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Saturday, January 6, 2024

"A Tomb with A View" @ Lakewood

 I just glanced at the date on my last review. Over 7 months! I can think of no better way to break my "fast" than a murder mystery show at Lakewood. "A Tomb with a View" is exactly the type of show by which I was introduced to Lakewood., long before the advent of this website. It is the kind of show that I would deem to be Lakewood's signature: A witty romp, with a liberal dash oof the macabre. What distinguishes "A Tomb with a View" is the family of eccentrics at its center. The comedy comes mostly from character rather than plot. My favorite of these was Dora Tomb, the batty winemakeress, whose vintages may or may not be deliberately poisoned, Lisa Knox's daffy performance makes either option plausible. 

If, like me, you consider the mystery-comedy Lakewood's specialty, you shouldn't miss it. In fact, I'm still a little disappointed to have missed "Arsenic & Old Lace" due to late-in-life resumption of college. Despite my newly busy schedule, it is quite gratifying-perhaps even necessary to make room for Art. I will endeavor to keep up with Lakewood, and I am already eagerly anticipating "A Few Good Men."                             

Sunday, May 21, 2023

"Mary Jane" by Third Rail Rep @ Coho

 I've been anticipating "Mary Jane" since it was first announced Pre-CoVid. Then, as everything limped back to life, Third Rail put on a few other things I did not see, but the absence of "Mary Jane" from them made me believe they had decided against producing it. So, I decided to read the script for myself. I must say, I'm not a huge Amy Herzog fan,  (She had a play which ended with untranslated French, seemingly out-of-nowhere.) "Mary Jane" has a somewhat ambiguous ending as well, which I disliked. 

Reading the script in no way prepared me for what was on stage last night.

In the exceptionally skilled-hands of CoHo's cast, the play is transformed into something as raw and real as I could ever hope to encounter.

Here's a small example: Mary Jane, (Rebecca Lingafelter) is telling a brand-new mother of a child with a disability all the ins-and-outs of navigating government bureaucracy for medical equipment and other needs. On the page, this registered as merely a vehicle to make the audience think: "my God, it shouldn't be nearly that difficult." If it was written for that purpose, that's fine--and even necessary--because it indeed should not be that difficult, but it was also a monotonous-read. Lingafelter's delivery is anything but monotonous. She speaks the lines as with the breeziness of a vetaeran of these processes, who can spare this new mother some undue frustration. A perfect representation of the parent-top-parent community that forms organically in this otherwise isolating world.

Later, a small but significant promise is broken by the hospital, and Mart Jane just loses it, because it's the last straw in one of the worst situations imaginable. I thought: "that's my mom." It was not a thought I had when reading the scene. Again, I suspect it is Langafelter's brilliant interpretation. 


If she does not win a Drammy, something is very wrong.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

"True Story" @ Artists Rep, inside PCS

 "True Story" is the play I've been looking forward to the most all Season. I am a huge fan of murder mysteries, and I couldn't wait. 

"True Story" did not disappoint. 

Its title alludes both to the search for the truth in a murder investigation, as well as a winking-nod to its inspiration by the "true story" of the publication, (and surrounding controversy) of O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It."

It is a brisk show, at a lean 80 minutes. It's momentum builds quite quickly. It is also well-suited to PCS' intimate Studio. My anticipation was richly rewarded. If you're in the mood for a spine-tingling adrenaline-rush, as a story you think you know unfurls, there is no better option than "True Story."

Thursday, March 9, 2023

"Where We Belong" @ PCS

(Pardon the rather belated review, please. The Crippled Critic is now also (rather unexpectedly,) the Crippled College Student once again, after a long absence.) 

"Where We Belong" is the best kind of show: The kind that tells you something you completely did not know. Everyone knows about the horrific treatment of Native Peoples, in a broad-sense. But, I had no inkling whatsoever that  the British Museum has unlabeled human-remains in storage, and has actively resisted returning them to tribes who have made a a claim. 

That's disgusting, on every level.

That's far from the only tidbit of nauseating-knowledge that "Where We Belong" will impart in its lean 80 minutes. 

Yet amid these disturbing details, there is also a story of Shakespearean Scholarship, through a Native lens, and that too is much more interesting than one might initially expect.

You'll learn a lot, (some of which, you might wish you hadn't.)


Friday, February 24, 2023

"Young Americans" at PCS

 Sometimes one character steals the show.

 In "Young Americans," that character is Joe. Danny Bernardo plays the character at different ages, but he is most effective--and affecting--when he's "Dad-Age". This character is an Every-Dad, the boundless, goofy enthusiasm for the perfect trip, the micro-managing to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. The blindness to the irritation these things cause. 

He's my my Dad, he's almost certainly yours. 

He is worth the price of admission alone. It's worth still more to suddenly realize you're not alone in dealing with dad-ness.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

"Ms Holmes & Ms. Watson" @ PCS

 Most incarnations of Sherlock Holmes are rather dour. Sherlock is a tortured, nearly anti-social genius. "Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson" touches upon these traits, Holmes has her trademark savant deductive-reasoning skills fully intact. She has an affinity for marijuana, as well, subbing for the usual cocaine habit, both meant to dull Sherlock's incessant deductions when they become bothersome. What's brand new in "Ms. Holmes, (other than the obvious gender-switch,) is her manic energy. It took some getting used to, but it eventually became the best part of the show. To call Ashley Song's performance "animated" is both apt and inadequate. Her "Sherlock" is kind of like what Inspector Clouseau may have been, had he been competent. 

I believe there's a classic piece of acting-advice: "to play to the back of the House," and does she ever. (Opening-Night was packed, and I had to sit Rear-Orchestra. I've sat there before, when the demands of the set required it, but I'm accustomed to front-row.) Thus, I can attest to the veracity of my previous statement. On that note, while the sightline was decent, the amplification of the dialogue wqas sorely lacking. I hope they can increase the volume.

"Ms.. Holmes" is not quite a parody, (there's too much affection for the source-material to fit that designation.) But, it is far more of a romp than is typical. If you're in the mood for a healthy dose of comedy with your Arthur Conan Doyle, this is for you.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

"The Ghost of David Balasco" @ Lakewood

 "The Ghost of David Belasco" is a pleasant farce, which fits in quite well with the kinds of shows at which Lakewood Theatre is particularly adept. I have long enjoyed mystery/ghost stories with a hefty dose of humor at Lakewood. They've had other types of shows, but it has become a bit of a trademark. An added bonus, is that this one was penned by C.S. Whitcomb, of whom I've been a fan, since seeing a Reading of "The Book of John" at Portland Center Stage's JAW Festival. Later, I was a volunteer script-reader at PCS, and had the opportunity to inquire about the fate of "Book of John." It seems that it didn't gain the traction I believed it deserved.

When Shawn Hornbeck was rescued after 4 years of captivity, the case prompted comparisons to the story of Steven Stayner, and the TV Movie, "I Know My First Name is Steven,"  also written by C.S. Whitcomb... 

Would Ms. Whitcomb be interested in lunch with a fan? 

Worth a shot.


"The Ghost of David Belasco" is a send-up of many theatre-industry conventions, and in-jokes abound. The comedy is typically fairly light, but be warned that the possessed tarp which functions as the portal to the afterlife, scared a young audience member pretty badly, so keep that in mind. 


For the rest of us, "The Ghost of David Belasco" is a welcome mild fright, on a cold wintery-night.

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.