Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Receptionist, Portland Center Stage

By Adam Brock
Directed by Rose Riordan
At Portalnd Center Stage
Feb 2010

Lorraine Taylor   .....   Laura Faye Smith
Martin Dart   .....   Chris Harder
Beverly Wilkins   .....   Sharonlee McLean
Edward Raymond   .....   Robert M Thomas

sez says: I am more impressed by Sharonlee Mclean every time we see her. She did a spot-on job in her role as the Receptionist in this play of the same name.  She led the way in the creation of a work place many of us have been in, in which daily personal drama mixes with whatever the goal of the office staff might be.  In this case, the goal of the staff is a never fully identified creepy backdrop to office antics which the Receptionist tries, half-hardheartedly, to keep in check.  All we know is that whatever these people do in their work life it requires torturing people--and they can be added to the list of those to be tortured.  Meanwhile they prance about worrying about tea cups and old boyfriends, and dreaming of fly fishing.  Are we all really that alienated from the products of our labor?    Karl Marx said we were and maybe Adam Brock agrees.  Robert M Thomas also provided a droll rendition of a man who may have caught a glimmer of the reality behind his job.  We are hopeful about his possible contributions to Portland's community of actors. Chris Dart was a little flat and Laura Faye Smith was a bit to broad in our opinion.  All in all this is an interesting piece--but it is a little thin. I wouldn't tell my friends to avoid it but then I wouldn't tell them to rush out to see it either.  Grade C-

Saturday, February 20, 2010

American Buffalo. Third Rail

By David Mamet
Director: Daniel Stern
Donny ..... Bruce Burkhartsmeier
Bobby ..... Brian Weaver
Teach  ..... Tim True
LINK:  American Buffalo

sez says: David Mamet is like a magnet for me. That is because a view through his window on the world never fails to leave me thinking..and often feeling...something new.  American Buffalo is not a new play, but I had not seen it before and I am glad for the opportunity to be introduced to it by this production.  Weaver and True brought their characters to life with performances that exceeded 100% involvement. They passed by something that might be called 'perfect portrayals' and added that magical extra piece to their presentation of these characters. They gave us a glimmer of the souls of  Bobby and Teach. And, nothing less than that would do this play justice.  Mamet has written a play that presents men who are inarticulate.  The very nature of these characters is their limited ability to use words to explain themselves: their desires, their pain, their aspirations, their fears,  their affections, and so on.  So to know them, to see them, to grasp them, the men who portray them (the actors) must show us who they are...becasue the script alone cannot do it --the script only lets us see them struggling to find a way to express themselves...words are not tools they are skilled using/ that is part of the point of the play/--so their actions must do much of their speaking.  And True and Weaver pulled it off, they bring Bobby and Teach to life.  Having a limited verbal vocabulary they do much of their speaking through their actions, and their kind of talk is rough and violent and lacks order.  You can think what you want of Donny and Bobby and Teach. But I have no doubt that men like them exist. And knowing they are among us is at least a step toward seeing the full expanse of our culture and its products--the things we are given, and that we create, that we throw away. They all wait in the silent dark for us.  GRADE B+


Feb 2010
Director Zachary Carroll
Performers: Jeff George; Kara Girod; Melissa Kanavel, Jonathan Krebs, Josh Murry

sez says: this band of young dancers is a delight to watch...they are not always a precision assembly...but each one of them has personal powers to develop and they provide a glimpse of  what the future holds in the world of dance.  And that is a happy vision. Jeff George can leap and twirl as if he were born to fly but he seems less comfortable with some of Body Vox classic Body Voice moves.  Jonathan Krebs has energy and enthusiasm to spare but sometimes his movements do not flow as smoothly as you might wish.   Kara Girod mixes sensuous beauty and phenomenal physical strength but needs to learn to present those skills in a more subtle manner -- as if they did not exist. Melissa Kanavel may be small of stature but she has a giant personality that shows through in both her exquisite movement and, most impressively, in the expressions on her face while she dances. She is able to convey the tenor of each dance and her involvement in the body's voice with a sidewards glance, a smirk, a sultry smile. Josh Murry held up his part of the sky but he never rose above the surface to be of note.

Of course these lucky Body Vox Apprentices got to dance some of the company's most fun and enjoyable pieces like THE BUNNY -- which I could start my day, every day, watching.  Equally enjoyable is the Body Vox perennial Hopper's Diner, that full of fun romp of a story, that literally revolves around a dinner table and that is packed with humor and requires perfect timing-- which this troop managed well. Three pieces stood out  1) the USUAL SUSPECTS in which the need To Belong is demonstrated with light humor and a touch of pathos.  2) SOS  flows like water and sets off waves stroking the shore: it is nothing short of beautiful. And of course 3) LIVE WIRE a dramatic fun mechanical explosion, that conjures up robots and space men and plays with synchronization in a tour'd force ending of the show.

