Friday, November 10, 2017

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940

 Amelia Michaels, Michael Allen, Redmond Reams, and Ami Ericson

By Tina Arth

Mask & Mirror’s latest production, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, provides some real challenges for its cast. Author John Bishop’s 1987 murder-mystery, while loaded with the murders and red herrings that define the genre, is neither a musical nor a tightly written comedy, and the script would fall flat if not for the dedication of its talented actors. While it may not be possible to make a silk purse out of this particular sow’s ear, it is possible to make an audience laugh at the silly antics, physical comedy, broad stereotypes, and absurd story – and director Rick Hoover and his cast succeed well beyond what might be expected of a community theater team.

The convoluted set-up is this: it is 1940, so the U.S. is heavily involved in the events surrounding World War II but not yet actively at war. The cops are looking for a serial killer dubbed “The Stage Door Slasher” who recently murdered three tutu-clad chorines from a Broadway musical. The composer, lyricist, director and producer of a new musical are brought together at the Chappaqua estate of a wealthy backer, Elsa von Grossenknueten, ostensibly to try out their show for her.  The audition involves the assistance of three performers: Irish tenor Patrick O’Reilly, ingénue Nikki Crandall, and comic Eddie McKuen. Also on site are Elsa’s uber-German maid and an undercover cop.  The real reason for bringing the group together is to suss out the identity of the Slasher (naturally, in a remote location where all players are trapped during the obligatory snowstorm). The show opens when a mysteriously masked figure murders Helsa the maid, then stashes her away in a closet – yet miraculously, Helsa seems to be alive and well the next morning (spoiler alert: Helsa is  not an onlychild).  Mayhem ensues, more people die, secret identities are revealed, and the Slasher ultimately found out. Aaaand curtain!

Some of the finest comedy comes from two women – Amelia Michaels (as Helsa Wenzel and her siblings) and Rebecca Rowland Hines (as lyricist Bernice Roth). While I could not always follow Michaels’ hearty German accent and rapid dialogue, she is absolutely hilarious as an uncooperatively loose-limbed corpse and later as a ferociously agile foe.  Hines has fun with her character’s gradual descent into inebriation, and delivers some appallingly bad rhymes with a straight face as she turns her focus to yet another (undoubtedly doomed) musical. Ami Ericson’s scatterbrained but likeable von Grossenkneuten is a constant, somewhat steadying if ditzy force.

As Irish tenor Patrick O’Reilly, Jeff Ekdahl issn’t much of a tenor or an Irishman – it was only after he tried out an equally unconvincing New York accent that I realized it was the character, not the actor, responsible for these lapses.  On the other hand, it was clear from the beginning that Luke Mitchell’s “Eddie McKuen” was written as a truly terrible comic. Mitchell and Michelle Wangerzyn, who plays ingénue Nikki Crandall, create some charmingly awkward chemistry that provides the necessary love interest.
Woody Woodbury’s set design makes the most of the available space, with lots of upscale touches and the requisite plethora of entries and exits (the tromp l’oeil book cases with hidden panels are both impressive and essential to the plot), and the forties era costuming is both detailed and fun.

Audiences in search of great art may want to visit Mask & Mirror at another time (perhaps one of their edgier “Unmasked” productions), but The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 is a fine choice for an unabashedly lighthearted, undemanding theatrical evening.

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 runs through November 19th, with performances at 7:30 P.M. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 P.M. Sundays at “The Stage” at Calvin Church, 10445 SW Canterbury Lane, Tigard, 97224.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Forsooth, My Lovely

 Paul Roder (center) and (clockwise from top) Jason Fox, Chelsea Read, Phyllis Gurian Lang, and Lura Longmire.
Photo by Carl Dalhquist.

By Tina Arth

Hillsboro’s HART Theatre continues to fulfill its 2017-18 season’s theme/promise, “Laugh Along With HART” - this time with an unabashedly farcical, yet surprisingly erudite mash-up of hard-boiled detective fiction and Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits. Playwright David Belke’s Forsooth, My Lovely brings together these wildly disparate elements in an improbable film noir style that offers a lot of fun for either lovers or haters of both genres (or those who are merely indifferent, but not opposed to a good laugh or two). Director Sarah Fuller approaches the comedy with a very broad brush, allowing her actors the latitude to shamelessly play to their audience – and it works like a charm.

