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.
There can be no crazier place on earth to inhabit than Will Eno’s brain. This great American playwright is a Salvador Dali of the stage. He takes everyday language and so warps and bends the ordinary that the result is entirely new and revealing. First rate production from Third Rail.
A real festival typically offers multiple plays in rep. Having multiple shows on at once strengthens the draw for travelers from afar. A single location can help foster a concentrated festival atmosphere.
Well hold on to your hats. Here comes a very cool offering from Third Rail’s Mentorship Company that could be the start of something special. For ten days in June, the company will put on alternating offerings (A and B series) of three fully staged plays at Action/Adventure. There’s also a reading of a new play. Festival tickets are only $25.
This has a lot of potential and could easily expand in future.
Contemporary and well chosen non-traditional kick off for Third Rail’s new home. The look and feel and staging is sharp, exciting. A little too reliant on specific technology, music and band trivia of a single era. Older folks could be lost by very exact cultural references. Maureen Porter is excellent.
The weekend is coming. And with it, your roster of entertainment possibilities. Which are legion.
Just about the most exciting thing on the spring calendar is finally here: Portland Playhouse takes on Anne Washburn’s MR. BURNS. You’ll travel indoors and out to three different sets for this epic. Opening night is Saturday.
Also jockeying for position on Saturday night is PICA’s 20th anniversary gala: TADADA!. Come for the dinner if you’re feeling flush. But whatever you do, don’t miss the after-party helmed by Pepper Pepper. It’s all happening at The Redd, Ecotrust’s new event space on SE Salmon Street.
And still ANOTHER Saturday night gem is a remount of David Saffert’s Liberace pageant at Curious Comedy.
And for your Sunday night, perhaps you’ve heard of a certain play by Richard Greenberg coming to town? No, you probably haven’t heard of it that way. But you probably have heard that two TV stars from Grimm are in a show at Portland Center Stage. Ah yes. That one. Sunday night is the first preview.
And if you’re the pro active, plan ahead type – next Monday at PCS the Improv All Stars are back.
While the booming Bridgetown Comedy Festival may be sucking up a fair amount of oxygen around Portland’s smaller scale performance scene this weekend, don’t limit yourself to non stop laughs with some of the best comics around for three days straight.
DRAMATURGY in process invites three of Portland’s most exciting dramaturgs to reflect on the role they play in the development of new work in theatre, dance, and devised performance.
Jess Drake, Resident Dramaturg and Company Member, Hand2Mouth
Luan Schooler, Director of New Play Development & Dramaturgy, Artists Repertory Theatre
Robert Tyree, Choreographer, Writer, and Researcher/ Dramaturg for Tahni Holt’s ‘Duet Love’
From the good folks at Entertainment for People, a new and growing format that showcases new material from top Portland talents. The show will be on the existing set for THE LION – so expect some extra glam factor.
It has been an up and down last few years with many changes for Third Rail Rep.
Just a few years ago – as recently as 2010 or 2011 – the company was indisputably the most exciting theatre in Portland. After a string of incredible shows at the IFCC, Third Rail upsized to the World Trade Center and the unforgettable nights of live performance just kept coming.
In hindsight, this was the golden moment. Big enough to generate more revenue and build the audience, but still cheap and unknown enough to keep it live and unpredictable.
Who can forget THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISSOCIA (No Drammys??? Are you people kidding me??? Do those aging theatre trolls ever crawl up from their underground sink hole to breathe actual air or check the mail???), THE LYING KIND, DEAD FUNNY or, my own personal favorite, the world premiere of THE GRAY SISTERS by Craig Wright, written expressly for Third Rail actors and featuring two of the most astonishing performances Portland has ever seen by Maureen Porter and Valerie Stevens.
A world premiere by Craig Wright? In Portland? Written for Portland?
What else do you want – Storm Large to swing down on a vine and fire Fred Armisen out of a cannon into a vat of Salt & Straw ice cream?
Frankly, it would be easier to arrange that than a repeat of THE GRAY SISTERS. You’re going to have to get up pretty early in the morning and eat loads of Wheaties before you come up with an event more exciting than THE GRAY SISTERS was – on any stage ANYWHERE.
