Jimmy Blue

Hand2Mouth Theatre; runs at Laurelhurst Park (June 18-20), SE Stark & 39th, and Wallace Park (June 25-27), NW Pettygrove & 25th, 235-5284, 9 pm, free

Some of the best dialogue I heard at Hand2Mouth's exhilarating new outdoor spectacle, Jimmy Blue, came from the audience. A sample from the unofficial transcript:

(The scene: The protagonist, Jimmy Blue, is tormented by a black-clad demon on stilts, who glowers high above him, howling and waving a torch. The demon lights part of the set on fire. Smoke and flame fill the night air. In the crowd of spectators, a father covers his young son's eyes. )

FATHER: It's not real, Lil' Timmy. It's just make believe. It's not real, okay?

(Pause. The scene changes and three screeching Macbeth-ian witch characters enter the performance area, represented by eerie flowing robes and masks that extend high above their shoulders. The effect is terrifying. FATHER has had enough. He scoops LIL' TIMMY up, and rushes him away. )

LIL' TIMMY: (Staring over his shoulder, wide-eyed.) Where are we going? Why are we leaving?

FATHER: This is too scary.

When was the last time you observed a reaction like that at a play? Jimmy Blue, a work directed by Jonathan Walters and written by Walters and Jack Gibson, is a complete three-dimensional experience; a barrage of images, sounds, and sensations that, aided by the great outdoors, seems to exist everywhere at once.

The story follows Jimmy Blue, a disillusioned faith healer who leaves behind his world of freaks and carneys to embark on a literal/spiritual journey that plays like a staged nightmare, with lucid hallucinations bleeding together like water. Jimmy watches a mother watch her children die in the back of a rickety cart. Jimmy battles a fiendish bear, whose angry snarls sound disconcertingly real. Walters draws on ancient storytelling tricks brilliant in their simple profundity: Flame against a night sky; towering stiltwalkers; those awful witches, composed of little more than masks and some cloth. Hand2Mouth is living proof that vision and imagination will always trump material excess, and Jonathan Walters remains the most resourceful director in Portland. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS