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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Marc Broussard @ The Aladdin Theater 10/16/16

Music is a powerful thing. This truth was on full-display on Sunday night at Marc Broussard's show at the Aladdin. I had been in horrific pain in the days leading up to the show and the days following, and I was completely pain-free for his entire set. Which clearly means I should have followed him to Seattle, (I wish.)

Broussard's newest album is a "sequel" to S.O.S.: Save Our Soul, his interpretations of Soul Classics. "S.O.S. II" has a few more well-known tracks than its predecessor, and for that reason it may have a slight edge. (Unfortunately, my copy from the Merchandise Table was cracked, so I've only heard the streaming-preview so far.)

The set-list was more varied than in previous shows, I could be wrong, but I don't think "Paradis" has appeared on a studio-album yet, only on "Live From Full Sail University", but I think that he could do a lot with it, it deserves to be a better-known track.

It was a fantastic night, Broussard always puts on an unforgettable show, overflowing with energy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

"The Nether" @ Third Rail Rep

I first encountered the work of Jennifer Haley in "Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom" Like that show, this production is set in the world of virtual-reality. "The Nether" is a place so real that most of society's functions take place within it, such as primary and higher-education. It is a place where some "citizens" elect to stay permanently within it. There is also an unspecified disaster which has decimated much of the real-world, at least in terms of vegetation.

The story centers around the interrogation of Mr. Sims, the proprietor of a "realm" known as "The Hideaway" where "guests" can engage in behavior certainly unacceptable in the real world. In Michael O'Connell's hands, he is a cold rationalist, which makes him all the more unsettling. Most disturbing of all, however is Agatha Olson as Iris, the "child" victim.

The set also deserves special mention, while it is spare, the "static-curtain" is a brilliant device to divide the real and virtual.

Due to a whirlwind of openings, I got to "The Nether" a little late, and it only runs through Oct. 22, but I hope you will see it, because it is the most provocative show of the early Season.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crybaby Live! Stageworksink @Clinton Street Theater

"Crybaby Live!" is the latest from Stageworks Ink, the company behind some of the weirdest productions in Portland, such as "Flash-Ahhh-ahhh" and "Dex Dixon: Paranormal Dick." "Crybaby" provides slightly fewer opportunities for the trademark weirdness, but that's only because the source material,  John Waters' film, already has a strange vision of its own. Still, a show that manages to feature a naked man in a clear plastic bubble-belt is a unique show indeed. Another stand-out "only in a Stageworks show" moment is when founder/actor Steve Coker sings as Milton in a hilariously long falsetto number. Oh, and one cannot forget to mention the singing ventriloquist dummy...

Fans of the film, fans of Stageworks, and fans of the truly bizarre will find "Cry-Baby Live" thoroughly enjoyable. Hurry, because it only runs this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"American Hero" @ Artists's Rep

Artists's Rep shows so far this Season were two of the strangest I can remember. First was "Trevor" about an amiable wash-up showbiz chimp, a character so engaging that one easily forgets the dark, real-life inspirations hinted at in the playbill until it's too late to brace for the tragedy in the play itself.

"American Hero" is similar--in that it too is a play that has roots in real-life tragedy, in this case the suicide of a Quizno's franchisee. The play has many moments of sardonic humor, and reminded me a lot of Mike Judge films like "Office Space," a slice-of-life tale of the various indignities of being in a job you hate.  My favorite of these moments is the frequent scene-ending device of Sheri, (the two job-holding, car-sleeping youngest employee) as she dons her sombrero for the evening shift at the taco place in the same mall as the sandwich shop, her exhausted expression is priceless.

There's also the over-eager Ted, trying desperately to compensate for his drastic change in circumstance, and Jaime, the hanging by a thread single-mother. The laughs come freely, and yet there is a deft balance between them and the depressing reality of the story. It ends on a note just hopeful enough, and perhaps that the best we can expect from both the play and the situation we find ourselves in as a country.

Monday, October 10, 2016

"We Hold These Truths" @ Portland Center Stage

One of the thnigs I love most about art-and perhaps theatre in particular-is its ability to distill otherwise complex subjects into personal stories. Our textbooks tell us of the overall subject of Japanese Internment, but I had never heard of Gordon Hirabayashi, the college student who took his case against internment all the way to the Supreme Court. The best moments of "Hold These Truths" involve the reactions at various levels of government to Hirabayashi's defiance. The degree of unpreparedness is a brilliant example of both the injustice and ineffectiveness of internment itself.

Another bit of history brought to light and life by "Hold These Truths" is the discrimination and segregation faced by Japanese Americans during the run-up to American entry into World War II, especially here on the West Coast. Usually such things are thought of as a Southern shame.

"We Hold These Truths" is a brisk and energetic show, Hirabayashi is an ever-engaging charismatic character. This makes it all the worse when we see our country not live up to its ideals.

