With its almost overwhelmingly vast interior, PGE Park has always been an intimidating space for local artists. Voices echo off the concrete walls, the open sky looms overhead, and when there's a bad house there's a really bad house, with thousands upon thousands of empty seats stretching into the distance. The park has had a number of intimidated performers recently, because of the trouble selling tickets. Its current performance art series, Portland Beavers Baseball Season (a summer-long piece that is part of a string of sports-themed installations) has achieved mediocre crowds at best, which is really too bad. The piece, a nearly flawless replication of an actual minor league season starring a team called the Portland Beavers, is one of the most compelling artistic accomplishments this city has seen.
It goes without saying that the "games" played during Season are incredibly realistic. Despite its small houses, the show has managed to make a strong impression on the locals. Much like The Blair Witch Project did with its fake websites and documentaries, Season has generated a city of believers through a steady stream of false sports talk shows and newspaper stories. Many Portland residents will testify with a completely straight face that the games seem as real as they do because they ARE real. Some even believe that the Beavers are some sort of arm system for the major leagues, a place where prospective players are developed for a life in the big leagues. This is how accurately the producers of Season have built their replication. It is worth seeing for that reason alone; to see a hoax un-paralleled since the days of War of the Worlds.
It's also worth seeing for the beer. To help bring people in, the producers have devised a promotional night called Thirsty Thursday, in which audience members can purchase cups of beer for only one dollar. It's a cheap gimmick, but it's a fun one, and a fascinating one for what it does to the show's ambience. More than just a baseball game, Thirsty Thursdays are also horned out hoochie-mama fests where meaty fratted-out dullards battle through a drunken cloud for their perky nippled sorority equals. It's refreshing to see this sort of demographic at a Portland theatrical event. Their interactions are almost as entertaining as the actual show.
Of course, nothing can completely take the spotlight from a good baseball game, and Season, thanks to its talented cast, always measures up. The "team" is uniformly excellent, with standouts including Cesar Crespo as a speedy little infielder and Rich Gomez as the obligatory outfielder who adjusts his cup a lot. As a starting pitcher, Dennis Tankersley could use some work on his curveball, but his intense, focused presence on the mound is spot-on.
There are shining moments with side characters as well. Alicia Boole Stott lacks emotional depth, but still operates that scoreboard with startling precision, and Harley Mills is hilarious as a security officer who just can't stop checking bags. There's even a cameo by William Wescoat as a pointy-tailed, buck-toothed beaver mascot so annoying he almost forces you to hurl objects at him.
In conclusion, don't miss Season. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll cheer. Hell, you might even pick up a drunken hoochie mama if you play your cards right.