Oregonians of a certain age will remember grade-school pageants dedicated to Native American myths, where well-intentioned performers marshaled puppets, masks, and various percussive instruments to explain the customs of another culture, generally in the context of a morality tale with broad applications and, ideally, a current events tie-in. This pretty much sums up the Miracle Theatre Group's El Último, an original bilingual production about the nexus of environmentalism, sustainability, and tradition that's set to go on an educational tour after its two-week run in Portland. The show is about a logger (Matt Haynes) who buys a Patagonian island on which he plans to build a sustainable logging community; he's thwarted at various turns by displaced indigenous people, vengeful spirits, and his hippie ex-girlfriend. Crammed with spirits in scary masks and told in broad, reductive strokes, El Último is "educational" and earnest, and simple enough for even a non-Spanish speaker to follow. This Saturday's performance will be followed by an environmental fair, at which representatives from local environmental organizations will be on hand to discuss their work in Spanish and in English.
Lucky Apple Productions is a new company and their first production, Neil LaBute's Fat Pig, exhibits the vitality and intelligence that new companies invariably promise but rarely deliver. Their choice of scripts is bold: LaBute is a famously misanthropic writer, and in Fat Pig he turns his ruthless pen to romantic hypocrisy. Tom (Morgan Lee) is an attractive, successful businessman. His new girlfriend Helen (Erin Shapleigh) is considerably overweight—a fact that his friend Carter (Casey McFeron) and ex-girlfriend Jeannie (Lara Kobrin) react to with savage incredulity. Tom is well intentioned but ineffectual, and his weakness becomes increasingly destructive as he proves unable to treat Helen with either honesty or respect. While in general the decision to partner with local musicians is a sensible one and one that more companies should make, here Super XX Man's folksy, earnest tunes are far too sincere for such a malevolent script. Similarly, McFeron is too likeable as Tom's cavalier friend Carter—the character demands a cruel streak that McFeron never quite manifests. In general, though, the show is well acted, sharp, and funny.