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Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Somewhere in Time" @ Portland Center Stage

"Somewhere in Time" is Portland Center Stage's first pre-Broadway production. Based upon the 1980 film starring Christopher Reeve, the musical is in all ways big. PCS's sets are frequently impressive, but those for "Somewhere in Time" signal a new leap forward. The acting is top-notch, with leading man Andrew Samonsky exuding effortless charm, and thus great chemistry with leading-lady Hannah Elless.

One of the most striking things about "Somewhere in Time" is the depth of the cast, I could be wrong, but I would wager that this is the largest cast ever assembled for a PCS production, what richer harmonies! And yet, one must not discount the power of the solo, my favorite number was "The Grand Hotel",  sung by David Cryer as long-time porter Arthur, which ends with a show-stopping final-note.

The source material was written by Richard Matheson, who is also responsible for "What Dreams May Come", and "I Am Legend" The premise is that playwright Richard Collier goes back to 1912 to find a long-lost love, stage actress Elsie MacKeannah, by willing himself there mentally.

"Somewhere in Time" was a pleasure to watch, and I hope that it might pave the way for PCS to serve as an "incubator"--,to use Artistic Director Chris Coleman's term- for future Broadway-bound shows.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Ithaka" by Andrea Solowitz

"Ithaka" was the result of a local New Work Contest called The Fowler/Levin Prize. I note this first for a couple of reasons: One is that I have always felt privileged to be among the first to see work that few others have seen. The other reason is: The Prize reminds me that I live in a city which values the arts, and sadly we need such reminders these days, when our Paper of Record not only editorializes against a modest Arts Tax, but also when that tax faces hurdles to implementation, takes the opportunity to crow.....

From the Playwright's Note we learn that the events in the play are compiled from the recollections of local Veterans of the current wars. My first thought when I read that was: "Oh, that must've been so interesting!" A purely journalistic reaction, one which envied Ms. Stolowitz's opportunity to research a subject, and have people tell her their stories. Sitting here now, having seen the play, and needing a full day to digest it enough to write about it, I realized how divorced from the subject-matter my reaction was....

"Ithaka" takes its title from the island Odysseus is returning to in The Odyssey, after the Trojan War. Odysseus  is briefly used as a character in the play, to serve as an early example of a soldier who gets lost on his journey home.

The play's protagonist is Capt. Elaine Edwards (Dana Millican), who is in the grip of PTSD. Millican plays the character as if she's split into thirds: a woman putting on a brave and happy face, a woman struggling to cope with the things we expect, like nightmares, and a woman teetering on the edge of sanity...

I've said before that this season has probably been Artists Rep's best, a season filled with hard-hitting shows. I must say once again that I am thankful for things like the Fowler/Levin Prize, and I am also thankful for Artists Rep, a venue willing to nurture the work.