In what is undoubtedly the most exciting old theatre space remaining in Portland (Imago), a blast of comedy and 70’s confusion from Third Rail. The first half may be a bit too funny for where we’re headed, but the switch after intermission drives home evergreen youthful rage against the machine.
If you’re setting sail on the perilous journey of adapting a long historical drama for the stage, particularly one that tries to deal with the glorious (or not) story of America’s early days, you should be very familiar with two examples from the genre that define a spectrum of possible outcomes.
On one end, HAMILTON, the international juggernaut that breathes life into history by using forms and multi ethnic bodies of the present. On the other, RED, WHITE AND BLAINE, the show staged inside of the film WAITING FOR GUFFMAN that has become a defining reference for amateur community theatre and (more subtly) oblivious historical white washing of what life on the merry frontier was like.
Stand up comedy seems to have its share of substance abuse and extreme emotions. From the smoking craters of several career directions, Gethard weaves a personal story about how he finally figured out the right dosage and made a life on stage and off. Now we know: NJ is crazy.
When in the theatre – do what can only be done in the theatre. Color, costume, words. The avant garde language of Parks is framed and filled out by masterful direction from Lileana Blain-Cruz. This talented new director keeps her streak of utterly theatrical experiences going strong.
#JoyAlert. Even while many ingredients are well known and commonly used, the combination here connects deeply. That’s what arch types do. Willow McCarthy mesmerizing as our little reader and revolutionary. Bryce Ryness crucial as the iron-breasted Miss Trunchbull. Though it must be said he simply channels the great David Thewlis.
Rendering plausible British accents – so often a challenge for American actors – here turns into a minefield of problems with a near constant barrage of detonations. Potential melodrama of story not helped by excessive directorial pauses, teeth gnashing, tearful breast beating. Setting between two eras is not clear enough. Not authentic.
You original theatre artists. You inspiring makers. You smart, witty subversives. FUCK OFF!! Please crawl back in your hole. You’re making everyone else look bad. Liminal smacks Portlanders upside the head with a wholly unique live experience. Impressive audience turnout of non theatre people. This is why we go. EXCELLENT!
There are compelling dramatic threads and several strong performances here. But the central scaffolding does not always hold up. Perhaps too much direct address to audience, and not enough interaction between the characters. One thing that’s prescient though: One day Powell’s will go under. You heard it here first. Poof.
NIGHT IS A ROOM by Naomi Wallace at Signature Theatre
Directed by Bill Rauch
Stunning piece of modern art. Like a glittering shard of glass. But as soon as you stop to pick up this jagged jewel you’re going to get cut. One of the best plays I’ve seen in a long time. With a dark, unmentioned Irish back story careful viewers will see.