CoHo Productions at CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh, 220-2646
If you follow theater in Portland, or even just know a few Portland theater people, CoHo Productions' quarterly 24-Hour Play Festival is something you should keep an eye out for. But don't go expecting anything impressive. What you'll see is a bunch of people who love theater going through a somewhat punishing exercise in forced creativity. The outcome isn't nearly as rewarding for the audience as the exercise itself is for the people involved—but if you know and support those people, you'll probably have a pretty good time.
The idea is this: 30 people (26 actors, four writers) gather at 10 pm on the night before the show. Writers are randomly matched with actors, and the four groups go through the process of writing, workshopping, and rehearsing a one-act play that they will need to perform at 8 pm the following evening. By 10 pm that night, the sleep-deprived, somewhat manic group takes their final bow.
Last weekend's grouping ran the gamut from faintly amusing to possibly producible with some heavy work, with a fair amount of what-the-fuck in between. Prison Rules by Josh Gross featured a jailhouse dance-off noteworthy for its lily-white actors' middle-class interpretations of a hardened prison guard, a B-boy, and some kind of ghetto tap dancer.
Snapshot by Phillip Meyer was an overly complicated series of short scenes about political corruption, family betrayal, and career advancement. Unfortunately, it was a little too complex for a group of actors at that late stage of fatigue, and the production was notable mostly for its long pauses and clumsy blocking. No Secrets by Scott Stephens was absolutely incomprehensible—hopefully because someone missed a cue or dropped a page of dialogue, not because the group thought five minutes of watching people drink silently and then suddenly act panicked was a good idea.
The last show, Valory Lawrence's Adventures in Weinerland, was unapologetically awful, and a lot of fun. Going straight to the ridiculous, this warped children's theater production featured sock puppets, a coked-out leather queen, audience participation, crappy songs, and plenty of innuendo about the buns in which sausage kings like to nestle their meat. It was horrifically bad, but they were having a blast making it happen—and that's what the 24-Hour Plays need to be about.