Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brother, Sister Plays Part 2 - The Brothers Size and Marcus or the Secret of Sweet - Portland Playhouse

Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Directed by Victor Mack
Cast:  Shun, Shunta Iyun - Lava Alapa
          Ogun - Bobby Bermea
          Elegva, Legva, Marcus - Brian Demar Jones
          Aunt Elegua, Shun - Jennifer Lanier
          Oya, Osha - Ramona Lisa
          Man from state, O Li Roon - Jonah Weston
          Shango, Oshoosi, Terrell - Damian Thompson
          Egungun, Shua - Salim Sanchez
          Momma Moja, the woman who reminds you, Oba - Jocelyn Seid

Brothers one hard working the other has a dream of owning a car.  This is about what is it to be a brother; how many ways is love demonstrated; what kind of sacrifices are required within that love. Beautifully performed; magnificently presented - walked out crying.

The Brother Sister Plays Part 1 In the Red and Brown Water- Portland Playhouse

Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Directed by Victor Mack
Cast:  Shun, Shunta Iyun - Lava Alapa
          Ogun - Bobby Bermea
          Elegva, Legva, Marcus - Brian Demar Jones
          Aunt Elegua, Shun - Jennifer Lanier
          Oya, Osha - Ramona Lisa
          Man from state, O Li Roon - Jonah Weston
          Shango, Oshoosi, Terrell - Damian Thompson
          Egungun, Shua - Salim Sanchez
          Momma Moja, the woman who reminds you, Oba - Jocelyn Seid

Young woman's dreams of being a runner are deferred to help her mother; dreams which are not available when you look for them later.  Pursued by young men: one who offers stability; one who offers sexual attraction.  No good or easy choices; protagonist wants a child but is barren.  Stunning performance; the reason we go to theater is to discover plays like this.

Red - Portland Center Stage

Written  by John Logan; directed by Rose Riordan
Cast:  Mark Rothko - Daniel Benzali
          Ken - Patrick Alparone

Clever staging; great text.  Explores the nature of the relationship of art and philosophy and ego.  Acting was Ok but one craved to see a real powerhouse actor engage the text.

A Lesson Before Dying - Profile Theater

Written by Romulus Linney (from a novel by Earnest J Gaines); directed by Kevin E Jones
Cast:  Paul Bonin - Dennis Kelly
          Emma Glenn - Brenda Phillips
          Grant Wiggins - Carl Kennedy
          Sam Guidry - Stephan Henry
          Jefferson - Harold Warren
          Vivian Baptiste - Andrea White
          Rev Moses Ambrose - Jerry Foster

Black man accused of a crime is called a pig and condemned to death.  He responds by saying that if is called a pig he should act like a pig.  His family and community fight to convince him that no one should be defined by someone else and he must act like a man not a pig before he dies.  Nicely done!

Penelope - Third Rail Theater

Written by Enda Walsh; directed by Philip Cuomo
Cast:  Burns - Christopher David Murray
          Quinn - Michael O'Connell
          Dunn - Tim True
          Fitz - Bruce Burkhartsmeier
          Penelope - Britt Harris

What a great play!  Well done and well staged.  It was nice to have the old Third Rail company back!  It is a take on the Illiad from the perspective of the Penelope's (Odysseus's wife) suitors.  Penelope representing a future worth living and all the heart is called to but is also ever elusive and the competition among men in the pursuit of the unattainable.

Hard Times - CoHo Theater

Adapted from The Charles Dickens novel by Stephen Jeffreys; directed by Michael Gerber
Cast:  Camille Cettina; Ted de Chatelet; David Janovik; McKenna Twedt

Every member of the cast played multiple parts.  Interesting staging; good costumes but we weren't sufficiently caught up in the play to endure the dreadful seating.  The seats are too low to sit in comfortably for the duration.

Next to Normal - Artists Repertory Theater

Play by Brian Yorkey; Directed by Jon Kretzu
Cast:  Diana - Susannah Mars
          Dan - William Wadhams
          Gabe - John Debkowski
          Natalie - Meghan McCandless
          Henry - Todd Tschida
          The Doctor - Jared Q Miller

Mom's fighting mental illness while family struggles to take care of her and themselves; no easy chore.  Done as a musical.  Too bad cast wasn't up to the task.  Good try production.

The New Electric Ballroom - CoHo Theater

Reading play by Enda Walsh
Cast:  Breda - Jacklyn Maddux
          Clara - Beth Harper
          Ada - Stephanie Gaslin
          Patsy - Isaac Lamb

Sisters remember pivotal day from their youth.  Would be fun to see a full production with all the costume changes and make up as described.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Collaborators (National Theater Live) A

--Thank you Third Rail for organizing these presentations of National Theater Live here in Portland.  We are sorry you did not--for this presentation--as you have for all the others-- hand out an information sheet about the play and cast. 

