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Sunday, November 10, 2019

"La Ruta."

"La Ruta" is an undeniably harrowing story. The end is  searing. But, the winding road we take to get there is disappointing. The play feels overlong even at an intermission-less 100 minutes. There are huge sections of untranslated Spanish, and the way it treats time is utterly confounding, There are numerous projections that denote the time, but I believe that there are instances where time moves forward by years mid-scene.  I have absolutely no clue what purpose the singer is supposed to serve, and she too sings in untranslated Spanish, (the lyrics are translated in the playbill, but by lights-up I didn't feel compelled to go back and look. This play is part of ART's "Table/Room/Stage" series of commissions, as was "Wolf Play", that production's only flaw was a bit of a rough beginning. "La Ruta" seems unfinished, but there is enough potential to wish it the best.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

"Redwood" @ PCS

Tyrone Mitchell Henderson steals the show in "Redwood,"  so much so that it's almost too much. His character, Uncle Stevie possesses many of the conflicting traits that make the production itself such a difficult balancing act. He's a goofball, a flamboyant character who is 90% of the show's comic relief, in his ineptitude in the dancing interludes. He is also at times the show's moral-center, forcing the rest. to confront the uncomfortable past. The sometimes dark humor is the show's greatest asset, and its humor is wide-ranging, even managing to include jokes about the mundaneness of married life, which fit in with, and are relevant to, the struggles of young couplehood made more complicated by certain revelations. The sudden extreme seriousness of certain scenes mixed with the lighter fare is sometimes off-putting, but I think it's intentional, and meant to unsettle, but just be prepared.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

"Macbeth" @ PCS

When I first read, "Macbeth" like you've never seen it before" I expected it to be a bit of marketing hyperbole. This meant I was completely unprepared for its unique aspects. Namely, the all-female cast, which plays multiple roles. It's os an undeniably interesting set-up, and the actresses are exceptional. It must be noted, however, that this also makes the action difficult to follow, especially since the play is short enough not to require an intermission. To compensate, I'd highly recommend either reading the play, or watching one of its many film adaptations prior to going. This will help immensely, and it won't ruin the current performance by any means. The brief vocal musical interludes are beautiful enough on their own to merit buying a ticket. If you go in cold, you may be a little lost. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

"Once" @ Broadway Rose

"Once" is not your standard musical. The film upon which it is based is understated and quirky. "Once: The Musical" is at its best when it mirrors that sensibility. In other words, I enjoyed its quieter moments most. That is not to say that some of the bigger numbers were without charm, only that the understated ones felt like a better fit. That said, if you enjoyed the movie, you will likely enjoy its musical version. Perhaps, if you know going in that it sometimes veers toward a more rockus mood, you will be less jarred. As always, Broadway Rose has wonderful singers and a tight band.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Crippled Critic Concert Review: Marc Broussard @ Revolution Hall

I've seen Mr. Broussard many times now. In this current show, last night at Revolution Hall, I assumed he had chosen the bulk of his set from the two volumes of soul-classics he has made: The "S.O.S: Save Our Soul" Series. But, now I think that he drew from cuts on his newest release, Home: The Dockside Sessions." This album includes many tracks from those albums as well as others. But, the reason I feel compelled  to draw the distinction is the overall "feel" of the versions on this record. They have an exceptionally smooth live-in studio character. I highly recommend it. It's available for download or Streaming on all popular services, and physically at all shows. But, even live-in-studio  does not compare to live. As always, Mr. Broussard bring his A-game. He is soulful through-and-through. In a way that is truly fascinating to watch. If you have not yet had the pleasure of seeing him live, do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.

