What I Learned in Paris at the Portland Playhouse

I attended a Thursday night showing and by the time I got there I was a bit grumbly because (1) Thursday is a school night and I don’t love being out on school nights any more than I am due to square dancing and (2) I rode my bike and it was cold and kind of drizzly.

But, but, but! This play was so funny and so well acted I was extremely happy I attended. It takes place in 1973 after a successful campaign for J.P. Madison, who will be Atlanta’s first Black Mayor. Things become complicated when his ex-wife Eve (the hilarious Cycerli Ash) comes back to town.

Like all plays that have ended their run, this production isn’t available to you, but I encourage you to attend if it is produced in your area. You can read about it here or watch a production video on You Tube here.

Young Americans at Portland Center Stage

Matt and I really enjoyed the world premiere of Young Americans by Lauren Yee and directed by Desdemona Chiang.

The then-and-now road trips were engaging. The first was with Joe (Danny Bernardo) and Jenny (Marielle Young). Jenny has flown to Washington D.C. to meet with Joe as part of an arranged marriage. When she finds out how far away their home in Portland, Oregon, is from Washington D.C., she’s annoyed that Joe had her fly to the other side of the country. Joe wanted her to see as much of her new home as he could show here in a cross country trip.

The second trip took place a few decades later with Joe surprising his daughter Lucy in Washington D.C. as she returned from visiting the country where she was born.

As these two trips alternated, it was interesting to see the conversations the young (as in new) Americans and young (as in not-old) Americans had.

I also really enjoyed the car that the cast drove as they made there way across the landscape. It swiveled and turned so the audience had differing views.

This play was enjoyable and left me with a lot to think about.

Sweatshop Overlord at Portland Center Stage

Matt and I took in a delightful performance of Kristina Wong’s Sweatshop Overlord. It discussed how Wong’s livelihood as a performance artist tanked during the pandemic. To help and to distract herself, she began sewing masks. Her efforts eventually grew into the Auntie Sewing Squad, a group of many women, who sewed mask after mask, month after month through the first years of the pandemic.

As all good plays, this had all the feelings.

The ripple, the wave that carried me home

I was glad I caught Christina Anderson’s play about a hometown swimming pool and how it defined one family’s activism.

Lauren Steele was excellent as Janice, the daughter of two parents who grew up swimming in a segregated pool. I enjoyed the efforts of Young Ambitious Black Woman (Chavez Ravine), who was trying to get Janice back to town for the opening of a new pool named after her father.

The present day plot included Janice’s mother (Lauren Steele) and Aunt Gayle (Chavez Ravine again) and was interspersed with scenes from the past with Janice’s father Edwin (Don Kenneth Mason for my performance), mother, aunt and young Janice.

I enjoyed the complex feelings Janice had about swimming and seeing how pool access shaped different generations of her family. And I adored the set that transformed again and again making different kinds of rooms and pools, ultimately ending with this gorgeous looking set.

Should you find yourself with the option to see this play, I highly recommend it. If you are a swimmer, there’s even more motivation to go.

The Fever by Northwest Classical Theater Collaborative

The Northwest Classical Theater Collaborative (which once upon a time we knew as the Northwest Classical Theater Company) performed Wallace Shawn’s The Fever and I reserved a ticket. The collaborative staged the play in a variety of locations. I attended a performance at the Lloyd Center, in the former Victoria’s Secret store.

Before the play started, I took a loop around the first floor of the mall. The Lloyd Center hasn’t fared well in the pandemic and very few stores remain. It was nearly deserted on a Sunday evening, so deserted that the cleaners had already started sweeping the main drag 15 minutes before closing time.

Loop finished, I headed into the theater. It was a long walk from the front of the store to where the play was.

Having taken that walk, I really liked how they used the bones of the old Victoria’s Secret store for their stage.

There were about ten people present for the performance, which was directed by Patrick Walsh and starred Paul Susi as the main character.

I wasn’t familiar with this play and found it churned up quite a bit of feelings.

Thanks to the NWCTC for another good performance and unique setting.

At the end, we all exited together through the service corridor (another fun thing about this performance.)

Middle School Theater: Arsenic & Old Lace @ Beverly Cleary Fernwood

I’m a volunteer at the Hollywood Library.  The book group I lead had two students participating their middle school play.  The librarian and I made a plan to see their dramatic work.  Arsenic & Old Lace, here we come!

