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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Second City's "Twist Your Dickens" at Portland Center Stage

"Twist your Dickens" is as the title suggests, a parody of "A Christmas Carol." It uses the basic framework of the classic story to unleash a rapid-fire skewering of all things Christmas, from "It's a Wonderful Life" to "A Charlie Brown Christmas." But, there are aspects of it that make it difficult to review, the Charlie Brown bit for instance, (which was one of my favorite parts) concerns political-correctness and religious observance, it is introduced by a star of the TV-show "Grimm" as an "original ending" that the network wouldn't show. Will the bit still be in the script when someone else does the Celebrity Cameo, who might not be in television? I don't know, and I am sort of curious to find out. There is a improvisational looseness to "Twist your Dickens" which adds to the fun, I suspect there might even be more differences from night-to-night other than the cameos.

All types of humor are represented here, from light-hearted to a jet-black dark closer, (and a healthy-dose of my favorite kind-- cripple jokes-- in between.)  Oh, and there is chocolate at intermission--who doesn't love that?

"Twist your Dickens" is both a good way to get a dose of holiday-mirth and get your humbugs out in a safe place before the big day.

Update: The Charlie Brown bit is permanent!

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Does The Fox Say? "FoxFinder" @ Artists Rep

I instantly feel the need to apologize for the title of this post for two reasons: The first being that I have more than likely gotten that wretched song stuck in your head by mere mention. The second is that "FoxFinder" does not deserve to be associated with such dreck. In my defense, however, there is a scene in which a character is slowly gripped by the FoxFinder's paranoia that he claims to have heard the fox's call. In the play's world, even a FoxFinder, (a government investigator tasked with eradicating foxes, who are blamed for all manner of misfortune) has never actually seen nor heard a fox and must consult his manual. Watching him do this, I had a brief mental-chuckle as I imagined the cast breaking into a chorus of "What Does the Fox Say?"As stupid as the thought was, it did serve as a much-needed break from tension. And there is a lot of tension. Tension which is aided by truly haunting sound-design by Doug Newell, which is so rich that it could be called a score. Lighting design too helps create a gothic gloom which reminded me of a dark fairytale world.

I also had the privilege of having the play's climax unfold at my feet, and for those of you who don't know, my disability includes a severe startle reflex. Despite the noise and proximity, I managed to refrain from kicking an actor. I am proud of that, but I also felt the need to include the warning for readers of this blog who are similarly afflicted.