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Saturday, November 12, 2022

"Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord"@ PCS

A play which sends audiences back to the worst of The Pandemic might be a hard sell. 

Kristina Wong know this. She acknowledges as much in the play's opening-minutes.

However, it takes a remarkably short time to win us over. She succeeds in this seemingly impossible task, by showing us hidden brightness in the darkness of worldwide despair.

Namely, her at first small, and then shockingly large, group of "aunties" who sew masks, which were then in very short-supply.

Along the way, she finds heaping amounts of unexpected humor. (Did anyone think we would look back upon one second of 2020 and laugh?) 

Kristina Wong must have.

There's a moment in the show in which women are asked to throw their bras upon the stage, (for their precious, precious elastic. I thought for sure that these members were plants, in case audience members were reticent. (I was wrong, Wong tells of a prize for those brave participants at the end of the show.)

When I entered PCS's Ellen Bye Studio mentally-grumbling that PCS still has a mask-mandate, when most public places no longer do. After this stark reminder of what life was like when there weren't any, my factory-made mask became downright comfortable.

Monday, October 17, 2022

"The Ripple, the Wave that Carried Me Home"

 "The Ripple, the Wave that Carried Me Home" stuffs its brisk 95 minutes with a ton of drama. Racism, segregation, father-daughter relationship issues, and on and on. What's most striking, however, is that all these disparate things take place against the backdrop of a public pool, literally and figuratively: the set is a public pool, and remains so throughout the entire play. While watching the play, I made a mental-note to praise the projections on the pool walls, but not all it was projection. (There's a conversation that happens on the wall where most of the projections are shown, but that would have to be a very well synchronized video, and I don't think it is. I couldn't figure out how they did it.) 

Also was the fact that the play is set in the not-so-distant past. The first moves toward desegregating the  pools began in 1957, and I'm thinking, "OK, my father was a toddler then." While not a very long time, I felt it was long enough to predict, "they'll fix it fairly quickly." A disturbing--not totally specified--incident, stemming from desegregation efforts, is said to have occurred in 1979, 5 years prior to my birth. That hit harder than I was expecting. 

"The Ripple, the Wave that carried me home" is a superb play. One I am glad I saw, not just for the action on stage, but for the jolt it gave me when I realized that we haven't moved as far--or as quickly--as I thought we had. The whole country might benefit from that jolt.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

"The Kiss" @ Lakewood

 "The Kiss" is a musical conceived by Will Vinton, I was friends with from a very young age, when I was making stop-motion animated short films, and a frequent attendee of his Portland Creative Conference.  So, it was nostalgic for me just to enter the lobby, and see the early sketches of various things in the production. (Make time to loiter a bit, it's well worth it.)

My favorite moments in the production are, unsurprisingly those that are reminiscent of animation. Those moments in which one is struck by an actor's ability to execute movements that would seem to be in the realm of cartoons. Such as, when Keaton Fields does his "seduction dance," insisting in song how easy it will be to procure the kiss he needs to turn him back into princely-form.  (Mr. Fields is a fresh from Acting School, his trajectory derailed by the pandemic. This is his debut-role, but --mark my words-- we'll be seeing much more of him.)  Another actor deserves similar praise for his fully-committed portrayal of a rodent, but doing so by name would be a major-spoiler. 

I felt honored to be among the first to see "The Kiss," Vinton's final creative work. Yes, it took me back to my past, but it also cemented my faith in Portland's artistic-future.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

"Gem of the Ocean" @ PCS

An August Wilson play is always appoint-viewing.  Add in top-flight Portland actors, (many of whom have done several Wilson productions over the years,) and you have unmissable, (and dearly-missed) theater. Wilson's often lyrically beautiful dialogue is the main-course. But, the dazzling implementation of the magical-realist themes should also not be given short-shrift. It's a classic, and deservedly so. As such, it almost seems arrogant of me to add any personal feelings. But,  I must say, of PCS' scheduled Season, "Gem of the Ocean" was the one I most fervently hoped would not be a casualty of CoVid. If ever there was a show worth venturing out for, this is it.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

"The Great Leap" @ PCS

 Take 2! 

I tried to attend Opening Night of ArtistsRep/PCS's production of "The Great Leap." The show was called off at Curtain for positive tests. 

It was worth the wait. 

"The Great Leap begins as a sports-story, but becomes far more:  A story about parents and their children amid the backdrop of Revolution. Playwright Lauren Yee is a voice I haven't otherwise encountered, and "The Great Leap" made me wonder what audiences had missed with "'Cambodian Rock Band" a musical by Yee, set to premiere Pre-Lockdown, and not yet mounted at PCS.

The Great Leap" is worth your time. It's full of the kind of drama we've missed for so very long.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

"Murder on the Orient Express"

 "Murder on the Orient Express" is the play I was looking most forward to, as live performances slowly crackled back to life on local stages. An added bonus is that this show is directed by my former teacher David Sikking. 

"Murder" is the kind of play I associate most with Lakewood Theatre since I first began going in earnest. The classic Agatha Christie tale, with its snowbound train is perfectly suited for a Winter's night. While I am far from a Christie expert, (my tastes gravitate more toward the grittier Raymond Chandler,) I'd say that "Murder on the Orient Express" is likely her best. 

As I sat in the theatre, waiting for the show to begin, I reflected upon how this was an ideal way to cautiously resume "normalcy." I was proven right. It really felt like "we're back!" I urge you to join me in that feeling. It's like feasting after a fast, and what a feast it is.