Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hot ‘n’ Throbbing

Picture is Benjamin Philip ("The Voice"), Jason England ("Clyde"), and Jaime Langton ("Charlene")


By Tina Arth

Twilight Theater Company has carved out a niche for themselves by doing lots of edgy, little known plays that challenge the audience to really think about what they have seen. Simultaneously, they give local actors the chance to explore complex roles requiring them to dig deeply for both nuanced subtlety and the explosive action that sometimes accompanies their inner dialogues. Director Matt Gibson’s current production of Paula Vogel’s very dark, occasionally comic Hot ‘n’ Throbbing is classic Twilight: obscure, frequently surreal, deeply disturbing, nicely staged and skillfully acted.

There is an element of bait and switch in the show – the early scenes delude the audience into expecting a wacky, bawdy comedy about Charlene, a superficially button-down, school-marmish divorced mom trying to support two adolescents by writing “adult entertainment” – essentially soft-core porn. The erotic images floating around her brain (and keyboard), embodied by the male “Voice” and female “Voice Over,” are reminiscent of the short-lived sitcom Herman’s Head; Charlene’s inner voices stand in stark contrast to her parenting style, especially when she is forbidding rebellious sexpot daughter Leslie Anne from leaving the house in skin-tight clothing while son Calvin lovingly caresses his soft, willing baseball mitt. The serio-comic tone changes dramatically with the arrival of Clyde, Charlene’s drunken and abusive ex, who bursts in (defying a restraining order) for a quickie – he can’t afford a hooker. Charlene’s erotic fantasies, where the woman is in control of the S&M and bondage, are quickly replaced by Clyde’s all-too-real obsessions, and the evening goes very, very wrong.

Jaime Langton (“Charlene”) and Jason A. England (“Clyde”) create a bizarre, but ultimately believable, dysfunctional couple. Langton at first seems a bit too put-together and intellectual for the role of victim (or pornographer), but she skillfully devolves into the insecure dreamer trying to placate her abuser. The contrast between the external and internal is most pronounced in the scene where she awkwardly tries to seduce England in an almost childish parody of sexuality. England is probably a lovely fellow in real life, but he is terrifyingly believable in the role of violently twisted redneck; his incestuous musings about his daughter are positively chilling.

Tabitha Ebert (“Leslie Anne”) captures the classic over-the-top drama of the teen girl’s battles with mom, competition for dad’s attention, and incessant squabbling with her brother – all overlaid with the cold reality at the script’s core. My personal favorite performance comes from Chloë Duckart (“Calvin”), the obsessively masturbating, Peeping Tom little brother who, despite a multitude of quirks, is still ready to defend mom Charlene from her drunken ex. Duckart really has a feel for the emotional and sexual confusion and contrasts of early adolescence, and they create a memorable character.

The final two performers, Benjamin Philip (“The Voice”) and Adriana Gantzer (“Voice Over”) provide a significant dose of comic relief as they portray the overly dramatized external expressions of the naïve stereotypes living in Charlene’s imagination. Gantzer’s pole dancing siren hovers nicely on the line between erotica and parody, while Philip is at his best riffing on a Philip Marlowe-style private eye, alternating from hard-boiled to intellectual (sometimes in mid-monologue).

Vogel’s script is occasionally baffling, with odd interjections that sometimes muddy the core story. It is left to the director and actors to craft a coherent and compelling drama that holds the audience during the author’s flights of obscure intellectualism (or am I the only one who doesn’t need to hear multiple passages from Moby Dick?). Despite the distractions, Gibson and his cast keep the focus on pornography, incest  and domestic violence, delivering a hard-hitting drama that shines a powerful light into some very dark parts of the human psyche.


Twilight Theater Company’s Hot ‘n’ Throbbing is playing at the Performing Arts Theater, 7515 N. Brandon Avenue, Portland through Sunday, August 20th with performances at 8 P.M. Friday and Saturday and 3:00 P.M. Sunday. There is an additional performance Thursday, August 17th at 8:00 P.M.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Catch This Gypsy Before It Leaves Town!