The play is eye-opening, and educational, (though that word is so dry I hesitate to use it, because "Hold These Truths never feels like a history-lesson.) See Hirabayashi's story, and get more of the "whole story" than you knew.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Crippled Critic Concert Preview: Marc Broussard @ The Aladdin Theater 10/16/16

I've sung the praises of Marc Broussard in this website before, and it is my privilege to do so again, to mark both his upcoming appearance at the Aladdin on Oct. 16, and the recent release of "SOS II: Save Our Soul: Soul on a Mission" Like its predecessor, "SOS II" is Broussard's interpretations of Soul Classics. The album is truly fantastic, as the show surely will be. His "Bayou Soul" is something to behold, at once explosive and slowly intense. I first discovered Broussard on something like Pandora, and so my fandom came about by chance. It is for this reason that I would strongly encourage you to take a chance and see him as well. I predict each one who does will be an instant fan. I speak from experience, since that day I have not missed a Portland show.

Marc Broussard @ The Aladdin

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fly By Night Broadway Rose

"Fly By Night" earns the often over-used adjective "innovative." It has a time-bending romantic premise that for the most part works quite well. But, there are moments when it doesn't, and in those moments there is brief disorientation that requires re-adjustment and catching up. There is also the issue of general over-length, which changes the reaction to the unexpected ending into an "ooooh...." when the writers were likely aiming for something a little more visceral.

Still, "Fly By Night has a bright and varied score, and more importantly, the show itself represents yet another leap for Broadway Rose, the show is untraditional, a departure from the theatre's usual fair, though not far enough to be ill-fitting. Just enough to be different. The best way to articulate this is to let my inner-local theatre geek take the reins for a moment. This is show is what happens when Third Rail's sensibility (through director Issac Lamb) comes to visit Broadway Rose. It's something to see.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Masters of the Musical Universe: Battle for Etheria" @ Headwaters Theatre

"He-Man" wasn't a big part of my childhood, I was born in 1984, and that already puts me a little late for the height of its popularity, plus I was just a weird kid. But it doesn't matter! I still very much enjoyed Masters of the Musical Universe: Battle for Etheria. You don't need any real knowledge of the show beyond the absolute basics, least of all a need to have seen Episode 1, which was a lightning sell-out last year, (though they do sell a DVD at the merch-table.) The fun of the show lies in the hilarious costumes, the carefully chosen '80s rock classics, and the total-commitment of the cast, who despite the intentional schlocky-ness of the show never use that as an excuse to phone-in a single note. Tickets are selling briskly, and the production only runs through tonight and tomorrow. I recommend this show to both fans of its source, as well as those who just like their theatre funny and fringy!

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Little Shop of Horrors" @ Portland Center Stage

"Little Shop of Horrors" is the "Ultimate Musical for People Who Don't Like Musicals" It is untraditional from the ground-up, taking its inspiration from a shoestring-budgeted Roger Corman film, which happened to feature a young Jack Nicholson. It also has a fairly un-Broadway Score, with lots of street-corner doo-wop, my favorite being "Ya Never Know"  A close-second is "Dentist"

The scale of Portland Center Stage's version is perfect. Midsize. "Little Shop" is so frequently produced-by small theatres, and even high schools--that one might be fooled into thinking it's a small show, and yet, I also saw the Broadway in Portland Touring Version,  in the mammoth Keller Auditorium, where it was swallowed. (I just realized "swallowed" is a delicious unintentional pun!) Also, the medium-ness of the production allows the puppets to tower even more.

Here's my advice:

1. Take a reluctant friend

2. Be ready to laugh

3. Don't feed the plants

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Trevor" @ Artist's Rep

I must admit that when I skimmed the synopsis of "Trevor" in one of Artist Rep's mailings, my first reaction was, "Huh?" I remember a phrase along the lines of, "washed-up showbiz monkey." (You just said, 'huh?,' didn't you?") Now add in the fact that the aforementioned washed-up showbiz monkey is-by stern admonition of playwright Nick Jones-not in  any kind of chimp costume, and your confusion should double.

"Trevor" may be the funniest play I have seen at Artist's Rep. Artist's Rep is usually at least a little darker in the majority of their choices than, perhaps, Portland Center Stage, and while the idea for the play was gleaned from tragic news stories, most of the humor in "Trevor" is light, which is a nice change of pace, despite my preference for its opposite. Even though the "news story" inspiration is mentioned in the playbill, as well as Jones' careful foreshadowing within the play, we like Trevor so much, the sobering turn comes as far more of a surprise than it should.

This is due to John San Nicholas' performance-to call  it "fully-committed" is a nearly inexcusable understatement-but it's the best I can do.

"Trevor" is the kind of show that will reward you if you can get past the fact that it sounds like it should never, ever, have worked. Let me assure you, it does.