The story, of course, makes no sense at all. An obviously American gumshoe with the appropriately Shakespearean name Birnam Wood arrives (from London, not New York) in Padua to help wealthy merchant Baptista unravel a scandal – some dirty etchings showing the naked form of his younger daughter Bianca. The sharp-tongued elder daughter, Katherine (as in Taming of the Shrew and Kiss Me Kate) develops an oddly seductive rapport with the detective, culminating in a wonderful stage kiss.  Mere blackmail turns to murder most foul as the convoluted plot evolves. Lovers are star-crossed, authority figures mercilessly mocked, while jesters jest. With the exception of Wood, all of the characters are drawn from Shakespeare’s plays – mostly comic, mostly Italian, but with a soupçon of the French and a spectacular Scottish touch. Audience members who recognize the greatest number of Shakespearian twists perhaps laugh most, but there is no shortage of seriously comic touches for even the most Bard-averse.

As Birnam Wood, HART Artistic Director Paul Roder is the only actor who plays just one role, and he simply revels in the darkly cynical comedy of the Chandleresque detective. His slight form, stereotypical ‘40s trench coat and fedora, and down-in-the heels affect contrast sharply with Lalanya Gunn’s portrayal of the shrewish Kate, whose gestures, mannerisms, and projection are all truly larger than life. Both Gunn and her stage “sister” Chelsea Read (as Bianca) are fun in their primary roles, but their pairing as two of Macbeth’s three witches is simply unforgettable – perhaps the comic high point of an already hilarious show.

Lura Longmire is constantly in motion as she struts, busters, and sidles through five roles (Baptista, Conrade, Costard, Oberon, and Proteus), giving each character a unique absurdity that keeps the audience in stitches, and her death scene is a thing of beauty (I’m not really giving anything away, since I won’t tell you which one dies). Phyllis Gurian Lang gives us a satisfyingly lusty if slightly geriatric Emilia, but it is her manic and morbid take on Lear’s Fool that really distinguishes her performance.

The rest of the cast, all male, cannot be overlooked – Mark Putnam (as Oliver, Borachio, and Malvolio) delivers some wonderful moments, and Nick Serrone’s drunken Trinculo and naively star-struck (or detective-struck) Romeo are fine vehicles for the actor’s timing and pratfalls. Jason Fox is satisfyingly pretentious and uncharismatic as both Dogberry the cop and Petruchio the suitor – clearly, neither character will prevail in love or conflict.

Heather Sutherland’s lighting design sets the tone perfectly, and Fuller’s minimal set design establishes the fanciful unreality of the play while allowing for fast scene changes (always a plus). Given the variety of characters, costuming must have been a real challenge, but Fuller, Chris Byrne, and Karen Roder somehow pulled it off.

The best news of all is that HART has partnered with North Portland’s Twilight Theater Company to offer a companion play, The Maltese Bodkin, next year. Film noir, detective, comedy and Shakespeare fans should make a serious effort to catch both shows.

Forsooth My Lovely is playing at the HART Theatre, 185 SE Washington, Hillsboro through November 19th, with performances at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 on Sundays.

Friday, November 3, 2017


 Virginia Kincaid. Photo by Frank Hunt.

By Tina Arth

Several months ago, I read the script for Red Hot Patriot, The Kick-ass Wit of Molly Ivins, a wonderful little one-person show based on the life of a remarkable woman who died much too soon. At the time, I had never actually heard of the amazing columnist, a long, tall Texan who used her incisive wit and encyclopedic knowledge of the American political scene to either celebrate or skewer (depending on the demands of the day) the guv’mint titans of her home state and her beloved nation. By the time I got to the end of the script I was a diehard fan, so I was thrilled when I heard that Hillsboro’s STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy would be presenting a three-show special engagement of Patriot as a fundraiser, almost exactly one year since the November, 2016 day that so radically altered the socio-political climate of the United States. It is this coincidence that augments the show’s funny, pithy, and occasionally heart-wrenching monologue with an eerie prescience. It is safe to assume that the formidable Ms. Ivins would not have been a fan of our 45th president.

Playwrights/journalists/twin-sisters Margaret and Allison Engel build the show around Ivins’ attempt to write a column describing her love/hate relationship with her father, a fiercely conservative Texan who was the epitome of everything the columnist grew to despise. Almost every word is drawn from Ivins’ work – direct quotes from 40+ years of newspaper columns, magazine articles, and books, bound together with a few fictionalized musings and her one-sided conversation with a silent copy boy who sporadically appears bearing urgent news releases.  The show is necessarily superficial – any attempt to condense the body of Ivins’ work and the texture of her life into an evening’s entertainment would have been doomed. Director Doreen Lundberg, the authors, and actors face the challenge of delivering enough authentic humor, pain, and folksy wisdom to inspire the audience to further exploration – and between the Internets,, and your local public library there’s no shortage of material.

