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Saturday, November 12, 2022

"Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord"@ PCS

A play which sends audiences back to the worst of The Pandemic might be a hard sell. 

Kristina Wong know this. She acknowledges as much in the play's opening-minutes.

However, it takes a remarkably short time to win us over. She succeeds in this seemingly impossible task, by showing us hidden brightness in the darkness of worldwide despair.

Namely, her at first small, and then shockingly large, group of "aunties" who sew masks, which were then in very short-supply.

Along the way, she finds heaping amounts of unexpected humor. (Did anyone think we would look back upon one second of 2020 and laugh?) 

Kristina Wong must have.

There's a moment in the show in which women are asked to throw their bras upon the stage, (for their precious, precious elastic. I thought for sure that these members were plants, in case audience members were reticent. (I was wrong, Wong tells of a prize for those brave participants at the end of the show.)

When I entered PCS's Ellen Bye Studio mentally-grumbling that PCS still has a mask-mandate, when most public places no longer do. After this stark reminder of what life was like when there weren't any, my factory-made mask became downright comfortable.

Monday, October 17, 2022

"The Ripple, the Wave that Carried Me Home"

 "The Ripple, the Wave that Carried Me Home" stuffs its brisk 95 minutes with a ton of drama. Racism, segregation, father-daughter relationship issues, and on and on. What's most striking, however, is that all these disparate things take place against the backdrop of a public pool, literally and figuratively: the set is a public pool, and remains so throughout the entire play. While watching the play, I made a mental-note to praise the projections on the pool walls, but not all it was projection. (There's a conversation that happens on the wall where most of the projections are shown, but that would have to be a very well synchronized video, and I don't think it is. I couldn't figure out how they did it.) 

Also was the fact that the play is set in the not-so-distant past. The first moves toward desegregating the  pools began in 1957, and I'm thinking, "OK, my father was a toddler then." While not a very long time, I felt it was long enough to predict, "they'll fix it fairly quickly." A disturbing--not totally specified--incident, stemming from desegregation efforts, is said to have occurred in 1979, 5 years prior to my birth. That hit harder than I was expecting. 

"The Ripple, the Wave that carried me home" is a superb play. One I am glad I saw, not just for the action on stage, but for the jolt it gave me when I realized that we haven't moved as far--or as quickly--as I thought we had. The whole country might benefit from that jolt.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

"The Kiss" @ Lakewood

 "The Kiss" is a musical conceived by Will Vinton, I was friends with from a very young age, when I was making stop-motion animated short films, and a frequent attendee of his Portland Creative Conference.  So, it was nostalgic for me just to enter the lobby, and see the early sketches of various things in the production. (Make time to loiter a bit, it's well worth it.)

My favorite moments in the production are, unsurprisingly those that are reminiscent of animation. Those moments in which one is struck by an actor's ability to execute movements that would seem to be in the realm of cartoons. Such as, when Keaton Fields does his "seduction dance," insisting in song how easy it will be to procure the kiss he needs to turn him back into princely-form.  (Mr. Fields is a fresh from Acting School, his trajectory derailed by the pandemic. This is his debut-role, but --mark my words-- we'll be seeing much more of him.)  Another actor deserves similar praise for his fully-committed portrayal of a rodent, but doing so by name would be a major-spoiler. 

I felt honored to be among the first to see "The Kiss," Vinton's final creative work. Yes, it took me back to my past, but it also cemented my faith in Portland's artistic-future.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

"Gem of the Ocean" @ PCS

An August Wilson play is always appoint-viewing.  Add in top-flight Portland actors, (many of whom have done several Wilson productions over the years,) and you have unmissable, (and dearly-missed) theater. Wilson's often lyrically beautiful dialogue is the main-course. But, the dazzling implementation of the magical-realist themes should also not be given short-shrift. It's a classic, and deservedly so. As such, it almost seems arrogant of me to add any personal feelings. But,  I must say, of PCS' scheduled Season, "Gem of the Ocean" was the one I most fervently hoped would not be a casualty of CoVid. If ever there was a show worth venturing out for, this is it.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

"The Great Leap" @ PCS

 Take 2! 

I tried to attend Opening Night of ArtistsRep/PCS's production of "The Great Leap." The show was called off at Curtain for positive tests. 

It was worth the wait. 

"The Great Leap begins as a sports-story, but becomes far more:  A story about parents and their children amid the backdrop of Revolution. Playwright Lauren Yee is a voice I haven't otherwise encountered, and "The Great Leap" made me wonder what audiences had missed with "'Cambodian Rock Band" a musical by Yee, set to premiere Pre-Lockdown, and not yet mounted at PCS.

