Thursday, March 31, 2011

FUTURA, Portland Center Stage, Grade C+

by Jordan Harrison
Directed by Kip Fagan
Lori Larsen  .....  The Professor
Christopher David Murray  .....  Gash
Kerry Ryan  .....  Grace
Phillip Clark  .....   Edward

sez says: future time--the virtual world of letters has replaced the written word.   the result: No books, No hand writing, No privacy.  We open with a professor lecturing her class about Fonts and the written word. She is kidnapped by people who want to stop the consolidation of all knowledge 'by any means necessary' ie: they are terrorists.  Lots of conversation takes place about the dangers and changes that accompany the technological changes we are experiencing today.   The first half of this show was great--'the professor's lecture' --the second half was less engaging because the issues and their implications were not clearly delineated....and what was suggested was not fully thought out.  So it seemed like a good idea--but needed to get sharper toward the end--not duller.  The acting was very good but the play, while not BAD--was also not GOOD either: It needs more work.  It was fine for a JAW reading (which is what it was--a work in progress) but it seems like it was choose to fill space, cheaply, in the season's offerings.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Scene (Portland Playhouse) Grade B+

by Teresa Rebeck
directed by Tamara Fisch
Clea  .....  Nikki Weaver
Charlie  .....  Leif Norgy
Lewis  .....  Ty Hewitt
Stella  ,,,,,  Laura Faye-SMith

sez says: Bravo / Brava -- wonderful acting here! 

Nikki Weaver is marvelous in any role that requires physicality.  She moves and poses and stretches and  slinks and bends and presents a fully engaged presence when she is given a part that provides her an opportunity to use 'body language'.  When, in the end, she has to stand and deliver lines her oomph is diminished--but her character is still strong enough to take us to the conclusion of the play based on her earlier development of the character.  

Leif Weaver turns himself into Charlie--the man who will criticize "the party" --seeing how vapid it is --but who really only wants to be the one people are sucking up to.  His decline is well observed

Ty Hewitt has a smaller part but he does it well and is ever so likelable

Laura Faye-Smith also portrays to a "T" the good people that make "the party" possible: competent, precise, under appreciated but paid enough to support a family and who can live in  the aura of  those who are at the center of 'The Scene' --ie the dramatic arts, TV, the Stage, acting, the media. 

The play seems to say:  accept it, this is how it is, maybe in a different academic --or moral -- universe we would seek enlightenment and art for the betterment of humanity.  But the reality is different,  There is "a party" that goes on that requires 'ass licking' and 'selling out'  -- and that most people who complain about it are just people who wish they were at the top of the heap.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, (Portland Center Stage) Grade B+

by Dale Wasserman from the Ken Kesey novel
Directed by Rose Riordan
Chief Bromden   .....  Tim Sampson
Dale Harding   .....  Stephen Caffrey
Billy Babbitt  .....   Ryan Tresser
Scanlon  .....  Ebbe Roe Smith
Cheswick  .....  Craig Bockhirn
Martini  .....  John Shuman
Ruckley  .....  Rich Cashin
Randle P McMurphy  .. PK Sosko
Patient Ensemble .....  Logan Loughmiller; Noel Plemmons; Nick Schultz; Robert M Thomas

Adie Warren  .....  Vin Shambry
Adie Williams  .....  Bobby Bermea
Dr Spivey  .....  Michael Fisher-Welsh
Nurse Ratchet  .....  Gretchen Corbett
Nurse Flynn  ..... Amy Newman
Aide Turkle  .....  Tracy S Turner

Candy Starr   .....  Sara Catherine Wheatley
Sandra  .....  Val Landrum

sez says: Rose Riordan is one of my fav directors --she always brings life and meaning to the work she does.  This story is well known --and continues to be lived..even though I have to wonder why.  It is sexist to the core.  And it could be argued that is is also racist too.  Plus do we see the mental health profession in the same light today as it was suggested here in the 1960s?-- ie: people are not sick but the world around them is and the sane thing --even the brave thing to do is to struggle against illegitimate authority.

Well, good news, Riordan pulls something more from the story--the humanity of people, even when they are struggling to figure out there place in the world..and that made the play solid and sound.  But you can't get away from the story line problems of sexism and an entirely simplistic presentation of mental health issues. Sure, people get into places of power and while claiming to be benevolent abuse their power.  And certainly there are people who think they are doing 'good' for others that are indeed malevolent --but those stories can be told in a way that actually mirror society--then they have power and meaning.  As is, this Kesey romp is a reminder of days gone by and a time of simplistic social analysis.

And, not to be forgotten here--the acting was good all round. Ryan Tresser, in particular, did a first rate job of bringing Billy Babbitt to life; Ebbe Roe Smith's Scanlon was perfectly tuned;  Amy Newman shined in her small part as Nurse Flynn.  All round the acting held up well.

Independance (Profile Theater) Grade C

Directed by Amy Gonzalez
Here is a not at all believable  story of a mother and her three grown daughters in a small Midwestern town. The daughters are suppose to be concerned for their mother’s mental health and how to live their own lives in the face of their mother's erratic behavior. The eldest daughter, a professor and a lesbian, has moved away and not been back for returns believing the middle sister has been badly hurt.  She discovers her sister was not as badly hurt as she had thought she might be and that she is pregnant. The baby sister meanwhile has had a child has been forced (by the oldest sister) to give it away, and is now apparently the town slut, waiting to finish high school and get out of town as soon as she can.  Mom mean while (Jackie Maddux) is mostly sane--but breaks things from time to time. 
Well-what is the 'drama' here?  Mom has already spent a short stint in a 'hospital' for here nutty behavior (again something orchestrated by the eldest sister.  But now, who will take care of her?  That is the drama.  Mom does not want to be left alone Number 1 & Number 3 sisters are clear they are not going to stay with her.  Number 2 sister is torn---pregnant and wanting to marry the child's father..but feeling obliged to stay with mom. She loses her boyfriend and must decide if she will leave with her older sister or 'stay forever' in service to mom.
Well they all see no answer but to walk out and 'abandon' mom. That is where this story falls entirely apart and loses all meaning.  Anyone of us with aging parents knows that making sure they are well situated is a task that, while hard and draining, can be accomplished,  If you have money there is a growing industry emerging to assist you.  So how about assisted living? Never mentioned.  How about seeking help from some of mom's peers (she has lived in this small town all of her life) she must know someone who might be recruited to keep an eye on her. How about taking Mom home with you--rather than be stuck in her home and the small oppressive town?   Ther are options --none necessarily great--but still options that  were not considered here--and that make the story pointless.
The acting was standard--but the play/story is a waste of time.