To call it “cheese” doth impugn the noble vache | Theater Review | CYRANO by Edmond Rostand at Portland Center Stage

Dull, ordinary, under powered. If the theatre wants to survive, it cannot afford to be this boring. And Portland’s audience deserves far more artistic return from an institution tax payers have generously subsidized to the tune of millions and millions of dollars over the years.

In the dead quiet air of a half empty house as a stage full of actors in plumed hats stand motionless waiting for something to happen, surely I can’t be the only person out there wondering what it will take to turn the PCS ship around and give Portland the world class theatre it should already have by now.

2-stars

CYRANO by Edmond Rostand at Portland Center Stage

Thru May 3

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Theater Review | THREESOME by Yussef El Guindi at Portland Center Stage

THREESOME by Yussef El Guindi at Portland Center Stage

Thru March 8

2-stars

“If we are shown a penis in the first act, it must go off in the third.”
-Anton Chekhov

Alert: There will be spoilers.

Children and others of a sensitive or bashful inclination, take note: If you sit anywhere near the front row in Portland Center Stage’s studio for the world premiere production of THREESOME, you are likely to get rather up close and personal with a certain male actor’s junk.

That’s because Doug (Quinn Franzen), a somewhat insecure American photographer who has been invited over to native Egyptian Leila’s (Alia Attallah) apartment somewhere in the US to join her and Egyptian-American boyfriend Rashid (Dominic Rains) in the unlikely group rendezvous that gives this disjointed and ultimately unworkable new play its name, pops out of the bathroom stark naked several minutes after the curtain goes up and remains so for most of the first act. Meanwhile the instigating couple mostly keep their clothes on, all the while threatening at any moment to strip down and get the real action started.

But alas, the action – sexual or dramatic – never really happens here. We start off with the appearance of a bang but wait in vain for a real one. And like the feeble attempt at an orgy that is clearly not going to materialize on stage in front of us, Yussef El Guindi’s play brandishes all sorts of guns, ideas and plot points without delivering a satisfying story. What we get instead are some interesting moments and bits and pieces of 2-3 different, somewhat related plays. El Guindi may think he is somehow dramatizing cliches and misunderstandings about women in the Middle East and the west, but the play is a painful evening of bad writing and juvenile innuendo. No doubt there are big important plays to write about the main subjects alluded to here – but THREESOME doesn’t manage to do any of them justice.

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Theater Review | 65 minutes is the new 90 minutes | THE TYPOGRAPHER’S DREAM at Portland Center Stage is theatre scaled back to almost nothing

2-stars

Fresh from the Saturday close out of Design Week Portland, the electrifying eight day celebration and survey of what’s happening in PDX’s surging design scene, I went to see Adam Bock’s play THE TYPOGRAPHER’S DREAM at PCS on Sunday. The contrast between the two experiences could not have been more jarring.

After being wowed and awed (not to mention entertained) all week long by one DWP practitioner after another at the top of their game in an industry on the upswing, I found Bock’s short one act more like a funeral for an irrelevant art form than an example of the very best theatre has to offer.

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Theater Review | BO-NITA by Elizabeth Heffron at Seattle Rep

Slummin’ it with Honey Boo Boo-Nita: One person show titillates with quirky cartoon cutouts of “working class” characters, but falls short of real social engagement and asks no hard questions

2-stars

Somewhere around 75% of the way into BO-NITA, an inconsequential 90 minute one person show by Elizabeth Heffron having its world premiere at Seattle Rep, I realized that the eponymous narrator, a 13 year old girl from challenged circumstances in a provincial city (who somehow has the intelligence and cutting wit of a genius Hollywood screenwriter), has no idea why she is telling us her story. The audience isn’t sure either. We’re on a madcap tale through wild and wacky circumstances of woe with young Bo-Nita, whose hapless friends and family make the cast of DUMB AND DUMBER look like rocket scientists. In the mix are beat up cars and dead bodies and drugs and pithy one liners galore from hard-living folks down on their luck on the mean streets of St. Louis.

But with minimal story arc or character development, and a monotonous string of punchlines and visual (imagined) gags, where the essential message over and over is “CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW STUPID AND UNFORTUNATE THESE PEOPLE ARE? WHAT WILL THEY THINK UP NEXT?” it all becomes so much fluff and diversion. Soon enough the show ends with a blasting pop soundtrack, Blondie’s gorgeous DREAMING IS FREE, which effectively dismisses everything we have just seen and says (either from the playwright or director): “Yeah, we’re not sure what it all means, either! But rock on, everyone!”

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