Monday, September 16, 2019

"1984" @ Artist's Rep

On the whole, Artist's Rep's production of "1984" is a worthwhile show. The standout is Allen Nause as O'Brien, the calmly sadistic interrogator. My biggest quibble with the script is actually a minor one, which had a disproportionate ability  ro jolt me out of the story. This was the Book Club that made sporadic appearances throughout the show. As best I can tell, its purpose is to chide us about our screen-time, due to the constant interruptions of cellphones in their meetings. Their final appearance seems to serve the purpose of letting the audience know that in this telling, The Party is defeated by unknown means sometime before, suggesting the success of an uprising. This registered to me as a wink to what we should do in our current political-climate. If I'm correct, I'll admit that is a somewhat audacious implocation, but not worthy of the disruption to the overall narrative-flow.

All-in-all, Artist Rep's production is impressive, especially in the way it utilizes a handful of screens to transport us to the world of Oceania. That's a large task done with very little.

Monday, September 9, 2019

"In the Heights" @ PCS

"In the Heights" is a splendid show. It's fearlessly modern, but unafraid to nod to the classics. It laid the groundwork for "Hamilton", which would complete Lin-Manuel Miranda's quest to redefine what was "allowed" in a Broadway musical. "In the Heights" is revolutionary in its own right, too--totally apart from Miranda's blockbuster sophomore effort: It was the first successful Latin-themed Broadway musical since "Westside Story" in 1957.

 I would also dub "In the Heights" a musical for those who don't particularly like musicals, a group that includes myself. Yes,. that is mostly due to its aforementioned  modernity, but also its eye-popping choreography. (The show begins with a graffiti-artist tagging a store-gate, he executes a gravity-defying flourish at the end that's so impressive it's used as the show's logo.) This is just a foretaste of what's to come.

Stand-out numbers include: "It Won't Be Long Now" and "When You're Home". Perhaps the highest praise I can give the show is this:  "In the Heights" will mark the first time I have ever asked to see a show twice. While perusing the playbill in preparation for this review,  I saw that Yassmin Alers will be taking over the role of Abuela Claudia after Opening Night. Yassmin  Alers was an original cast member in the best musical ever written: Paul Simon's "The Capeman." The chance to see someone who was in that show, in my own backyard makes my heart pound. Miranda himself was a fan, lamenting the show's premature closure in interviews, and remarking that "In the Heights" began germinating as a means to fill the void left by it for Latino actors  New Artistic Director Marissa Wolf has a small connection to it as well, having done work at The Public Theater, which oversaw its latest Post-Broadway incarnation in Central Park. I'm always a little surprised to learn how well-read this website is within the theatre-community. I hope Ms. Wolf and Ms. Alers  read it. Will this be the beginning of my quest to see "The Capeman" on a Portland Stage? I don't know, but in the words of Abuela Claudia: I shall have "paciencia y fe."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"Footloose" at Broadway Rose

"Footloose" is my favorite production of Broadway Rose's current season. Its choreography is so acrobatic that its the only show I've ever seen where I thought to myself, "Where did they find humans without spines? Congress? It also has a delightful '80s soundtrack. Unfortunately, the theatre has informed me that the entire run is sold-out. Perhaps they will extend it, having reached that milestone so early. If so, put on your dancing shoes and hope they double as decent running shoes and get a ticket.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"Into the Woods" @ Broadway Rose

"Into the Woods" proves once again that Dan Murphy needs to step on stage more often, and not just to tell the audience to "turn-off anything that's not implanted."His Narrator is the most consistent source of humor in the production. He's a natural goofball, and does more with the part than one would expect. Another standout is Tyler Andre Jones as the lovably dumb Jack. It's a fun romp through  familiar fairy tales, put over with the flair we've come to expect from Broadway Rose.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Native Gardens" @PCS

The most striking thing about "Native Gardens" is the perfection of its casting. The neighbors actually look like the types of people they are meant to represent. This is particularly true of Anne-Marie Cussion . She is the very embodiment of the weathered, tough-as-nails woman who fought her way up.

Most of the script is amusing. Although, it does underline its "we're not just talking about plants" topicality a little hard at times. I assure you that you'll get its drift. All in all, "Native Gardens"is a comedy about heavy themes, but also manages to end on a light note. Much like the hobby at its center, it is a pleasant way to while-away an evening.