woman, exactly, but she also isn’t the sort prone to affectionate behaviors like assigning nicknames to her children. Anna is also what Seth terms “an average situational liar but not at all a maker of fables.”

Continues…