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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"The Night Alive" by Connor McPherson---Third Rail Rep @ Coho Theatre

"The Night Alive" has a lot in common with their recent production of Martin McDonagh's "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" in that both plays,  have a lot of their comedy come from just slightly wacky characters, in pretty ordinary conversations, which makes them a little difficult to review. Both also have brief explosions of violence, but I really shouldn't spoil that.  I was surprised at the violence in this show because while I don't have a crystal-clear memory of the handful of other McPherson plays I've seen, I don't think they were violent. Now, I'm not saying the violence is extreme, just unexpected, given the rest of the show. "The Night Alive" is a production with top-tier talent, a rich, odd, and endearing story with tons of humor, and a dash of Third Rail Rep magic. Go see it, though I would opt for a seat a little bit towards the back in the intimate CoHo, the set was a bit large for the space, and there isn't a bad seat in the house.

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Tribes" @ Artists Rep

"Tribes" is a play about family, and how families are their own little "tribes." I wish I hadn't read the Playwright's Note while waiting for the play to begin, it would've been nice to happen upon the meaning of the title on my own. Though I fear that without the Playwright's Note, I may have understood only half of the title's meaning. You see, the the word "tribe" has also been applied to those of us with the same disability. In the case of this play, that disability is deafness. It appears that deaf people take that tribal mentality more seriously than others. And that's why I appreciated the other sense of "tribe" referring to "family", because it diluted my misgivings about its meaning in the context of disability. There is a ton of discussion within the play about the Deaf Community. There are huge differences of opinion about deafness/ hearing-loss between those born with it, and those who go deaf later in life, what one character calls a "hierarchy".  I suppose that there are things unique to deafness that differentiate it from other disabilities, namely, that Sign Language is very much a language, not merely an adaptation, and I assume that this is a large part of the reason why "tribal" feelings are so strong. But, I must admit that I winced when the parents' efforts to raise their son not to be "defined" by his disability were questioned. I couldn't help but reflect upon my own life with Cerebral Palsy. I know that the feelings of "isolation" that were supposed to come from  being the only one,  or one of very few children with a disability was once a prevalent and powerful argument against educating us in regular classrooms, one that I am grateful my parents fought against. I never felt those feelings, but I can understand how other people might, and again, the differences about deafness that other disabilities do not share.

Back to the play itself: The interactions between the family members are hilarious. The projections are truly breathtaking, and provoke a mental "wow!" Especially effective are the ones dealing with deafness, the translations of musical notes into colors and static, when a character losing her hearing plays piano. Subtitling is also inventively done, but I must say that I would have appreciated a few more seconds to read them. "Tribes" is a must-see. It will make you look at your world, and the world at large in a different way.

Monday, February 2, 2015

"The World Goes 'Round" at Broadway Rose

Dan Murphy's Director's Note reveals that he was unfamiliar with most of the songs in "A World Goes 'Round when he saw the New York production, and that prior knowledge was not required to enjoy it. I would respectfully disagree. There is no narrative in "The World Goes 'Round" a revue of Kander & Ebb show-tunes. So, all that's there is the songs. All of them are ably performed by the cast, but it would have been nice to have some context as to why a man has broken into an ode to his Sara Lee dessert, for instance.  I went back and looked in the playbill, and "Sara Lee" did not have a note about which show it was from, as some of the others did. Everybody knows "All That Jazz," a stand-out, but again I would say that a familiarity with the material is a must.

"Threesome" @ Portland Center Stage

This review will be unavoidably brief. I have run into this issue with my smattering of stand-up comedy reviews, when I can find nothing suitable for reprinting. Act I of "Threesome" certainly falls into that category, for reasons that should be fairly obvious, but I don't think many will conjure anything quite as gross as the story relayed by a character about a mishap involving Thai food. Allow me to summarize the First Act thusly, "Haahahaahahaa! Yuck!" That will have to suffice. Act II is a complete tonal shift, and it is the gut-punch of a finale that makes "Threesome" not only a must-see, but among PCS' best. I truly wish I could tell you more, but I shouldn't. I'll tell you this: Go!

Portland Center Stage
128 NW Eleventh Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209 | 503-445-3700