The tickets are a little expensive to see apprentices dance--but it always seems worthwhile to support this troupe. And we got a little shot of joy from the show -- which is priceless.  Grade B- 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bruno Beltrao / Grupo De Rua, White Bird Uncaged

Artistic Director: Bruno Beltrao
Dancers Bruno Neres; Bruno Duarte; Danilo Pereira; Augusta Eduardo Hermanson; Fiilipi De Morais; Kleberson Goncalves; Kristiano Goncalves; Luis Carlos Gadelah; Thiago Almeida.

Dancing H3

sez says --wowzers! this started off a little slow and I feared at first that it was some sorry version of Kung Fu Fight'n....but then, after the first segment, (which, I can you tell, I was not grabbed by)  it took off like a rocket and it never stopped.  This is MALE and it is URBAN -- you can feel the testosterone in the room as these young men power up and begin to fly.  The energy and precision movements --the speed, the cooperation and chest-bumping one-up'smenship,  the technical skill and non-stop street energy is 100% captivating.  While there is love demonstrated in this dance -- there is nothing gentle about it.  While there was competition, there was nothing hostile about it.   Beltrao has taken hip-hop and given us a new form of dance that makes you want to stand up and cheer for humanity, creativity, strength and dexterity--and we did cheer. And we would be happy to go back and see them again--but all of their performances are sold out here in Portland for this visit. We will be watching for them to come back!  GRADE A

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Carpetbagger's Children, Profile Theater

Director: Joh Kretzu
Playwright: Horton Foote

Cornelia  .....  Jane Fellows
Grace Anne  .....  Jacklyn Maddux
Sissie  .....  Val Landrum 

sez says: Profile presents another delightful play. The entire Horton Foote series has proved to be compelling. It is the magic of Profile, to reveal something more about the art of the theater by presenting multiple works by the same author, and gradually providing a depth of focus that is not available seeing only single pieces of a person's work.

For this play the simplicity of the structure is perfect for telling an epic. The tale spans the lifetime of a generation.  Three women telling little bits of stories about their lives, builds into a tale that tells not just about themselves and their family, but about a entire social order and about the tricks of memory and the slow rewriting of events to make the whole hold together.

The production itself is solid. Jane Fellow and Jacklyn Maddux easily slip into their characters and pull the audience right into the world they inhabit.  Val Landrum sang nicely (she has a lovely voice) ... but she was otherwise not at all as strong as Fellows and Maddux.  You couldn't help but know that she was trying to create a character...she was working at her accent and the voice changes she had to do. Or, in other words you knew she was acting--and thus not making the character real. Regardless, this is well worth seeing--and Profile Theater continues to get high marks from me.  GRADE B

Monday, February 1, 2010

Design For Living, Artists Repertory Theatre

Playwright: Noel Coward
Director: John Kretzu

Gilda  .....  Sarah Lucht
Ernest Friedman  .....  Doren Elias
Otto Sylvus  .....  Todd Van Voris
Leo Mercure  .....  Michael Mendelson
Miss Hodges / Grace Torrance  .....  Vana O'Brien
Mr. Birbeck / Henry Carver  .....  Alec Wilson
Helen Carver  .....  Amy Newman
Matthew / Photographer  .....  Tim Hill

sez says: simple plot: she loves them both, they love each other, and they both love her.  Given that as the basic facts to be dealt with a new way of living together must be found..and it is--they will all live together and share the love three ways--via a ménage à trois.  It takes a lot of talk -- much of which is witty and fun -- and a couple scene changes --and some good time hamming it up -- to get to the conclusion that a threesome is the solution.  There are plenty of raised eyebrows from people who live off of art--and who do not understand art (ie are disqualified from having opinions worth considering.)   It is mostly entertaining with the exception of the third scene, it drags on a bit.  Possibly not as shocking today as it was when it was written--but still a worthwhile message: What consenting adults are up to in private is nobody's business but their own.

The production is adequate to the task of telling the story. Sarah Lucht does the best job acting that we have, to date, seen her do. But that has to be understood in the context that we've seen her in many shows and we have never seen her really shine in any of them. So while she's ahead of her own game here that is a relative condition. And, something really weird, she needs to get a haircut that matches the time and place..or at least, she should comb her hair. The night we saw her, her hair was half done--and distracting.  Van Voris and Mendelson seemed to be having  lot of fun  -- making them fun to watch. GRADE C

mjc says:  this had some fun moments with witty dialogue and some good physical stuff  by the actors.  As sometimes happens I wonder how it would be if the acting and production was notched up a couple of clicks, but it was, by and large, an entertaining evening. GRADE C