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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"The Mystery of Irma Vep"

Third Rail Repertory Theatre always has top-notch, polished productions even back in the days when they were just starting out and were tenants in a converted firehouse, and "Irma Vep" is no exception. The first thing that strikes you is the dazzling set, complete with lightning effects. I had not looked at my playbill before the show, so it took me a second to realize that the cast consists of only two members, two male actors. It didn't take long for "Irma Vep" to turn into a quick-change romp. It is a laugh-riot. And the twist at the end is completely unexpected. The most concise, spoiler-free thing I can say is: If you're looking for something different, this is it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Blithe Spirit" @ Artists Rep

"Blithe Spirit" is Artist Rep's "non-holiday holiday show".  So those of you who already have holiday fatigue can use this show as an oasis. Still, I can't help but wonder why they didn't position it closer to Halloween because it's a ghost story comedy. My favorite scenes involved the ghost and her rapidly changing location, with the other characters trying to avoid sitting on her, like a child's imaginary friend.

Michael Mendelson is his usual animated self, his performance is worth going for all my itself.  Also noteworthy is Vana O'Brien as Madam Arcati, the scatterbrained psychic.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Christmas Survival Guide @ Broadway Rose

"A Christmas Survival Guide" is -despite its title- the cheeriest Christmas show in town. Sure, there's nods to various sadnesses around the holidays: loneliness,  a frazzled adult asking Santa for a litany of unmet needs, a jaunty little number called "The Twelve Steps of Christmas," but even with all of those light whacks at the season, "Survival Guide" cannot hide its yuletide enthusiasm. "All Those Christmas Cliches" in Act I sums-up the spirit of the show, even though we may tire of some of the rituals of the holidays, we still long for them in their absence. My favorite number by far was the Big Finale "A Walk Through Bethlehem."  So, go! (you know you want to, don't hide it.) There are still plenty of us with Christmas joy to spare, some of you decorated right after Halloween, didn't you? This is a show for those people, and they should drag along a few Scrooges to hasten along that Christmas epiphany.

"A Christmas Survival Guide"

Broadway Rose New Stage

"Santaland Diaries" @ Portland Center Stage

I haven't seen  David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries" for many years, Portland Center Stage was in its old home as a tenant of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, it was the final year before "Santaland" took a long hiatus. A few things are different in this incarnation: On the positive side, my personal view was much improved, (the front of the Elleyn Bye Studio vs. the rear of the Newmark.) On the negative side,  PCS originally paired "Santaland" with Truman Capote's "Christmas Memory" and the contrast of Capote's melancholy with Sedaris' sardonic wit was sorely missed. Here's hoping that they revive the double-bill soon. I do not recall who played the role of Crumpet the Elf in the original production, but Darius Pierce, a local favorite of mine all the way back to his days with Theatre Vertigo is wonderful in the role. In fact, the reason I made sure to see "Santaland" this year was because I was reminded of how much I missed his unique stage-presence after seeing him in Third Rail's "Middletown".  I can see why "Santaland" has been a PCS tradition for so many years, the tale of Sedaris' brief stint as a department store elf is just the thing for those who wish to laugh knowingly at forced holiday cheer.