By Tina Arth

While my attitude toward theater is generally “smaller is better,” I make an annual exception for the summer season at Broadway Rose. Their huge summer productions never fail to dazzle me, and this year’s blockbuster Gypsy is no exception. Director Annie Kaiser’s first swing at one of the company’s large-scale musicals is a home run; the show simply begs us: “Let me entertain you” – and it does.

The story is based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, who (obsessively pushed by Momma Rose, the ultimate stage mother) rises from the vaudeville kiddy circuit to become perhaps the most famous stripper (or, as Gypsy says, “At these prices, I’m an ecdysiast!”) in history.  The show took Broadway by storm when it debuted in 1959 with the book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim – helped along by the power of Ethel Merman as Rose. Merman set a high bar, and mature comediennes with big voices have sought to put their own stamp on the role ever since. While Gypsy is properly classified as musical comedy, the complexity of the character and relationships (especially between Gypsy and Momma Rose) sometimes goes deep, and even dark – Momma Rose has earned a place as one of the most narcissistic and manipulative characters in all musical theater.  For readers who don’t already know and love the show, do not let this deter you – it’s very, very funny, loaded with memorable moments and great songs, and it ends on a lovely note of reconciliation.

W. C. Fields once said that you should never go on stage with children or animals, and while I’m sure this Gypsy cast would disagree, he had a point. Every time Ryleigh Hefflinger (Baby June) flounces across the stage, squeals, and kicks – and she is a world-class flouncer, squealer, and kicker – the rest of the cast seems to disappear. Rivaling Hefflinger for the scene-stealing title is Chowsie the Chihuahua, who clearly deserved but was robbed of a bio in the program. Of course Chowsie has no lines, and didn’t need to learn any blocking since he has trained the cast to carry him everywhere he needs to go, but he still gives a truly unforgettable performance. Aida Valentine (Baby Louise) masters the fine art of winning our attention and sympathy by graciously accepting her role as second-class daughter, with just the right touch of pathos to set up her emergence as a butterfly in Act 2.

Dan Murphy’s “Herbie” – who inexplicably adores Rose – creates a gentle doormat whose warmth makes him perhaps the most likeable character in the show – and I wanted to cheer when he finally had enough and walked away. Bryan Thomas Hunt’s Tulsa delivers a remarkable song and dance solo in “All I Need Is the Girl” that left me wanting more but frustrated, since he, too, walks away.

In the end, the show belongs to two women, Sharon Maroney (Momma Rose) and Kelly Sina (Louise/Gypsy). Maroney is definitely at her best when she’s playing it big, especially on the vocals, as she is a phenomenal belter. She also negotiates her character’s frequent personality shifts with aplomb, moving from bully to cheerleader, wheedler to delusional manipulator with sometimes dizzying speed.
Starting with the heartbreakingly pathetic “Little Lamb” and growing toward the swaggering strip routine, Sina gives her solo numbers a star turn that firmly establishes her place as best vocalist in the show, and her evolution from timid wallflower to the ultimate tease is a joy to watch.

Music Director/Conductor Jeffrey Childs leads his orchestra flawlessly, and seemingly has a lot of fun with some of the eccentric musical stylings designed to create the vaudeville/burlesque tone of the production. Costume Designer Darrin J. Pufall must also have enjoyed himself clothing Baby June, the Toreadorables, the cow, and of course the three wonderful strippers who introduce Gypsy to the world of burlesque.

This Gypsy gives us a great combination of humor, top-class song and dance, and sobering themes, clearly demonstrating why it’s often called America’s greatest musical. It should not be missed.


Broadway Rose’s Gypsy runs through August 20th at Tigard High School’s Deb Fennell Auditorium.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bag & Baggage’s ROMEO AND JULIET A Compelling Mash-Up

Arianne Jacques as Juliet and Nicholas Granato as Romeo.
Photo by Casey Campbell.

By Tina Arth

Bag & Baggage’s artistic director, Scott Palmer, is notorious for his creative Shakespearian adaptations, but this summer the innovative Hillsboro theatrical company is truly breaking new ground. Palmer’s current production is not so much an adaptation as a mash-up, combining perhaps the best known play in all of Western Civilization and a lovely tale with deep roots in the ancient Middle East: hence, Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun). The result is a sometimes jarring, but ultimately charming, twist on the traditional tale of star-crossed lovers that audiences have come to expect.

Entering Tom McCall Plaza, one thing is immediately clear – we’re not in Verona anymore. The exotic strains of Arab music and the gigantic, ornate tent immediately transport us to a fictional multicultural Persia where Roman Christians (shades of the Crusades?) interact, and sometimes clash, with the local Bedouin tribes. Lady Capulet, her daughter Juliet, and cousin Tybalt are emissaries from the Emperor Constantine. The local royalty includes the Sayyid, a direct descendant of Muhammad, who is determined to live in peace with the Roman newcomers. However, the instantaneous chemistry between Juliet and the Sayyid’s son Romeo/Majnun sets up an irresolvable conflict – neither parent considers the other’s child as a remotely suitable mate for their own offspring.  The long-standing feud between the Capulets and the Montagues in Shakespeare’s play is replaced by a new feud between the Christian Tybalt and the Moslem Newfal/Mercutio (many characters bear two names); Tybalt slays Mercutio, leading to Tybalt’s death at the hands of Romeo and setting up all that follows.

Although much of the original Shakespearean dialogue is retained, the play is definitely not just Romeo and Juliet in a new setting.  The second act is especially distinctive, not just on a superficial level (e.g., Juliet/Layla marrying Paris) but on an emotional level – the two parents, when pressed, show much more compassion than their Italian counterparts, and Majnun’s death provides a lovely spiritual touch at the conclusion.

Despite the complexity introduced by the production’s multiple origins, it is remarkably easy to follow the story. It helps that there is an omniscient narrator, storyteller Gary Ploski, to fill in some of the blanks. However, it is the principal actors who really tell the tale – despite being outdoors, with some inevitable noise pollution, every line is delivered distinctly, paced slowly enough to allow the audience to comprehend while permitting the actors to match each word with the requisite physical accompaniment – both fight scenes and love scenes really tell themselves.

Two Bag & Baggage newcomers particularly shine – Nicholas Granato (Romeo/Majnun) and Mandana Khoshnevisan (Lady Capulet).  Granato’s abrupt and peripatetic shifts from elation, passion, and despair capture the love stricken madness of his character, differentiating him (and the story) from the Shakespearean Romeo, and provide much-needed comic relief. Khoshnevisan offers additional shots of humor playing the protective, frustrated, status-seeking uber-momma without making a mockery of her fierce maternal love.

Bag & Baggage mainstays Cassie Greer (as Romeo’s cousin Benvolia) and Arianne Jacques (as Juliet/Layla) are, not surprisingly, superb. Jacques manages to capture the mercurial mood swings of a fourteen year old in the grips of first love, with just a touch of petulance toward her mother, a touch of the tease toward her lover, and mulishly rigid rejection of her husband’s very real ardor. Greer’s Benvolia is very much the level-headed peacemaker, and she plays the role of sensible (if unsuccessful) diplomat deftly – but with the added fun of watching her scornfully fend off Mercutio’s clumsy advances.

Other highlights include Signe Larsen’s athletic and exciting fight choreography (nowhere better than in her performance as Tybalt) and Melissa Heller’s costumes. With a story set in a fictional place and time, and an unlikely mix of characters, Heller provides imaginative attire that captures the spirit of two very different worlds. Assistant Director Melory Mirashrafi and her family served as invaluable consultants who helped Palmer, his actors, and his audience to overcome inaccurate preconceptions about how the Middle Eastern characters “ought” to behave, and contributed immeasurably to this beautiful and unusual fictional and cultural blend.