What were Third Railers smoking in those days? Whatever it was, that was back before dope was legal. It worked over and over. It was the real McCoy. Some crazy shizzle.
And then came the move to the [whatever the heck it’s called now]. You know – that big architectural monstrosity next to the Schnitz. The PCPA is the antithesis of everything you would want as a cool home for your cool theatre. It’s ugly, it’s bland, it’s unionized, it’s expensive, it has carpeting by the same interior designer who did East Berlin, it has (brace yourselves, Portlanders) bad food. Which is where somebody with standards has to draw the line. It’s almost institutionally impossible to create great theatre in such a cheese whiz space – though it has happened.
But after this move TR seemed to go a little off the rails. The old excitement wasn’t there. To be fair, it was literally impossible for it to be there in that deadest of spaces.
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In a most unfortunate development, the Drammy Awards have now made the no man’s land of PCPA their new home. Where SHOULD the Drammys take place? Revolution Hall – a cool new Portland space.
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There was also the split screen effect of having some shows in the PCPA and some in their Off Burnside space at the CoHo. That kind of thing confuses the audience. BUT (always wait for the but) there was that little all time box office flattening sensation thingy known as NOISES OFF at the PCPA, which as you may recall we showed a little interest in. So yeah, that was a big plus.
Alll that was then and all this is now. And tonight there’s some really great news from Portland’s once and (we hope) future theatre leaders. For 2016, Third Rail is taking their entire operation over to Imago. It’s quite a change in some ways from the more generic and safe confines of the PCPA. But when you step back and think about it, it’s a great choice for the TR brand.
Imago is the exact opposite of the PCPA. It’s dark and dangerous. It’s avant garde. It’s a little gritty. It’s cheaper. It’s old Portland – in a city where old Portland is almost gone. It’s the kind of place where great theatre is already being made routinely.
Plus it’s much, much closer to the Doug Fir Lounge.
It’s a great development. And showing that they are going straight back to their roots with a vengeance, Third Railers have come up with a slate of four contemporary kick ass plays to give you a reason to go to the theatre again.
But don’t answer yet!!! You also get [redacted]. There are several other exciting aspects of the brave new world, but they won’t hit the air waves until tomorrow.
Bravo, Third Rail. Let’s crank the magic machine back up and scare the shite out of Portlanders like in the old days. You can do it.
And to celebrate the big ten year milestone, here’s something that clearly needs to happen. It’s time to corral former and currently offsite TR members Time True, Valerie Stevens and John Steinkamp and get them back on stage in a TR show.
The people demand it. And what the people wants, the people gets.
Anyway – woops it’s 3:30 AM and this post is officially over.
Third Rail 2016 Season at Imago Theatre
The Angry Brigade
by James Graham
Against a backdrop of Tory cuts, high unemployment and the deregulated economy of 1970s Britain, a young urban guerrilla group mobilizes: The Angry Brigade. Their targets? Embassies. Police. Pageant Queens. A world of order shattered by anarchy. An uprising has begun and no one is exempt. Part history play, part police procedural, part comedy of manners, part thriller, part documentary, part social satire, The Angry Brigade is perhaps the most compelling show we’ve ever programmed to open a season.
by Liz Duffy Adams
Set over the course of a single evening, Aphra Behn – poet, actress, spy, and one of the first professional female playwrights of the Restoration – has the opportunity to land her first commission for a professional company if she can deliver her play by dawn. Complicating this task are an array of lovers and rivals, from a rogue-spy to a blossoming ingenue to the king himself, vying for her time and affections. With echoes of Restoration comedy, quick-change farce, a dash or two of Tom Stoppard, and the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, Or, is a little valentine to love in the theatre.
by David Gieselman, translated by David Tushingham
What do a mysterious trunk, an Orwellian pizza ordering system, architectural design, tiramisu, Marilyn Monroe, Goofy, Bill Clinton, chaos theory, ropes, gags, and the world’s worst boss have in common? You’ll find out in a play that Variety described as “a wicked treat for the morbidly inclined — a bonbon filled with arsenic.” One part Albee, one part Hitchcock, one part Tarantino, Mr. Kolpert is a play we’ve been dying to produce since day one. Comedy doesn’t come much blacker or better than this.
