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.