Bag & Baggage’s production of Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun) runs through August 5, with shows at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, at the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, 150 E. Main Street, Hillsboro.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

HART’S 2017 Page to Stage Intriguing Summer Fare

Picture by Carl Dahlqvist, shows (l - r) Les Ico, Ami Ericson,
Rachel Thomas, Skye McLaren Walton, and Kaitlynn Baugh
.
By Tina Arth

One of the best things about live theater is that no two performances are exactly the same, so there’s always the prospect of getting new perspectives on the material each time you see a show. However, HART Theatre’s current offering, 36 Perfectly Appropriate Mealtime Conversations, takes this concept to a whole new level. Never heard of it? Not surprising – it’s brand new, this season’s winner of HART’s annual “Page to Stage” competition, which gives local playwrights a chance to see their work in full production. Author Brianna Barrett decided to explore the complex topic of gender roles in theater by writing a show about messy human relationships in which every character can be played by either a man or a woman, and doubled down by then having the core cast members play different roles in each performance. Depending on the evening (and thus the assignments of the various cast members), one key character could be a heterosexual transsexual, a gay transsexual, a heterosexual woman, or a lesbian. While the dialogue stays the same, the subtext varies wildly – as does the humor (it’s a very, very funny play).

It’s not easy to condense a series of 25 vignettes into an intellgible summary.  In brief, six core cast members (Terry, Morgan, Jessie, Alex, Cameron, and Parker) and two “Observers” appear in a series of brief meetings in bars, restaurants, and homes where they obsess over a variety of issues involving their attempts, as maturing Gen Ys and millennials, to achieve true adulthood and lasting satisfaction in their interpersonal relationships.  Only the observers (Les Ico and Ami Ericson) retain their roles throughout the run of the show (although there is still some gender-bending, in particular Ico’s truly spectacular appearance singing love ballads in a fetching wig).  There is one married couple, and their discussions about love, fidelity, and parenthood/adoption will take on dramatically new meaning with each separate pairing. Blaine Vincent III’s effect as lounge singer Jessie will be very different when a woman plays the role, just as the bodice of his fabulous red dress will undoubtedly look a lot different when filled out by actual breasts.

I hesitate to call out any specific performances, as future audiences will not be seeing the actors in the same roles I saw.  Kaitlynn Baugh’s tough talking Alex and Skye McLaren Walton’s fragile, insecure Cameron present an interesting take on friendship that will undoubtedly be transformed when played by pretty little Rachel Thomas or stolid, serious Cecelia Shroyer. Barrett’s script is incredibly witty, but the funniest lines may shift nightly depending on who’s playing whom. I found myself several times watching and listening on two levels, seeing and enjoying the current cast while imagining how the effect might change in future productions. It’s obviously not practical to see every possible iteration, but I definitely plan to attend at least one more performance just to experience the effect of the shifting roles.

Page to Stage productions are, to some extent, works in progress. Director Carl Dahlquist has done a nice job of wrangling the complex script into coherence, but the show still runs a little too long (2 hours, 45 minutes including intermission). The set is minimalist, and several minutes could have been shaved by just simplifying the scene changes, in particular by reducing the number of times the tables and door are moved around the stage. There are undoubtedly places where the script can be tightened up, and I’m confident that Barrett will take advantage of the HART run to evaluate the effectiveness of each vignette.

The show should probably be rated as at least PG 13, due to some mature themes and language. That said, it’s an intriguing, entertaining story that should resonate with adult audiences from any generation.


