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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Lauren Weedman Doesn't Live Here Anymore" @ PCS

Lauren Weedman's first show at PCS was "The People's Republic of Portland" and I remember enjoying it, but thinking that it could've used more structure. Ms. Weedman's new show, "Lauren Weedman Doesn't Live Here Anymore" has a stronger sense of structure due to the plot-device of an imaginary Country-Western Variety show. This device also allows for frequent musical interludes and impressions. But, the best of Weedman's humor comes from the brief moments outside of the show-within-a show,  in moments like when she tells a story about freaking out her preschool-mommy  yoga class with a dark quip about Jonestown, and her desperate desire not to be judged by them when the joke didn't land. This was also true of "People's Republic of Portland," the one moment which stayed with me in the years since, was a story she told about not wanting to be judged by Portland parents who prized low-tech entertainment, as she tried to hide that she was keeping her own child occupied with an iPad. Weedman is at her funniest and most truthful when she is palpably anxious about not fitting in wherever she goes, despite her best efforts.

The addition of music and impersonations does help to create a fuller show, and I think it has broad appeal.

"Wild & Reckless" @ PCS

"Wild & Reckless" is a collaboration between Blitzen Trapper and Portland Center Stage. They term it a "concert event," and it is indeed a good concert, but I did find myself thinking that its dystopian plot,  having to do with a drug made from lightning,  needed a bit more spoken-narration than it received. Still, the music is gorgeous throughout, so much so that I am now a fan of Blitzen Trapper on the strength of this score alone. The show is as loud and as "wild" as its title suggests, with moody "trippy" projections to help set the scene. It is a truly unique piece, and a strong signal that PCS is making a commitment to new-work, which is laudable in itself. I'd say the audience for this show is made-up of people who like theatre and like music, but are not huge fans of theatre-music. This is an example of what can be done if the two worlds unite and yet keep their own identities.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Feathers and Teeth" @ Artist's Rep.

"Feathers and Teeth" is a strange show, to put it mildly. Darius Pierce has long made a home in strange shows, but it is still disconcerting to see Agatha Olson in darker roles, having first become acquainted with her in "The Miracle Worker." She set a precedent for such a shift in Third Rail's "The Nether", but even then she was in the role of a victim. Here, she is almost a villain, though there is room for doubt.

The play can be funny, deeply sad, and sometimes genuinely psychologically unnerving, and at other times, recall the late-night horror creature features of yesteryear. It is a delicate mix, but one that the strong cast and script pull-off effortlessly. I would recommend it equally to those who are intrigued by that last sentence, as well as to those who read it and mentally exclaimed "huh?" Those who are intrigued will not be disappointed, and those who said "huh?" will see how well such disparate themes can coalesce. As one final enticement, and/or warning, depending upon your preference for such things, be careful where you sit, one side of the theatre is informally designated as a potential splash-zone.