Just trying to raise the star rating of my favorite place in Portland to watch movies. I don't think that the theater should take the rap for the fact that some guy thought it sounded like a bad idea for David Byrne to do a book reading there and decided not to go. I wouldn't pay $26 to hear David Byrne read either but I would pay $3 for a movie there anytime. Pretty good pizza and beer too.
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I'd actually like to see you try to summarize the plot of "Les Mis." I had the original cast album, saw the first US tour, saw the first half of the school edition when it was performed at Grant High School, (sorry, Grant High School students, I don't fault your performance) and the closest I ever came to following the meandering story was in the "Forbidden Broadway" version.
In reading the play, I was very conscious of two-hander-itis: characters bantering back and forth between one another before one says something profound enough to end a scene. It struck me as a very undramatic drama.
I'm reminded of a line from EVITA: "As a mere observer of this tasteless phenomenon. You have to admire the stage management."
I watched Wilder's SUNSET BOULEVARD about a week before PCS announced its season. I enjoyed the Gothic campiness and Gloria Swanson's over-the-top performance as much as ever. Out of curiosity, I decided to check out the score to see how Andrew Lloyd Webber had handled it. I thought his songs for Norma showed a combination of bravado and vulnerability, that Max's song was unsingable, and that they found a very conventional musical theatre way to depict the movie's very conventional romantic subplot.
I had some friends in from out of town, who also knew the film, and, thanks to MercPerks, we all sat down after exploring the Armory expecting some kind of interesting train wreck.
But Kevin Reed's performance aside (he is, after all, playing an untalented writer) I liked Chris Coleman's staging. I liked the use of projection. I liked the minimalist sets. I liked Linda Mugleston's voice and Larry Daggett's gutsy handling of the ridiculous vocal range of "The Greatest Star of All." I liked the fun they had with SAMSON AND DELILAH, the DeMille film within the film.
I didn't quite get the "close-up image of a woman's face" serving as a backdrop at first but that's Gloria Swanson up there (appropriately enough from the film STAGE STRUCK) and I think it's both an homage and the face Norma Desmond thinks she's showing the camera when everyone around her is looking on in shock and disbelief.
Long Day's Journey Into Night may have been a fresh example of the American dysfunctional family but it has been so thoroughly absorbed and parodied that I don't know what could make it seem vital again. I've seen the film with Ralph Richardson/Katherine Hepburn, and heard the LA Theatreworks production in the last decade and find I'm laughing at more of the show as time goes on. Actors can only do so much with their material. Just last October, Portland got to see August Osage County, which covers much of the same ground but does so with an extended family, a touch of Tennessee Williams, and a lot more laughs.
I don't think it's edgy but I think it is ambitious whenever actors founding a company put expanding their audience ahead of finding plays with roles they'd love to play. And even if it's August Wilson, it's recent August Wilson. I think it's also great that they've been building alliances with the fine actors at Third Rail Rep. I don't know what I think of bringing Adam Rapp's brother in for a reading of "Bingo" after a performance of "Rent" when it came through town but I don't think they were doing it for your parents.
"It's frustrating to see such a young, energetic company producing work that feels as though it's catering to my parents instead of me."
Because RADIO GOLF is a very traditional play, I can see how you would think that Portland Playhouse is catering to your parents. But the exceptions (WILLOW JADE and BINGO AND THE INDIANS) you mentioned comprise half their season. I thought the decision of a theater company run by three white people to stage a play with all African American roles was pretty ambitious and given the proximity of the theater to gentrification on Alberta, pretty inspired.
If you want to break their season down by demographics it might read WASP play (FICTION), twenty or thirty something play (BINGO AND THE INDIANS), young adult play (WILLOW JADE), African American play (RADIO GOLF).
As for theater-goers of your generation, do they still have the free beer?
During a rare recent trip back to Chicago, I had to have Indian food on Devon and Pizzeria Due. When hunger struck during a walk, I caved to an Italian beef. I don't know if it's available here but my craving is only triggered by one of those yellow Vienna Beef signs you see on every fourth corner. For hot dogs, Wayne's gets it right and Zach's gets it right except for the bun. There is so little else I miss about Chicago. I hope this place thrives.
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