Native Texan Virginia Kincaid doesn’t just play Molly, she makes it the role of a lifetime. From her well-used cowboy boots to her flaming red wig, the lanky Kincaid embodies her character’s physicality while her soft drawl, sardonic delivery, occasional bursts of warmth and precise timing capture the substance of a complex and unforgettable woman. Kincaid’s final monologue, an impassioned (and timely) plea to her listeners, is so powerful and believable that it should leave both actor and audience in tears. Damian Woodruff, the copy boy, provides occasional moments of silent comedy, but his shining moment comes from the subtle grief as he somberly clears Ivins’ desk at the end of the show.

Lundberg realizes the show’s vision with a single set – really just a desk, chair, and typewriter. The world outside this tiny newsroom is created with some well-placed lighting and sound effects (deftly provided by Brian Ollom and Alex Rose).  Ironically, although Red Hot Patriot’s all-too-brief engagement is a fundraiser for youth theater, the show is not really appropriate for young children (older teens should be able to handle mature themes and language).  With a run time just over an hour, one of Patriot’s three performances should be easy to work into your weekend plans. Go for the STAGES benefit, stay for the moving and occasionally hilarious performance, and then commit to learning more about the wit and wisdom of one of our nation’s smartest, most dedicated and genuine patriots.

Red Hot Patriot, The Kick-ass Wit of Molly Ivins play for three performances only at the Tuality Masonic Lodge, 176 NE 2nd Avenue, Hillsboro with shows Saturday, November 4th 7:30 PM and Sunday, November 5th at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Deone Jennings and Johnnie Torres

By Tina Arth

As Halloween approaches, thoughts turn naturally to sinister themes – hence Twilight Theater Company’s timely staging of Douglas Post’s Murder in Green Meadows. The play hits all of the right notes for a classic murder mystery – lots of twists and turns, classic “perfect murder undone by one small detail.” However, the real beauty of the production is the way that director Doreen Lundberg and her little cast have mined each character for the unspoken but critical points that illuminate each player’s psychological makeup. Lundberg’s director’s note says, “ I hope that it [the show] sparks a conversation between you and someone you saw it with.”  Driving home last Friday night I was so preoccupied with a conversation about how to interpret some subtle points that I missed my off ramp!

The plot moves smoothly from mundane to macabre – successful architect Thomas Devereaux and his lovely wife Joan have just moved into the model home for Thomas’ latest development, in upscale, suburban Green Meadows. An impromptu visit by new neighbors Carolyn and Jeff Symons leads to a friendship between the two couples. However, beneath the surface all is not well, as suggested by a palpable awkwardness in all of the couples’ communications. Carolyn shares a harrowing tale of a stress-induced nervous breakdown that relegates a highly intelligent and perceptive woman to a frustrating life as a soccer mom. Jeff seems childishly distraught over his performance on the golf course with Thomas. Joan tells an odd story about burning her treasured doll collection, and is openly seductive when alone with Jeff. Thomas maintains a rigidly appropriate affect around Carolyn and Jeff, but is controlling and abusive toward Joan when they are alone – culminating when he claims that he murdered Joan’s teenaged lover in their last neighborhood. The story really takes off when Thomas demands that Joan not only stop seeing Jeff, but that she kill him. All of this leads up to a gripping and satisfying psychological showdown between Joan and Thomas.

Marcella Laasch is quite wonderful as the brilliant Carolyn Symons. Laasch gives her character an incessant superficial cheerfulness, but she allows Carolyn’s incisive mind to lurk just below the surface until it’s needed, and her confident demolition of Thomas in a poker game nicely foreshadows the final conflict. In contrast, Johnnie Torres (as husband Jeff Symons) is likeable, if somewhat pitiable, as a good-hearted, none-too-bright, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. Deone Jennings’ “Joan” is an enigma – sometimes we think she is exactly what she seems to be (immature, dim, sex-starved, dependent, and easily manipulated) but occasional glimpses suggest more. Ultimately, the audience members are left to muse about her character and draw their own conclusions. David Roberts’ “Thomas” leaves no room for ambiguity – even when he’s on his best behavior, his eerily cold affect and obsessive-compulsive disorder telegraph the thinly veiled menace of the character.

