Monday, April 18, 2011

A Walk In The Woods, Profile Theater, Grade A

written by Lee Blessing
Directed by Pat Patton

Andrey Bootvinnik   .....   Ted Roisum
Jone Honeyman   .....   Karen Trumbo

sez says--this was a perfect piece for a reading--there is  little staging required and the fact that the actors were holding their scripts was nearly unnoticeable. It is a well done piece that takes on the question of why the US and Russia could not stop the arms race. Both entertaining and worth thinking about --and very nicely presentd.

mjc says- Enjoyable presentation of the issue of the time. 

The Adding Machine, Theatre Vertigo, Grade A

written by Elmer Rice
directed by Jane Bement Geesman

Mr. Zero  .....  Gary Norman
Mrs Zero  .....   Jane Fellows
Daisy Diana Dorthea Devore   .....  Jenn Hunter
The Boss / Policeman   .....  Tom Mounsey
Shrdlu   .....   Joel Harmon
Mr. One / Lt Charles   .....   Mario Calcagno
Mrs. One   .....   Clara-Liis Hillier
Mr Two / Fixer   .....   Drew Danhorn
Mrs. Two / Judy O'Grady   .....   Brooke Fletcher
Mr. Three / Young Man / Joe   .....   R David Wyllie
Mrs. Two   .....   Natasha Terranova

sez says: Here is a timeless story.  Try mixing this up:  1) Technology. that keeps changing the world and at the same time undermines relationships in the workplace.  2)  People who too often don't live up to their dreams and fall into a hum-drum life, disappointing themselves and their families. 3)  Add to this some eastern religion and the idea of the transmigration of the soul  (which was all the rage in the 1920s when this was written)  4) Then juxtapose a moralistic, self defeating culture (doomed to degradation and an ever declining situation for it inhabitants) against the the dreams of an Elysian Field (where people are gay, making art and watching the flowers grow without need for purpose and who don't make judgments about each other.)

Give this material to a fabulous cast and you've cooked up one great night at the theater.  Vertigo may be the most interesting theater in Portland  -- I am shocked that they are not mobbed every night.

mjc says:  a nice piece of writing--imaginative staging.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Portland Playhouse, A+

written by August Wilson
Directed by Kevin Jones

Irvin   .....   Duffy Epstein
Studyvant   .....   Bruce Burkhartsmeier
Levee  .....   Victor Mack
Cutter   .....   Wendell Wright
Slow Drag   .....   Jerry Foster
Toledo   .....   Wrick Jones
Ma Rainey  .....   Julianne Johnson
Dussie Mae   .....   Andrea White
Sylvester    .....   Deion Guice
Policeman   .....   Gavin Hoffman

sez says: Do you remember the song "Blue Suede Shoes"?  You can do anything but don't you step on my blue suede shoes? How important are "those things you walk around in"?   Both as a metaphor and as a concrete symbol of style, shoes are capable of being powerful presenters of much more than protection for your feet.  You might want to think about this on your way to the Playhouse.  

This is a an amazingly perfect play--and this production is near perfect.

Set in  the 1930s, Chicago, and the world of blues music. Ma Rainey has made her way in this world and she has no illusions about how it works.  "They want my voice --they don't care about me" she says and she balks and refuses the best she can to "do it their way" And there is the band, each member as interesting as any other. An amalgam of lives lived inside the constraints of a racist society.  There is Toledo, who spends his free time reading, and who sees the larger picture and rages in frustration at the blindness of this companions. Cutter and Slow Drag find life in their music, the church and with women.  Finally there is Leeve, who wants to be heard and who is alive with creative energy.

Wilson puts his characters --and especially Levee --in a pressure cooker of a world: one that gives little opening for creative energy to find a home -- a world where talent is thwarted and exploited and violated.  This is a place where any straw might break a camels back. That these characters carry the loads they do --that they have found ways to cope in good humor--finding joy where they can and defining for themselves what is important make them all heroes of a sort.  But then there is Levee, we learn he copes better than anyone might imagine a person could cope, given his history --and still he is driven to make his music heard. That he will be robbed seems likely--and he knows that is the likelihood as well as the audience. 

And what a cast has been assembled here for this presentation! We find we have an abundance of talent that really ought to be seen more often in Portland's theaters.

MJC Says -- this is theater as it should be--brilliant play engaging and moving at the same time

Jack Goes Boating, Artists Repertory Theater (Grade B+)

written By Bob Glaudini
Directed by Alan Nause

Jack   .....   Tod Van Voris
Clyde   .....   John San Sicolas
Connie   .....   Emily Sahler
Lucy   .....  Tai Sammons

sez says:  This is a sweet work that mimics an increasingly familiar story-line. It is represented by such works as "Forrest Gump", and Kurt Vonnegut's "Galapagos", and the best selling  "All We Need to Know We Learned in Kindergarten"  etc.  It is about how those who are 'slow' --(or in the case of Vonnegut, those with slightly smaller brains) understanding, better than the rest of us, the world and what is really important. Jack wants a girlfriend and he is willing to learn new things and to take his time to develop a relationship. ie:  He will learn how to swim before he goes boating.  His more "sophisticated" friends don't have the success that will be Jack's  --they have outwitted themselves.  Ok--it is a sweet story and nicely done.  But is it true?  Does one have to be a nerd, or a simpleton  to figure out how to be a happy, moral, successful person? 

The production of this story was strong--the weakest link was Van Voris. We have seen him in roles where he has excelled.  But it seems he if being pushed into territory for which he is not well suited.  He played the part as if he were a bit bored by it. It is not so much that he was bad--he just was not as great as the others were in the production we saw .. maybe it was just a bad night for him.

mjc says: It was a nice little romantic story from a male perspective about just trying to do the right thing with another person.  Good acting by all but Jack.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Frankenstein, National Theater Live via Third Rail (Grade A)

Director: Danny Boyle
new play by Nick Dear--based on the novel by Mary Shelly
cast: Benedict Cumberbatch/Johnny Miller  ---- Frankenstein/The Creature these two actors alternate roles every other play

other cast members include: Ella Smith; John Killoran; Steven Elliot; Lizzie Winkler; Karl Johnson; Daniel Miller; Naomie Harris; George Harris; Haydon Downing; Wm Nye; Jared Richards; Danial Ings; Martain Chamberlain; Mark Armstrong; John Stahl; Andreea Padurariu; Josie Daxter

sez says: world class performance by Cumberbatch as 'The Creature' --and what we could see of the staging, it looked brilliant.  It really made you want to see the show in person. It was clear that the cameras could not fully convey the experience of being in the room. It was almost, but not quite, good enough to want to go back and see it again with Miller as The Creature, to see how he explored The Creature's character.
The telling of the story is from The Creature's perspective. And in making it such a lot of philosophical questions were posed.  Maybe a few too many.  I love drama that makes you think --but this was an unfocused case, with lots of questions asked.  What is creator? What is the relationship between creator and created (us and God)?  What is a parent and what are a parent's responsibility -- (much was made of the abandonment of a child.)  Is humanity doomed by its own actions?  What is paradise?  What is our relationship with science and knowledge? Are we moving ahead or backward -and is our only real motivation --underlying all that we do --to destroy what we have created ? -- and on and on the questions were posed.  I never thought I'd say this:  It got to be a bit too much.  Some focus would have helped--but still, it was a masterful bit of work and it is easy to recommend.