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Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Mary's Wedding" @ Portland Center Stage

There are plenty of plays with only two characters. I've even seen a few in which one actor plays multiple roles. I've also seen plays with time-shifting aspects, and devices akin to dream-sequences. But, combining all of those elements into one play can certainly cause confusion. Such is the case with "Mary's Wedding."

There are definitely things that merit praise.: The two leads manage a truly remarkable juggling act, the projections are frequently beautiful and evocative. But, I can't remember ever being quite so lost.

The plot is a nice, serviceable love story amid war, which is all the more reason to wonder why playwright Stephen Massicotte chose to complicate the narrative so needlessly. Despite the significant difficulties I had, I don't wish to steer you completely away. Perhaps if you are prepared for its eccentricities, you won't be thrown quite so off-balance.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Crippled Critic Interview: Marc Cohn

Today marks my first celebrity interview, with singer-songwriter Marc Cohn. His new album is "Careful What You Dream: Lost Songs and Rarities." The album is entirely comprised of outtakes from his self-titled debut. I chose some highlights to discuss with him: "Maestro", and "Street of Windows" "Maestro" is about George Zell, the conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, who lived next-door to Cohn in his youth, and had a crush upon both Cohn's mother and step-mother, so he would invite the family to use his box-seats. "Street of Windows" takes its title from a line in Gabriel García Márquez's Magical Realist novel, "Love in the Time of Cholera" I also gained some insight into one of my favorite Cohn songs, "Walking in Memphis," which was incited by James Taylor's advice to travel for inspiration.

I often find myself using religious language to describe the experience of watching concerts, and I owe the habit at least partially to my favorite lyric from "Walking in Memphis":

"Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said
'Tell me are you a Christian, child?'
And I said 'Ma'am I am tonight' "

I asked Mr. Cohn if performing is akin to a religious experience, if the feeling of transcendence is the same from his side of the stage. He said that it was, even going so far as to say that music has healed him from pain and illness. That has happened to me many times.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Marc Cohn, and I hope that interviews become a regular feature of this website. I will be reviewing his upcoming performance at The Aladdin Theater on May 4th.

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Beehive" @ Broadway Rose

I spent most of my childhood obsessed with the Oldies station, so "Beehive" is right up my alley. It's a '60s Musical Revue, veering just slightly into the Seventies. There is just enough "book" to satisfy those like myself who prefer a bit of structure. But, "Beehive" is about the music, and that is not a bad thing. Highlights from the sprawling score include a Supremes Medley, and truly energetic versions of "Respect" and "Natural Woman" If "Beehive" is nostalgic for me, as someone who grew-up with these songs when they were old, I can only imagine it would be even more fun for those who grew-up with them when they were new. I'll close by noting that "Beehive" is one of a handful of musicals, or music-infused plays currently running on local stages, and it is the most unabashedly fun and light. That is becoming harder to come by, so enjoy it while you can.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Rodney King" @ Artist Repertory Theatre

I am just a little too young to truly remember the Rodney King Beating. My first vivid recollection of it was its presence in the opening-title sequence of Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" That is somewhat fitting, because Spike Lee and the star of "Rodney King," Roger Guenveur Smith have had a long collaboration with each other, including the upcoming Netflix premiere of this very show. While I am quite sure that Mr. Lee will do a characteristically stellar job, I also suspect that we are very lucky to be the last to see this production live.

To call it "breathless" would seem at first to be a cliche, but I mean it quite literally, Mr. Smith's stream-of-consciousness meditation on the event is so rapid-fire I actually did wonder several times how he was able to breathe. Unfortunately, due to some astoundingly rude behavior by a few audience members, Mr. Smith was forced to pause and admonish them.

That aside, "Rodney King" is a piece that pulses with urgency, because things have gotten much worse. It is a work of art that deserves more attention than it is getting. It is part of what Artist Rep has dubbed The Frontier Series, which is in addition to its Main Stage Season. I only knew about it from handbills prior to the Press Release. It only runs through Sunday, and Opening Night was not at capacity. I hope to do my part to change that.