36 Perfectly Appropriate Mealtime Conversations is playing at the HART Theatre, 185 SE Washington, Hillsboro through July 23, with performances at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 on Sundays. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Broadway Rose The Addams Family Fast-Paced and Fun



By Tina Arth

I have seen The Addams Family musical three times in the past few years – once as a youth production, once in community theater, and last Friday at Broadway Rose’s stunning professional staging.  Each version was lively and entertaining, each (predictably) well cast for the level of the company, and (less predictable by far) each presented me with a different vision of who is the real star of the show. The book (by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) and music/lyrics (by Andrew Lippa) leave ample room for the director and principals to play with the material, and Broadway Rose director Peggy Taphorn and cast are having a great deal of fun doing just that.

The story adheres to a familiar format for comic adaptations – two very different groups (in this case, the dark and eerie Addams clan and the disturbingly cheerful Middle-American Beineke family) are brought together by a Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? type romantic mismatch. A twist on tradition is a key plot point – Gomez knows about daughter Wednesday’s engagement to the seemingly unsuitable Lucas Beineke, but swears not to tell Morticia, setting up the crisis of a man trapped between love for his wife and love for his daughter. The script is fraught with light-hearted tension and ultimately resolves in a series of classic “love conquers all” moments extending not only to the young couple but to both sets of parents (Gomez and Morticia Addams, Mal and Alice Beineke) and to the most unlikely of Lotharios, Uncle Fester.

Both the breadth and depth of talent on stage are truly impressive. The twelve Addams Ancestors, representing earlier generations of the family, provide a solid choral background, lively and athletic dance ensemble, and plenty of comic moments - Christopher Sweet’s ghostly conquistador is positively unforgettable. Emily Windler’s “Grandma” is really quite lovable in a stunted, twisted way, and she brings a razor-sharp wit to her work with Pugsley (Karsten George) in the “What If” scene. George shows a fine grasp of physical comedy in “Pulled,” and his vocals and timing are spot-on throughout. Isaac Lamb’s incurably romantic “Uncle Fester” moves from the campy “Fester’s Manifesto” (complete with ukulele) to the utterly enchanting “The Moon and Me” – a perfect example of this show’s ability to meld the absurd with genuinely lovely ballads.

Joe Theissen (Gomez) and LisaMarie Harrison (Morticia) get some of the show’s finest numbers – Theissen’s “Happy Sad” captures the spirit of any father dealing with the pride and heartbreak of a growing daughter, and he conveys his passion for Morticia with just the right note of Latin lover in numbers like “Live Before We Die.” Like the rest of the Addams clan, Harrison”s “Morticia” is playfully dark, but she reveals her soft underbelly in flashes of maternal devotion and wifely love that transcend mere passion. At her lowest moment, Harrison reminds us subtly of Tevye’s conundrum, then (with the help of the Ancestors) does a spectacular job of cheering herself up in the classically Broadway-style “Just Around the Corner.” Molly Duddleston is charming – perhaps a little too much so – as Wednesday Addams. Her voice is lovely, but she’s just too cute to completely sell the hostile, depressed side of her character, giving us a bit too much ingénue and not quite enough Goth.

The role of Alice Beineke was a bit of a throwaway in the first two Addams Family productions I saw, but Amy Jo Halliday quite simply steals the show at Broadway Rose.  Her trip across the tabletop in “Waiting” (so reminiscent of Bye Bye Birdie’s Rose Alvarez) is an absolute showstopper – nothing less than the full ensemble rendition of “Full Disclosure” could have followed it to end Act I. The combination of her vocal power and utter lack of inhibition sets a dauntingly high bar for the rest of the cast, moving the show from “really fun” to absolute dynamite.

Alan D. Lytle and his orchestra keep the show moving at a rapid pace, and the elaborate sets are engineered to eliminate even slight delays for scene changes.  Director Taphorn has injected the script with several crowd-pleasing contemporary quips, and her choreography is dynamic, precise and imaginative, particularly in ensemble numbers with the Ancestors. Broadway Rose’s first big summer offering for 2017 is well worth a trip to Tigard for fine acting, great vocals, and a full evening of laughter.