The New Electric Ballroom
by Enda Walsh
Meet Breda, Clara, and Ada, three sisters trapped in a remote Irish town filled with gossip and fish. Breda and Clara obsessively relive the time when, as 17-year-olds, they were nearly seduced at the New Electric Ballroom by Roller Doyle, the hearthrob singer in a touring band. Meanwhile Ada, the youngest, tries her best to fend off the romantic overtures of the local fishmonger. Funny, tender-hearted and at times pitch dark, The New Electric Ballroom is a coiled, glitter-dusted fable about the stories that come to define us.
All Ivo van Hove, all the time. The force of this live experience is all about the director, and he takes it to Greek tragedy. At the center, an all-consuming performance from Mark Strong as Eddie. As van Hove says in intro, theatre has to be more than TV entertainment.
She makes the known and familiar new and threatening. He creates the visual equivalent of unforgettable lines – live moments with living bodies that burn into your memory forever. S/he scares the shit out of you with how good theatre can be.
When it comes to creating a world class live theatre event, a good director is essential. You can take a great play on the page and read it aloud and have a pretty good time. But you can only attain those 5 star lifetime highs in the theatre with a good – nay great – director. For the director is co-creator with the playwright.
Ivo van Hove is the kind of director you want to be around. He creates unforgettable live performance that demonstrates what is possible. He creates events that are unmissable, must-see (and usually sold out) tickets. It’s the kind of experience you can’t get in film. And it’s worth throwing yourself on 99 duds in the theatre as long as every 100th time a van Hove comes along.
Today van Hove’s Young Vic production of A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE snagged three Olivier awards. Not bad for a show with a bare stage.
What happens when everyone else melts away and it’s you and your partner left alone? Perhaps you’re eating a meal at home, or maybe you’re driving somewhere. Things are going along ok, and then out of nowhere there’s a lapse of attention, one ill-chosen word or glance, and suddenly you realize you don’t know this other person at all. There’s not much company to share this revelation with: after all, it’s just the two of you now.
Such a moment kicks off Amy Herzog’s dark, sharply uncomfortable play BELLEVILLE, which opened last night at Third Rail in a somewhat mixed production. In Herzog’s story, American Abby (Rebecca Lingafelter) has just returned to her Paris apartment mid day. She discovers her husband Zack (Isaac Lamb) in their bedroom watching porn. Zach’s supposed to be at work.
From one unexpected and unrecoverable discovery, we watch over an intermissionless 100 minutes as this young expat couple’s marriage moves from rocky to the stuff of horror films.
Abby and Zack moved to Paris for Zack’s job at Doctors Without Borders. Abby has not yet detached from her own original family back in the US completely and still talks to her father daily for support. Stateside, her sister is just about to have a baby, and Abby wanted to be there but something went wrong with their visas (thanks to Zack). The young American woman doesn’t speak much French – she stopped going to her lessons because the teacher made fun of her. Zack has a college kid’s weed habit and has found a stoner buddy in his North African landlord. Though they are both in Paris physically, Abby and Zack aren’t very engaged with the surroundings. As we’ll learn, they’re too caught up in their own problems to have much chance of engaging with a foreign culture.
Herzog is a tough and exacting writer, and she finds a lot of beats that ring true in this couple’s deformed relationship. Abby, not quite willing to believe her marriage may be in trouble, flips in an instant from fighting to considering the plan for the evening: where are they going for date night? Faced with his cratering life, Zack focuses on (what else) finding the next joint to smoke.
This version of young Americans foundering abroad is significantly hampered by casting two actors who are quite a bit older than the 20-somethings of the script. Lingafelter must be at least a decade older than the 28 Abby is supposed to be, and though she does some strong acting to portray the younger woman, there’s often confusion here as we watch what sounds like a younger person’s drama but looks like a middle-aged one.
The show starts off playing up the comedy of the initial surprise at home, which feels awkward and doesn’t set the right tone. At any minute you can picture the two leads breaking decisively into the humor they are known for (particularly Lamb), but that’s not this play. Going genuinely dark seems to be a harder task for the two.
It’s good to see Herzog searching for new subjects, even if the world she creates isn’t a whole lot of fun for the audience to be around. She’s after a larger point here about America and the world.