I must confess to many misgivings about "Every Brilliant Thing," from the fact that it revolves around a list first begun by a young child, to that it has a very heavy audience-participation component.
Some of the audience-participation is fairly inconsequential, such as being called upon to recite a numbered list-item aloud. But, other roles filled by audience-members are pivotal, like that of a school guidance-counselor who I would've bet my last dollar was a plant. According to director Rose Riordan, this role is cast by finding a woman wearing easily-accessible socks, (I won't ruin the reason why.) She may have been selected for her socks, but the vintage glasses she wore were undoubtedly a plus. If indeed her lines were completely unscripted, they happened upon a champion ad-libber. (My list item was one sentence long, and part of my mind was racing with thoughts of ruining the flow of the show had I dropped it, or something similar.) I can only imagine what she was feeling.
It seems almost embarrassingly obvious to note that the success of a one-man show rests on the shoulders of that actor, but it must be said that Isaac Lamb effortlessly exudes effervescence. (Ah, alliteration.) The list of Every Brilliant Thing was written as a child's ode to optimism to counteract his mother's severe depression, and we must see that optimism shine ever-so-slightly in Lamb at all times, even as he begins to despise The List himself. Because he succeeds at this, we are "with" him the whole way.
That said, in my discussion with Ms. Riordan she invited me to come back, and I may, but probably for closing-night, because the number of emotions you are made to experience in a brisk 70 minutes make for a rough ride. But, it certainly is a Brilliant Thing.
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Saturday, September 30, 2017
Monday, September 25, 2017
"Fun Home" @ PCS
I'm aware that this may sound stupid, given the far headier themes in "Fun Home." But, my favorite moment by a mile was the fake commercial the children recorded, a rousing ode to the family business, a funeral home, nicknamed the "Fun Home." We've all done something like it, when goofing around as children, this number is what such a thing would look like if we were aided by a professional choreographer and props. It is both true-to-life and fantastical. I found ,myself liking thee lighter moments the best, which is contrary to my usual preference, but all of "Fun Home" -the dark and the light is performed expertly, especially my the youngest members of the cast.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Trent Beaver @ The Double Aught Ranch in Canby
“Fight For Heaven,” the second track on Trent Beaver’s debut album, “Ghost”, is a twist on the old myth of the musician who sells his soul to The Devil for fame and fortune. Beaver’s angle is that his bargain is not for wealth and stardom, but rather to be able to do what he loves while fulfilling the obligations of marriage and fatherhood. He revisits fatherhood on the seventh track, “Blooming,” about his 17 month-old daughter, Lennon, who came along for our interview dressed in a Rolling Stones shirt. She is clearly a musician’s child. He was as well, his father was a country singer in Nashville. When his parents split-up, he moved with his mother to Molalla, where he began to pursue music in his teens. He says his father turned down opportunities to go further in the business due to fear. He is determined not to repeat his father’s mistakes, namely, giving-up. So much so that his newest of many tattoos is the phrase, “Hold-fast,” written across his knuckles.
Beaver may well be on his way, “Ghost” was recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with Will McFarland, of Neil Young’s band, on Lead-Guitar, who is showcased best on the first track, “Lost In Space”, which features a wonderfully strange mix of synthesizer and guitar, instantly suggesting the ethereal setting, before a single lyric is sung, which speaks to the wisdom of Beaver’s preference to compose melody first. While the genre that leaps to mind to describe Beaver’s music is Country, Rock, and even Soul would also fit on certain tracks. Perhaps it is this willingness to mix genres fluidly that makes him particularly appreciative of the jam-session dynamic. He says that the experience of traveling to record the album made him keenly aware of the way musicians freely collaborate and jam with each other in other parts of the country, something that he believes needs to happen more frequently here at home. To that end, he spearheads a jam session every Monday night at the Double Aught Ranch in Canby.
He also tours local venues in the Canby/Oregon City area with his band The Damned. If you’re looking to see one of Oregon’s most seamlessly versatile musicians, seek out Trent Beaver.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
"An Octoroon" @ Artist's Rep
There is line in "An Octoroon," which initially passed unnoticed. The actor playing the playwright, (of the current show, not the character listed as "Playwright" within it), laments white actors' reluctance to play slaves. What he does not mention is that those white actors are to play their roles in Blackface. "Uh...." was my reaction when the first white actor ambled on-stage. This reaction would repeat in my head many times throughout "An Octoroon." "Did he really just say that?" was a close-second. Your discomfort is most certainly planned, and I believe audience discomfort is a valuable thing to elicit in the theatre. That said, it is a feeling that will not leave you until lights-down. If you're up for that, this is your show. If not, run! It's that simple. Artist's Rep's current Season is loaded with what seems like "Pull-no-Punches Theatre", and I, for one, am licking my lips. Unfortunately, this also means that going into detail in my reviews might be more difficult than usual. A small price to pay.
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