So I am lacking a lot of details as I write .. maybe I'll find the info on line and add it later.  But while it is fresh in my mind I want to say..

this is a great play--It is about the nexus between 'art and politics' and covers lots of other territory in the process especially pertaining to personal responsibility and rationalizations while it suggests that governing really is hard -- that would include governing yourself--as well as a nation.  Fabulous acting! Highly recommended

Collapse (Third Rail) Grade C

by Allison Moore
Directed by Slayden Scott Yarbough

Hannah   .....   Rebecca Lingafelter
David     .....   Jim Iorio
Susan   .....   Stephanie Gaslin
Ted   .....   Shelly Lipkin

sez says: humm -- this is suppose to be a comedy--but it is not charged with laughter.  A few giggles here and there --but really funny?  no, it is  not.  Partly that is the play--partly it is the production.  The story is about a husband and wife suffering from the husband's lingering trauma (the result of being on a bridge that collapsed-based on a real event in Minnesota). Their lives have not gotten back on track since that event--and as we enter the story, things seem to be getting worse.  The wife's black-sheep sister shows up saying she plans to live with them for awhile, and the sister seems to be working as a mule in a drug deal.  The wife is worried she may be  laid-off from her job. The traumatized husband is drinking more and more. Because the story needs to move-- a mistaken identify motif is introduced via an impotent sex addict --   In the end--husband and wife decide that so long as they are together they will be just fine ....

Now, if this were funny, maybe it would be worth watching.. but it doesn't make it to funny. The subject in not necessarily funny--so it would take some special acting to get it to be humorous.  While most of the acting was ok, there was a big problem with Stephanie Gaslin's Susan.  She was flat.  Gaslin presents Susan by throwing her arms wide in big swooping movements -- over and over and over and over. You can not discover a character via overstated body movements alone.  It was as if Gaslin couldn't find a way to bring her character to life--and her character needs to be brought to life to find the humor in the story.

In sum: A bit disappointing. Light entertainment at best.  Not the best play--and a mediocre production.

Hunter Gathers (Theatre Vertigo) Grade B+

by Peter Sinn Narchtrieb
Directed by Tom Moorman

Pam   .....   Karry Ryan
Richard   .....   Mario Calcagno
Wendy   .....   Brooke Fletcher
Tom   .....   Joel Harmon

sez says ... here is something we have decided-- You Can Count on TheatreVertigo.  This band of actors choose the best plays around to produce  --and they add plenty of heart and heat to these great plays when they stage them.  What more can you ask of any company?  Ok -- so they are not National Theater of England level master actors--but they are GOOD.  And, they seem to always come up with exceptional works: nothing hum drum is going to get on their stage.

And this is certainly true for their latest: Hunter Gathers.  What a ride.  A simple story about two couples, 30- somethings, who meet for an annual dinner..but what a dinner.  From slaughtering their own lamb for dinner--so the meat will be truly fresh... to the discovery that each members of the dinner party seems to be at a different stage in human evolution, the story moves into territory too often ignored.    The beast in men that seeks to determine who is the ALPHA-dominant male. The imperative to procreate.  Meanwhile suppressed sexual desires--and not so suppressed sexual desires are let loose --while we, as an audience, are left to ask just how good  is it to be "close to nature".   Plus there are plenty of laughs to go around.  All four actors do yeoman service to their characters --one being more fun than the next.  Highly recommended. We give thanks for for a great show.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches (Portland Playhouse) Grade A+

By Tony Kushner
Directed by Michael Weaver

Roy Cohn   .....   Ebbe Roe Smith
Joe Pitt   .....   Chris Harder
Harper Pitt   .....   Nikki Weaver
Belize   .....   Berwick Haynes
Louis Ironson   .....   Noah Jordan
Prior Walker   .....   Wade McCollum
Hannah Pitt + Rabbi +  .....   Gretchen Corbett
The Angel   .....   Lorraine Bahr

Life has gotten too busy so I can't write the sort of review I would likt to--but I don't want to maiss a chance to at least says that this is a brilliant play and it is beautifully done. 

Hats Off the Portland Playhouse for their latest in a string of winners. Bringing together some of Portland's best talent with just the right mix of imported help, making magic happen on stage with minimal sets and thus making The Play Be The Thing is the gift this company brings to our fair city  --so we send thanks and look forward to their next offering.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue (Profile Theatre) Grade B

by Neil Simon
Directed by Thom Bray

Mel Edison   .....   Don Alder
Edna Edison   .....   Karla Mason
Harry Edison   .....   Thomas Bray
Pearl   .....   Jane Unger
Jessie   .....   Jean Miller
Pauline   .....   Jane Fellows

plot -- Don has lost his very good job, wife Edna has to go to work, brother Harry wants to help, sisters Pearl Jessie and Pauline are a riot.

sez says: Neil Simon holds up -- he is a very clever writer --and he also is willing to take on topics that have resonance in our culture.  Here we look at unemployment, aging, male pride, family connections and contradictions - all with a light enough touch to  make us smile in recognition--and serious enough to make us think about how the world works. (and my --how men's and women's relations have change since this was written-!)

Sherlock Holmes & the Case of the Christmas Carol (Artist Repertory Theatre) B

by John Longenbaugh
Directed by Jon Kretzu

Cast :
Holmes  .....   Michael Mendelson
Watson   .....   Tod Van Voris
Mrs. Hudson   .....   Vana O'Brien
Becky   .....   Amy Newman
Moriarity   .....   Tobias Anderson
Young Holmes   .....   Matthew Kerrigan
Spirit 1   .....   Nathan Crosby
Spirit 2   .....   Gary R Powell

a mixture of a Sherlock Holmes tale and the classic "A Christmas Carol".   In general I am not a fan of Christmas Shows -- this was better than most -- but had I not been a subscriber I'd of skipped it...and not missed a whole lot. Light entertainment.