The Great Leap" is worth your time. It's full of the kind of drama we've missed for so very long.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

"Murder on the Orient Express"

 "Murder on the Orient Express" is the play I was looking most forward to, as live performances slowly crackled back to life on local stages. An added bonus is that this show is directed by my former teacher David Sikking. 

"Murder" is the kind of play I associate most with Lakewood Theatre since I first began going in earnest. The classic Agatha Christie tale, with its snowbound train is perfectly suited for a Winter's night. While I am far from a Christie expert, (my tastes gravitate more toward the grittier Raymond Chandler,) I'd say that "Murder on the Orient Express" is likely her best. 

As I sat in the theatre, waiting for the show to begin, I reflected upon how this was an ideal way to cautiously resume "normalcy." I was proven right. It really felt like "we're back!" I urge you to join me in that feeling. It's like feasting after a fast, and what a feast it is.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Crippled Critic Ice Cream Review: The Village Ice Cream Factory

With stages and screens still dark for over a year, this website has gotten no use.  The Crippled Critic himself, as an immunocompromised individual, has been under extraordinary lockdown since mid-March 2020. Then when I became eligible for the vaccine, it reached full-effectiveness on Feb 20th, 2021. Soon after, during an unseasonably warm March day, I ventured out to Multnomah Village Ice Cream Factory. My ever-vigilant twin sister, who knows of my obsessive-love of Blue Raspberry Slurpees/Icees, noticed that they had a Blue Raspberry flavor on a day she passed by. On this day, that flavor was not on the chalkboard. I had a Cookie Monster milkshake instead. ("Cookie Monster" is a delightfully decadent twist on Cookies & Cream, with a far more extensive list of cookies, I am certain it would do its muppet namesake proud.) Nikki, (the aforementioned twin,) decided to bring home a couple pints to-go. Among the pre-packed pints, was Blue Raspberry. Oh. My. God.  I think this flavor typifies the unusual--but never veering into bizarre--flavors that Village Ice Cream Factory serves. I love this place. Hopefully, as Summer approaches, they'll be open longer hours than their current  hours of 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM M-F, & 12 PM-8:00 Sat-Sun. 

The Village Ice CreamFactory

Multnomah Village

7709 SW Capitol Hwy

Portland, OR 97219

(971) 279-5047

Sunday, March 8, 2020

"The Odd Couple" @ Lakewood

"The Odd Couple" was written in the sixties, it would stand to reason that something would make it slightly dated. No, there's nothing, except for the use of the yellow-pages and a rotary dial phone, and perhaps that characters smoke indoors. The point being, nothing in the plot makes it feel the least bit stale. Even with the film and tv series versions being classics in their own right only increased my desire to see the original, which somehow I hadn't yet seen on stage. I find this particularly odd because there was even a Broadway revival in the not so distant past. One would think that would have spurred a host of regional productions, but I don't recall any. The description "laugh out-loud funny" is over-used an often hyperbolic, I reserve its use to occasions where it's literally true, and this production qualifies handily. See it. The comedy sparkles as if it were brand-new, and the set, (an often unsung element is gorgeous. It is also the lightest fare currently running, which I must say is quite welcome. 

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" @ PCS

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" is strange in all the best ways. Its protagonist has a deliberately unspecified neurological disorder. It makes him averse to touch, extremely skilled in certain academic subjects, and quite observant, which serves him well for the "detective story" element of the play. You may have noticed my omission of symptoms typical of such disorders, ones that are more debilitating than those I've mentioned. They too are shown in the play, but given the first-person perspective, significantly more downplayed than they otherwise may have been. I found this refreshing. By focusing on those attributes that could be considered assets, it makes those of us who might be broadly described as "introverts" feel less self-conscious about our various quirks. If someone in y0our life is, to use the term that's en vogue, "neuro-atypical," they might enjoy this show very much. If their enjoyment would be enhanced by a more "sensory-friendly" presentation, those are offered as well. One thing to note,  however, is that I was advised to select the wheelchair-seats in the rear-orchestra, due to the configuration of this particular show, so the wheelchair-using readers of this site should keep that in mind. Still, I'd highly recommend attending.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Joshua Radin @ Revolution Hall

Experiences like this don't happen every day. I am a huge fan of Joshua Radin, and had happened upon William Fitzsimmons on a double-bill with Griffin House. Seeing Radin and Fitzsimmons on the same stage was quite a treat. The third artist on the bill was Ben Kweller. whom I had never encountered. He was a pleasant surprise. I'll have a chance ti get better acquainted with all of them , because when I visited the merch booth in search of a large T-shirt, they were out, but as I was leaving the clerk gifted me Cds by all three men. That was the highlight of a night full of contenders.