Broadway Rose’s The Addams Family runs through July 23d at Tigard High School’s Deb Fennell Auditorium.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Experience Theatre Project Whips Up a Steampunk Tempest

Robert Amico (Ferdinand) and Nicole Richwalsky (Miranda)
Casey Campbell Photography


By Tina Arth

Beaverton’s “Experience Theatre Project” is a local leader in the movement to bring new audiences to the works of William Shakespeare by offering free or low-cost productions to the broadest possible audience. In keeping with this, their current staging of The Tempest has a fun steampunk style, is offered outdoors (at The Round in Beaverton) with no set admission fee ($10 donation suggested, $15 for reserved seating with a drink and dessert), and provides both sign language and Spanish interpreters. Director Jen Waters has done a great job of integrating the audience into the show, as the cast frequently moves through the seating areas and occasionally interacts directly with individual audience members. All of this makes for an enjoyable, accessible experience that will captivate adults and their kiddos. Of course the youngsters may not understand everything (realistically, few of the adults will follow every nuance!), but the movement, costumes, clowning and broad dumb show are enough to give the broad outlines of the story and keep everyone engaged.

Unless you’re a real Shakespeare fanatic, I recommend that you read the show synopsis in the program before the performance begins – a crutch I was denied since I attended the dress rehearsal. An even briefer guide: Alonso (King of Naples) and friends are shipwrecked by a huge storm, and all aboard are tossed into the sea. They arrive safely (but missing Alonso’s son Ferdinand) on an apparently deserted island. The island is actually inhabited by the exiled Prospero (former Duke of Milan), his daughter Miranda, and the half-wild native, Caliban, and several spirits. Ferdinand, who has landed on another part of the island from the rest, encounters Miranda – love at first sight! Prospero’s chief spirit/slave, Ariel, desperately wants his freedom, and Prospero offers it in return for a few small favors (primarily leading Alonso and his party to Prospero). The court jester, Trinculo, and Stephano the butler form a drunken alliance with Caliban, and vow to usurp Prospero as leader of the island.  Prospero agrees to allow Miranda and Ferdinand to marry, Ariel foils the evil plot by Trinculo/Stephano/Caliban, Alonso and his party find Prospero and are thrilled to find Ferdinand alive and betrothed, Ariel is released from bondage, and the (miraculously intact) ship carries all of the good folks home.

One great strength of the production is its physicality – the amazing simulation of the tempest by the storm-wracked passengers, Sam Schultz’s crab-like crawl as Caliban, Sullivan Mackintosh’s bawdy, staggering acrobatics as Trinculo, and Charles Grant’s leaping, soaring Ariel. Greg Barrett paints the drunken Stephano with a broad brush, and his magic trick is a real audience pleaser.  Schultz and Grant are particularly effective at creating the aura of magic and mystery essential to the tale.

The loving couple (Nicole Richwalsky as Miranda, Robert Amico as Ferdinand) express their infatuation so clearly that it doesn't matter if a few lines of dialogue are drowned out by passing trains (always a risk at the Round), and Richwalsky injects the right notes of childish, wide-eyed innocence into the role. Bill Bernsohn’s portrayal of the loving father conveys his guilt at depriving his daughter of a normal life; he also segues nicely from seeking revenge to forgiving his old rivals.
Alisa Stewart’s costumes are quite stunning – in particular, Ariel’s wings and Caliban’s terrifying mask, as well as the fantastical makeup designs on these key characters. The steampunk theme is carried out effectively on the set with a huge machine resembling a giant, mechanized, steam-belching teapot.

As mentioned above, passing trains (and ambient noise from outdoor seating at nearby restaurants) sometimes interferes with dialogue, but the production really doesn't suffer much from those obstacles. Only the reserved seating offers chairs, so I’d recommend bringing a portable camp chair if two hours on concrete or grass doesn't sound appealing. The weather may be very hot at the Sunday matinees – wear sunscreen and a hat!