First of all, I was surprised to learn that a lot of people in my social circle have not seen the classic movie. Then, I was even more surprised when I gave a short synopsis (Cary Grant has elderly Aunts and they take in borders and kill them) people reacted with horror.  “No, it’s a comedy!  A screw-ball comedy!” I protested.  But they were not swayed.  It sounded like a terrible movie to them.  And middle school students performing it?  Aren’t they too young?

This group did a great job of putting us through our comedy paces.  The set, built on the stage in the cafetorium (that marvel of disinterest to the arts: cafeteria and auditorium combined in one) was also impressive.  The actors and stage hands started at a disadvantage, due to the many no-school days which opened the semester.

After, we clapped for the cast as usual.  Then we clapped for the crew, then the student directors, then the director.  And then the student directors each read the director a letter they had written for him.  And then they gave him an elderberry bush.  Which cracked me up.

It was a good afternoon at the theater.

Rush Ticket! The Last Five Years

I bought my first rush ticket to see this two-person musical about the beginning, middle and end of a relationship.  The musical begins from the woman’s perspective as the relationship is ending, and from the man’s as the relationship is beginning.  They cross in the middle and by the end of the play, the woman is at the beginning of the relationship and the man at the end.
My rush ticket cost $20.00 and I highly recommend stopping by Portland Center Stage and asking how the process works, if you aren’t familiar.  They were very nice.
Also, this musical will be a movie soon.  It comes out later this year.

NWCTC’s The Seagull

This was my first foray to NWCTC without Matt, who was busy with a race today.
This was also my first Chekhov play and it did not disappoint.  It was interesting to note how many roles there were for actors past the age of 30 in this play.  I feel as though this is something I don’t encounter very often in theater.

As usual, the acting was astounding.  Jason Maniccia and Ben Buckley were good as the playwrights.  And, as usual, it was the women whose performances were searing.  Jane Bement Geesman crackled as Irina, the mother no one would ask for. Clara-Liis Hillier and Brenan Dwyer sparkled as Masha and Nina, women who seemed to embody one half of the tragedy/comedy mask, at least for the first act.

I love when plays make me gasp aloud and this one did.  I’m already looking forward to NWCTC’s Season of Kings.

Portland Center Stage: Clybourne Park

Clybourne Park is about how neighborhoods change over the years.  Outside the theater was a map of Portland where people were invited to write their comments.
Here’s my neighborhood.  The yellow post-it says “the cows used to travel through here.”  I didn’t focus the camera enough to be able to see what the blue post-it said.

As for the play itself, it was very good.  The writing was both funny and uncomfortable, which meant I laughed and felt twisted up the entire time.  That said, I recommend you see it not only for the subject matter, but because over intermission, the crew “ages” the house that is the main setting 50 years and it is fascinating to watch.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

I attended this play to see Andy Lee-Hillstrom (the mashed potato eating actor who inspired my current Lint project) and he was fabulous as Jim/Tom/Kenneth.  But Sal Visccuso was brilliant as Russ/Dan and Sharonlee McLean was also incredible as Bev/Kathy.  I had last seen Brianna Horne as Laurie in Oklahoma and it was fun to watch her transform from “getting along” maid Francine to empowered Lena.  The rest of the cast was also wonderful.

Because of the uncomfortable subject matter Director Chris Coleman had a talk back after every show.  It was interesting to hear about how the actors felt about their characters.  Also worth the price of admission was the essay “The House on Clybourne Street” by Beryl Satter which discussed the only way black people in Chicago were able to purchase a home in the mid-twentieth century.  The essay was a punch in the gut for me.  I understood that things were unfair, but was outraged at how unfair this particular practice was.  Do yourself a favor and read the essay.

The Whipping Man

I received a free ticket to this play (thanks Michael!) and am so glad I got to go.  Though the first act had a leg amputation which caused me to nearly pass out/throw up* this play’s setting and themes (Jewish slave holder at the end of the Civil War, freedom, Passover) were intriguing. The plot twists were handy (That was me who gasped aloud when the big reveal near the end happened) and for a play that dealt with such serious topics, it was frequently funny.  Gavin Gregory, Carter Hudson and Christopher Livingston were all tops in their roles as young slaveholder (Carter Hudson) and freed slaves (Gregory and Livingston).  Also, the set was fabulous, and I wish my camera could do more with low-light settings.

*Really.  I was deep breathing while trying to figure out where, exactly, would be the best place for me to puke.  It took a good 10 minutes into the second act to regain equilibrium.