Monday, November 16, 2009

Thespian Nation

Just finished the theater equivalent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (don’t extend the metaphor too far, please) that’s taken me from one end of the county to the other. It started on Wednesday – not with a play, actually, but a theatrical event. Dmae Roberts read from her work-in-progress memoir, Lady Buddha and the Temple of Ma. The poised Ms. Roberts delivered a funny, self-deprecating and touching performance that left me looking very forward to the publication of her book. Not to steal her thunder, but ask her to tell you what her mother taught her about how to kill chickens. No, it’s not grisly – quite the contrary.

The next night I was back at Lewis & Clark, but at the Theater Department, for Beckett(s), an evening of Sam’s short pieces that director and curatorial mastermind Stephen Weeks described as “somewhere between a museum tour, a haunted house, and installation art.” The experience took me into crannies and nooks I didn’t know existed in the building. A favorite performance included a filmed version of What Where in which the constant blurring and refocusing of the images gave me the sense of being drugged under interrogation. Also I loved Not I, which could be watched from two vantages: a catwalk, where you looked straight across at the frantically confessional mouth jabbering away while a well yawned at your feet that had an ornate sofa at its bottom; or downstairs, peeping through a set of eyeholes. From above you could see that whoever’s peepers peered through the eyeholes were projected into the well, just below the mouth. Eerie.

Most unintentionally theatrical moment of the evening: during a performance of Play, in which the audience was seated onstage and the three actors were seated at the top of the auditorium, a few spectators drifted in and sat directly below the actors. These spectators seemed to take for granted that they were facing a crowd staring back at them while a disjointed dialogue played out over their heads. C’est Beckett!!

Alas, the Beckettfest is history, but I also made it to Hand2Mouth’s current opus, Everyone Who Looks Like You, which has one more week at the Theater!Theatre! space. Make sure you see this one. As one of Portland’s most consistently genre-busting ensembles, Hand2Mouth never fails to surprise, but this piece…this piece alternates between being hilarious, harrowingly recognizable and – dare we acknowledge it – moving.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, H2M has created a piece all about family – the parental units, of course, but just as importantly, the siblings. Those other people hanging around the house while you were growing up that you had to cope with. The title refers to this, of course, but also to something so startling I guarantee you won’t see it coming. And the whole evening is like that.

Everyone Who Looks Like You - Trailer from Hand2Mouth Theatre on Vimeo.

Several times during the show, I caught myself wishing my brother was seeing it with me. Not for sentimental reasons (though the play is often poignant, it is not sappy for even a moment), but because Everyone Who Looks Like You celebrates that sense of childhood sometimes being about kids vs. adults – when the kids aren’t squabbling among themselves, of course. I came away feeling like parents will come and go, but your sibs are the only people who will know all about you all your life.

Also this weekend, I saw Charlie and the Chocoloate Factory, produced by Oregon Children’s Theatre over at the Newmark. Got to tell you: it is something to sit in a 900-seat theater that’s totally packed with kids who are cheering for a show in which brat after brat gets undone by his/her own greed. And it’s adding performances! Amazing! Love seeing theaters make money. You have one more week to see this show, if it’s not already sold out, and to marvel at Sarah Gahagan’s eye-popping costumes.

Finally, I concluded my theater blitz at the closing performance of a new company now resident at Portland Actors Conservatory, The Montgomery Streeet Players, which presented three new one-acts written by Scott Rogers. It was called Stay for the Cake, and indeed a particolored gateau took center stage in the final playlet, which was fed to the audience at the conclusion. Nice. Can we have more plays in which the actors applaud the audience for showing up and even feed us after the curtain call?

1 comment:

Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...

Wow, you have been busy, thanks for the virtual theater tour :)