Experience Theatre Project’s The Tempest runs at the Round at Beaverton through Saturday, July 8th with performances at 7:30 Fridays and Saturday, 2:00 pm on Sundays. There will be a special show on Thursday, July 6 at 7:30.  For reserved seating, go to www.experiencept.org.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Believe the Rumors About Twilight’s Latest



By Tina Arth

It’s hard to go wrong with Neil Simon’s plays, but even the best script, in the wrong hands, can turn witty farce into irritating buffoonery. Rumors makes no pretense at deep social meaning, and has unapologetically slapstick elements that open the door to chaotic overacting – but Director Maury Evans and his brilliant cast have crafted Twilight Theater Company’s production of Rumors into, without question, the funniest show I’ve seen this year.

Laura Myers and Richard Barr
The story takes place in the living room of New York City Vice-Mayor Charles Brock and his wife Myra, who are supposed to be hosting an elegant party to celebrate their 10th anniversary.  Missing are Charles (unseen upstairs, bleeding from an apparent suicide attempt gone awry), his wife Myra, the couple’s household help, and all of the expected trappings of a dinner party, including the food (other than a well-sealed bag of pretzels and a well-stocked bar). In classic drawing-room comedy style, the first arrivals (Charles’ lawyer Ken and his wife Chris) madly endeavor to conceal the situation from the next three couples, hoping to avoid a scandal. As new people gradually arrive the cast makes liberal use of five doors – a sixth is curiously ignored. Slowly, the other couples learn bits and pieces of the story, adding their own interpretations and rumors to a tale that grows increasingly complex and culminates in the utterly absurd version recounted to the police.

Despite the absence of in-depth character development in the script, each actor quickly develops a distinct personal style that defines the cast member’s social status, personal neuroses, and relationship to the others.  Evans’ decision to cast Greg Saum as Cookie, the flamboyantly zaftig cooking show host, was inspired – the contrast between the over-the-top Cookie and her worshipful but introverted psychiatrist husband Ernie (nicely underplayed by Andy Roberts) sets up some of the show’s best moments.  Another power couple, Glenn (Ian Leiner) and Cassie (Amanda Anderson) bickers incessantly, primarily about Glenn’s focus on every woman he sees except his wife. Leiner finds a fine balance between button-down politician and lecher, using his eyes to tell a story otherwise denied, and Anderson’s shift from neglected harpy to seductress is hilariously convincing.

Rob Harris gives “Ken” a bug-eyed, barely controlled hysteria, his frenetic hand movements telegraphing the frenzy bubbling just below the surface. Alicia Turvin (as Ken’s wife Chris, also a lawyer) is utterly flustered, expressing her anxiety through her all-consuming need for a forbidden cigarette to calm her nerves. The final couple, Lenny and Clair (Richard Barr and Laura Myers) anchor the show with their sterling performances. Myers carefully negotiates the challenge of getting progressively drunker throughout the evening without becoming sloppy – her diction, bearing, and gossipy motor mouth remain consistent as she steadily downs a series of drinks (many intended for other characters). Barr is a classic candidate for anger management, always on the brink of an explosion but never venturing too far, until his spectacular final monologue. This masterpiece of comic timing left the audience, although weak with laughter, strong enough for the solid round of applause he so richly deserved.

Scott Miler’s set design functions like another character, immediately clueing the audience in to the cleanly elegant ambience of the era and locale while providing (in a remarkably small space) the levels and portals necessary for the show’s complex physical comedy, and Chris Byrne’s costumes skillfully complement each character’s personal style.

Nothing I write can begin to capture either the comedy on stage or the audience’s robust reaction. If you share my conviction that laughter is particularly essential in trying times, then this is one of those shows you’ve just got to see – perhaps more than once!


Twilight Theater Company’s Rumors is playing at the Performing Arts Theater, 7515 N. Brandon Avenue, Portland through Sunday, June 25th with performances at 8 P.M. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 3:00 P.M. Sunday. The Thursday, June 15th performance is a special fundraiser for the Kenton Business Association’s “Paint Paul” campaign.