John Berendzen, with the help of superb director/choreographer Amanda Boekelheide has nailed Krapp's mannerisms and uncompromising physicality. With Krapp, every step, breath, sigh, and position has been repeated and magnified for decades, and Berendzen's movements have a fitting, studied quality about them that reflects a lifetime of routine. With his wild hair and hunched walk, he also has the perfect look for the decrepit Krapp, though his squeaky voice and bulging eyes do add a rather silly dimension to the proceedings, which technically are about an old man dying in the throes of alcoholism and pain over his dead lover, and thus really not silly at all. But for all its campiness, Berendzen's performance is also fully realized, and frequently hilarious. It's hard to find such layered, unflinching portrayals in this town, whether you agree with all the acting choices or not. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS
Lakewood has been spoon-feeding the gentlest kind of theater imaginable to its loyal subscribers for 51 years. Oregon Ghosts takes the saccharine level one step higher, ascending to the realm of flat-out terrible. It's a shame because the idea of staging actual Oregon ghost stories is an intriguing one, and one that as far as I know, hasn't been done before. But alas, playwright Donald Olson has no idea how to write dramatically tense dialogue, choosing instead to bury his chosen ghost stories under piles of expositional dialogue.
In "The Keeper," the ghost of a hefty Norwegian woman (Wendy Westerwelle) rambles on about her immigration experience while a living couple (who, naturally, can't see or hear her) prospect her old coastal house for remodeling possibilities. In "The Cowboy" two cowboy ghosts (Jim Davis and Westerwelle, who look like they belong in Knott's Berry Farm) bitch with their prostitute friend ghost (Nancy Benner) about the modern renovations being done to their "home" at the Geiser Grand Hotel. In "The Lady of the Night" a modern-day prostitute (Westerwelle) is visited by the ghost of a long-dead Irish prostitute (Benner) who wails on about yet another mind-numbing, heart-breaking tale of immigration.
The lack of freshness in all three of these little vignettes (and I do mean "little"; at a whopping 23 bucks per ticket, this show has a running time of... one freaking hour) is a bit shocking. Olson has no interest in being creepy, but also zero comic ability. His play doesn't provide ghost stories at all, but characters calling themselves ghosts, telling stories that sound as if they've been lifted from Oregon travel brochures. The spirited performances from Ghost's cast don't even begin to excuse the appalling script, though Lerman's catchy musical interludes do liven things up for the duration of his short, precious stage time.
I wish I could say I'm just a cynical, jaded youth, and that Oregon Ghosts hits the target demographic it's aiming for just fine. But no, I went on a matinee Sunday and was the youngest person in attendance by about fifty years. To my left, a sweet old lady snored softly; to my right a kindly old man stared down at his knuckles for 45 minutes. This play wasn't even reaching out to its most loyal customers, the innocent retirees who have nothing better to do than get tricked into spending nearly 25 bucks on crap. They're the ones my heart really goes out to because for them an utterly wasted Sunday afternoon is just another step closer to being ghosts themselves. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS