Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sunset Blvd, Portland Center Stage (Grade C)

Music By Andrew Lloyd Webber
Book & Lyrics by Don Black & Christopher Hapmton
Based on Billy Wilder Film
Directed by Chris Coleman
Norma Desmond  .....   Linda Mugleston
Max von Meyerling   .....  Larry Daggett
Joe Gillis  .....   Kevin Reed
Betty Schaefer  .....  Sarah Stevens
also...Michael Brian Dunn; Jessica Lisa Elovsson; Tony Falcon; Courtney Freed; Lisa Karlin; Robert Andrew Koutras; Emily Leondar; Paul Louis Lessard; Lindsay Luppino;  Leif Norby; Jeffery Pew; Kurt Raimer; Robert Stoeckle; Tracy J Wholf.
Orchestra Conducted by Rick Lewis

sez says: too bad, this just doesn't have much spunk. It reminded me of something you might see on a cruise ship--with maybe more talent than you'd find on an average cruise ship but less energy than those cruise ship kids generate.  Mugleston (as Norma Desmond) did the best among them -- you have to give her credit for holding-up her end of the job-- but Reed (Joe Gillis) was weak. He even made the title tune, "Sunset Blvd"--which is a passionate piece of music--feel forced and heavy. A couple of cast numbers tried to build-up some steam : 'The Lady's Paying' and 'This Time Next Year' provided some moments of hope that the show would get up on its feet...but it didn't manage to do it.  Can't say much in its favor, it is a middle of the road event.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ah, Wilderness! - Artist Repertory Theatre

writer: Eugene O'Neill
directror: Pat Patton
playing Sept 7th to Oct 10th 2010

Nat Miller   .....   Michael Fisher-Welsh
Essie Miller   .....   Sharonlee McLean
Arthur   .....   Nathan Crosby
Richard   .....   Philip Orazio
Mildred   .....   Helena Fisher-Welsh
Tommy   .....   Blake Peebles
Sid Davis   .....   Don Adler
Lily Miller   .....   Vana O'Brien
David McComber / Salesman   .....   Gary Powell
Murial   .....   Amaya Villazan
Wint   .....   Samuel Benedict
Bella & Nora   .....   Amy Newman
Bartender   .....   Grant Turner

sez says: Given that  A Long Days Journey Into Night depicts a version of O'Neill's real family, you can imagine he wrote this as an offering of what he thought a 'good family' might look like.  The Miller family is one to love--and to emulate. It has plenty of quirks but it is held together by love and respect for each other. It nurtures its children and does the right thing all the time. It is rather refreshing--and while parts of the Millers are familiar to all families--they are not like any family I've ever seen outside fiction.  It may be what we yearn for--but it is a far cry from what most people actually experiences.

Well written (as you'd expect from O'Neill), well acted all round, very nice costumes, and then comes the one strange flaw.  The set is second rate.  It seems to be half done with poles and ropes exposed hanging above the stage area.  Even the furnishings were shoddy.  The lace table cloth didn't fit the table,  the book case was half-full of what looks like old Readers Digest reject books, and such.  This is suppose to be the early 20th century...this set didn't look it. It looked a bit too much like a second hand store.

Oh, The Humanity, Our Shoes Are Red / Performance Lab @ Portland Playhouse

Writer William Eno
Directed By Devon Allen

cast: Tim Stapleton, Casey Pfeifer, Matthew Dibiasio, Jennifer Rowe Hadley Boyd, Hans Eleveld

Sept 2010

sez says: I sure like William Eno, we attended a reading of his play GNIT, at JAW last summer--it was wonderful.  So we jumped at the opportunity to see another of his works, this being the "Portland Premier" of OH, THE HUMANITY, which is is made up of five short piece.  This is not a standard narrative/story. Rather it is 5 separate vignettes--tied together loosely by a concern with the "Majesty" (Eno's word) and complexity of life and by the fact that all life is ephemeral but even-so it provides a kaleidoscope of action, emotion, yearnings, awe and sorrow--any and all of which can be altered by the way it is viewed.
For instance, one scene is of a woman, representing an airline, taking to the friends and family of an airplane that has just crashed , and from which there are no survivors.  She has no standard rap to give (which she reminds us is a good thing--because seldom do planes fall from the sky) but as she gropes for something worthwhile--or meaningful to say--she reminds us that we are all on our way down. She hopes the passengers never realized they were falling as she stumbles around imagining their last minutes of life and trying to find words, any words, to make meaning of life, anyone's life.
In another scene a photographer and his assistance bring the audience into the show by making the audience the subject of a photograph.  They talk about another group photo, taken of soldiers during Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Rider Adventures in Cuba. They tell the audience that they are seeking to find our souls in the photo and suggest we adjust our gaze to seek our highest moral selves, to look concerned for the world, to demonstrate an expression of compassion..and so these elements of our humanity can be caught on film.
The acting was fine, not exceptional, but solid.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of Eno's work.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stones In His Pocket, Public Playhouse (Grade B)

By Marie Jones
Director Michael Mendelson

Cast:  Dustin Milberg as Charlie &  Christopher David Murray as Jake

At CoHo Theater 2257 NW Raleigh, Portland Oregon  -- Sept 10, to Oct 2, 2010

sez says: This play requires tremendous dexterity from the actors. Milberg and Murry must portray 15 different characters--and they do it so well that they make it look easy: a turn of the head and a new person appear, or a step is taken in one direction, there is a short halt, and seamlessly another character appears.  At times there were dances of twists and turns that accompanied a bouncing back and forth between characters: Very impressive stuff,  indeed fun to watch and well done.  Not just any one could pull this off but Milberg and Murry proved they have the required skill.

The play itself is about lots of things and it is simply laid out. What is the impact of Hollywood on people's dreams?  What happens to traditional cultural when it comes face to face with the dream makers and fakers? Who is responsible for telling / remembering truth?   It is not deep--or complex--but it is honest and it has entertainment value.  I certainly would not hesitate from recommending it to kith and kin.

But I do have a gripe. And I would ask anyone who sees it to think about this: Why are the women characters so hideous?  Is it necessary to the story?  The first  time a female character appeared I thought the character being portrayed was a send-up of a fastidious gay man who was working on the set. As it turns out the character is an impatient she, who is generally hysterical and unkind. Similarly the 'famous actress' was played as if she were a drag queen.  Both of these characters were set-up as entirely unattractive people.  I am not sure that this was in the script.  There is no question that the skill of the actors would have allowed them to play these characters in a variety of ways. So it must have been the director who wanted it this way.  It would be interesting to read the script and to see if the author intended the misogyny that was displayed.  I suspect not. I'd have to get a copy of the script to really answer this question . But it seemed a curious and sorry aspect of an otherwise good show.