Search This Blog

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"And So It Goes" @ Artists Rep

"And So It Goes" by Aaron Posner is based upon three short-stories from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr's collection "Welcome to the Monkey-House," each revolve around the theme of love. The first of these, "Long Walk to Forever" is about the narrator, Tom Newtom, and his wife Kate (a creation of this stage version.) It's a nice little story, enjoyable and simple... But, the stand-out of the show is "Who Am I this Time?" (also adapted into a film by Jonathan Demme, director of "Silence of the Lambs.") It contains the evening's funniest moments, and some nearly unbelievable acting. It chronicles the love that blooms on the stage of the community theatre within the small Connecticut town, between Harry (Alex Hurt) and Helene, (Kayla Lian) as they perform "A Streetcar Named Desire." Harry is the town's go-to actor, and Helene is a brand-new transplant.  Harry works as a clerk in the hardware store, he is exceptionally ordinary and terribly shy, until he is on the stage.... During auditions, the staff endures performances  from Harry's boss, Verne,(Leif Norby) who turns in a hilariously awful impression of Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski. (Watching Verne warm-up for his embarrassing performance is worth-seeing all by itself....) When it's Harry's turn, he shyly makes his introductions, and then slowly takes off his glasses, by the time he folds them up, he has transformed into Stanley, the famous brute of "Streetcar." (I suppose in some ways actors always transform, but it is rare to see it happen right in front of you, and it's something to behold.) Helene quickly finds that Harry can only express emotion while acting, so they decide to act in everyday life, the piece ends with Harry and Helene in character for "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Tim True does a superb job as the narrator, and nowhere was his talent more evident then when an inconsiderate audience member was not quick enough to turn off the sports radio broadcast he was listening to during intermission. True's improvised digs at the man were some of the best lines of the show, so good in fact that you almost felt sorry for the transgressor. Almost.

See "And So it Goes" while you still can, I had trouble getting in myself, and it only runs from now to Oct 7th......

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street @ Portland Center Stage

"Sweeney Todd" opened Portland Center Stage's 25th Anniversary Season, and everything about the production befit the momentous occasion. Portland Center Stage's version began uniquely; the opening scene in which London's Street People invite us to "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd" features anachronistically dressed police officers, a deliberate allusion to the "Occupy Portland" protests.

"Sweeney Todd" is the story of a renowned barber bent on revenge, whose thirst for blood grows worse, and soon London's most famous barber partners with a purveyor of meat-pies and they happen-upon a ghastly new recipe..... 

Sweeney is played with simmering anger and boundless energy by Aloysius Gigl. Another stand-out performance is given by Matthew Alan Smith, as Judge Turpin. To call him repellent would be an understatement. Maybe it was body language, or maybe his scraggly hair, but despite his position of prestige and nearly unquestioned authority in the play, there's something about him that suggests he is unclean. Of course, his actions and desires bear that out figuratively, but the scene in which he proposes to his young Ward, even without considering their age-difference or the circumstances of their relationship, it is still a stomach-churning idea, (I think the Street Walkers would turn him down...)

The set is by the man who designed Portland Center Stage's first production, and they invited him to return for the anniversary, and looking at the truly impressive, fittingly large, and frequently morphing set, one can see why they brought him back, and I'm sure the aptness of having someone named William Bloodgood design the set for "Sweeney Todd" was not lost on anyone.....

Also worthy of praise is the haunting lighting by Diane Ferry Williams. In short, Portland Center Stage has pulled out all the stops for this production, and all would be wise to attend the tale.....

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Crippled Critic Comedy Review: Wanda Sykes @ Spirit Mountain

Wanda Sykes, who is known for her roles on the "New Adventures of Old Christine" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm"  graced the stage at Spirit Mountain Casino Saturday night. Her material ran from politics to the trials of parenting, all delivered with her trademark sarcasm. Birthers felt her wrath, as did opponents of Don't Ask Don't Tell, then she gave us insight into life with her children and her French wife. Her vivid observations about her children's eccentricities were hilarious. Ms. Sykes' stage presence and persona is a truly unique blend of biting wit and genuine confusion at the absurdity of life, it was a privilege to watch.

Spirit Mountain itself deserves special praise for its layout in terms of wheelchair seating. I have attended twice, and although this time I had the privilege of front row seating, Spirit Mountain is one of the few venues whose most desirable sections are made up of removable chairs, making any seat a potential wheelchair seat. While I am on the subject of accessibility, I must also note that the casino is also quite accommodating to patrons in wheelchairs, every slot machine is equipped with a removable chair, and many gaming tables are lowered. I would encourage any wheelchair user interested in either attending a show or gambling to rush to Spirit Mountain, because they seem uncommonly willing and able to serve our needs.