Friday, April 23, 2010

Radio Golf, Portland Playhouse (Grade B)

Playwright: August Wilson
Presented as a joint work by Portland Playhouse and Base Roots Theater Company
Director: Brian Weaver

Hammond Wilks      Lawence E. Street
Mame Wilks        Andrea White
Roosevelt Hicks        Bobby Bermea
Sterling Johnson        Victor Mack
Elder Joseph Barlow       Kevin E Jones

sez says: What a neat little theater, housed in an old church. The space feels full of love and creative energy and commitment to the performing arts. It is a pleasure to find such a place--and not a surprise to discover it here in North Portland.  This production has heart. Of course August Wilson left the world a legacy of  work that can enrich our souls and should be mulled over and over and over again. I personally will go to any performance of his work that is available for me to see--anywhere --anytime. (Can you tell I am a fan) So that fanaticism got us to this production.  The play itself can only be fully appreciated as a part of a much larger story--told in preceding plays about this community. But the play also stand alone, asking how do we hold on to what is important in the past while we move into the future. The acting here was a little uneven--but it was plenty good enough --and the story held its own, even in the face of a few technical difficulties. Kudos all around, and thanks. (Grade B)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Chosen, Portland Center Stage (Grade D-)

Director: Chris Coleman
From the Book The Chosen by Chaim Potok, stage play by Aaron Posner

Reuben Malter    Matthew Boston
Young Rauven Malter     Carter Hudson
Reb Saunders     Daivd Margulies
Danny Saunders     Jonathan David Martin
David Malter     John Rothman

sez says:  The acting was great--the staging was fine but the play itself is a bust.  Uncritical endorsements of Zionism, in any form, are in questionable taste. If you want to tell one side of a story, tell the other side.  Is it possible that people in Portland know so little about what happened to the Palestinians (the people who occupied the area that the Zionist took), that they can sit and listen to accusations that the Palestinian were attacking Jewish Settlements without at least feeling a bit squeamish?  Excuse me, did the Palestinians not have a right to at least try to protect their land and their homes?
Anyway, politics aside (which is hard to do)--my question about this play is: What if you removed all of the disagreeable politics and set the play in some other time and place--what would you have?  Well--you'd have an entirely unbelievable story about fairytale father-son relationships (has anyone ever had --or known of --fathers or sons like the ones in this story?) The story ends with the conclusions that son's must find their own paths, even if that disappoints their fathers.  And good fathers, while disappointed, will love their sons and accept their decisions. Well...humm. how new or interesting or realistic is that?  And, is it worth an entire play?  Maybe it is worthy of a sub-plot--but if that is all there is--that ain't much.  Real fathers and sons do struggle--but those struggles are never so simple as they are presented here.
And, one last point.  A little fact checking is needed:  I don't think a Hasidim would be tossing a football  around with his pal.  Footballs are made of pigskin.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The As If Body Loop, Reading at TheatreVertigo

Writer: Ken Weitzman
Reading (April 2010)

--sez says -- the reading was fine-- a little rough in places (some readers were less familiar with their lines than others --so there were some take-backs and restarts..but nothing terrible)  but the story was well told.  It is a tight story--all the elements are well managed and every element that is presented finds a neat place to get tucked back in so there is a complete little universe presented with no loose ends.  Plus there are some good laughs.  But I found myself both cheering-on and being angry with the story's message. The "As If" is right up my alley-- you cannot see someone suffer without suffering yourself. It is 'As If' you were suffering from the same thing. I'm with ya there. An injury to one is an injury to all. But this is told in the context of a dysfunctional family -- and the mother and father are the source of the suffering. That pisses me off--it is "as if" the parents suffering does not count.  That they were not able to be good parents shouldn't be seen as some character flaw. Rather it is the result of their being hurt people too.  The hurt and suffering comes from a larger place--the culture as a whole --not just from your mom and dad.  We've got to get past this "blame it on the parents" thing if we are going to address the source of the suffering--and--as the play points out, find our ability to heal each other.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gods's Ear, TheatreVertigo (A-)

By Jenny Schwartz
Directed by Philip Cuomo

Mel  ...  Heather Rose Walters
Ted  .....  Mario Calcagno
Lanie  .....  Amy Newman
Tooth Fairy  .....  Jenn Hunter 
GI Joe / Flight Attendant  .....  Gary Norman
Guy  .....  JR Wickman
Lenora  .....  Brooke Fletcher

sez says: perfectly cast, to a person, this story presents an array of individuals exposing their underbellies via a dialogue made up primarily of cliche and slang.  It reminds me of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, in which everyone says what they are actually thinking, rather than what we are suppose to say in social settings. But Pinter saw people's inner selves as selfish and mean spirited. Here Schwartz presents people who are struggling to cope with what the world throws at them. Good play, well done.

mjc says:  Vertigo is always on the edge and this is no exception.  The set was weak and did not support the production at a level that equalled the performances or the content.  The sufferings of a low budget production no doubt!  (Grade A-)