ACTION/ADVENTURE THEATRE inhabits a unique niche in our city's arts scene, due to their success in faithfully and hilariously chronicling life in Portland with the beloved, long-running serial Fall of the House. For the uninitiated, FotH combined the live-action energy of improvisational comedy with an episodic performance format, creating what company member (and Mercury office manager) Noah Dunham describes as "theater for TV people." The series was unscripted; writers provided storylines that actors improvised anew each night, incorporating spontaneity and realism into practiced routines in a way that uniquely engaged audiences. In response to demand for another show of this ilk, and as the opening act in what may be the company's most varied and sophisticated season yet, Action/Adventure delivers a follow-up of sorts with Fall of the Band.
Changes that the troupe itself underwent provided inspiration for the return to Fall of the House's semi-improvised format. In 2011, impending construction forced Action/Adventure to relocate from their long-time rehearsal space, leading to the establishment of their current venue on SE Clinton. Fall of the Band follows a fictional band facing the same dilemma—their house and rehearsal space are slated for destruction, and rising tensions soon threaten their musical collaboration as well. A new episode runs every weekend for four weeks; FotB infuses live music into each episode, some of which will be provided by guest performers like Ryan Sollee (the Builders of the Butchers), Holland Andrews (Like a Villain), and Danny Diana-Peebles (Serious Business).
The rest of the music will come from the band itself, a talented group charged with playing what director Dunham calls "glorified versions of themselves." Led by musical director Cristina Cano (also of Sollee's project Albatross), the band members enliven local archetypes with scruffy-dreamy dudes Kyle Acheson, Sam De Roest, and Action/Adventure's own Devon Granmo, along with erstwhile rocker David Saffert and ambitious bandleader Natalie Stringer. The show promises to be rife with Portland references and riffs on the creative endeavors so consuming to ambitious artist types—stand-up routines and obsessive bloggers will be mentioned, and of course, the trials of the aspiring band.
With this meta-conscious approach, the show offers valuable reflections on the reasons we put so much heart into making art of any kind. At some level, every band or performer wants to be the greatest, striving after originality and acclaim. In all of that drive and effort, it's easy to forget the implicit effect of collaborating on creative projects: that we end up stitching ourselves into the time and place we inhabit, oftentimes alongside people we care about dearly. Breakups—of bands you're in, bands you love, and other kinds—can wound catastrophically. But the fact remains that in the act of coming together, that which is made—songs, jokes, or shows—has the power to stay. Action/Adventure's productions continue to document the essence of the creative cycle with electric and touching accuracy, while simultaneously and simply achieving another of their aims—to make people laugh.