The detailed set is in many ways part of the show – the three doors each play a key role, an unseen key hook in the kitchen has a life of its own, and the pristinely hip Mid-Century furniture helps to establish the Devereauxs’ mindset and economic status. Frequent costume alterations (especially by Laash and Jennings) establish both personality and the passage of time – and are miraculously squeezed into the many brief intervals afforded by minor scene changes (by the hardest working stage crew in town).

While Murder In Green Meadows is primarily just a fun murder mystery, the question of why a modern, upper-middle class American woman would tolerate domestic violence opens the door to some fascinating conversations. Director Lundberg and her cast provide a satisfying combination of classic intrigue and intriguing possibilities that should bring large audiences during this spooky season.

Twilight Theater Company’s Murder in Green Meadows is playing at the Performing Arts Theater, 7515 N. Brandon Avenue, Portland through November 5th with performances at 8 P.M. Friday and Saturday and 3:00 P.M. on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Murder at Checkmate Manor – Farndale’s Finest Back in Town!

Tyler Buswell, Jeremy Sloan, Norman Wilson, Patrick Spike, and Arianne Jacques

By Tina Arth

The days are getting short, the nights cold and dark.  Our skies now sometimes shudder with thunder, and pounding rain is back in the picture.  Fear not – just in time to stave off an incapacitating bout of seasonal affective disorder, the bizarrely talented denizens of Bag and Baggage gallop to the rescue with The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Murder at Checkmate Manor! Playwrights David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr. have created just the right vehicle for director Scott Palmer’s somewhat quirky artistic sensibility, and B&B’s new theater, The Vault, is a perfect setting for this in-your-face cross-dressing farce. By the middle of act 2 my cheeks were numb from constant grinning (relieved only by frequent bursts of most unladylike cackling).

The show is a shameless exposé of the foibles of community theater – “what can go wrong, will” – writ large. Very, very large - almost as large as the unstoppable Mrs. Phoebe Reese (Patrick Spike, reprising the character he first foisted upon the good folks of Hillsboro in 2012). The untimely loss of a key actor means that Gordon the Stage Manager (Arianne Jacques) is drafted as part of the cast at the last minute, the unseen, exceptionally inept stage technician Adrian bumbles every cue, the “ladies” of the cast, with little mastery of their lines and no concept of blocking, are positively dripping with venomous rivalry, and the evening is punctuated with an endless stream of sight gags based on missing or misaligned props and set pieces (where IS that pesky staircase, anyway?). The plot, a very loosely woven British murder mystery, is almost irrelevant but provides a sturdy backdrop for the cast’s irrepressible comedic chops. In short, a British women’s theatrical group (longer in the tooth than talent) attempts to stage a murder mystery. Many people die. The identity and motive of the murderer are irrelevant. All of the actors are in drag (four men as women, one woman as a man). Nobody buys anything at the pre-intermission fashion show, but the bearded Jacques steals the show with her silver lamé gown. I get to drink red wine (through a straw!) inside the theater. The audience (myself included) loves every minute of it.

B&B newcomer Tyler Buswell (as Mrs. Felicity Fortescue, playing Pawn the Butler in a lovely blonde wig) is a joy to watch – how often do we get to see a man playing a woman playing a man?  However, the blonde bombshell trophy goes to Jeremy Sloan’s “Mrs. Mercedes Blower” – his long, lovely legs are accentuated by tasteful tennis attire, and his attempts at playing the ingénue are foiled by his incessant coy flirtation with any audience member in reach (when not preoccupied by his on-stage romance with the tiny Jacques). Spike’s explosively effusive  “Phoebe” contrasts nicely with Norman Wilson’s intense (and intensely disapproving) Mrs. Thelma Greenwood, whose glaring eyes and fixed moue are external signs of a rigid object apparently lodged in an unmentionable part of her (his?) anatomy.  The timing, expressions, and physical comedy from all five performers work to keep the show on the right side of the border between hilarious and ridiculous.

As one would expect with a deliberate train wreck of a show, the set and props are chaotic – a few rugs, chairs in the wrong places, a faux picture window that looks out on a series of cardboard backdrops reminiscent of pre-school theatrical productions, cocktail glasses glued to the tray, a nonexistent dog snoozing by the world’s cheapest fake fireplace. Melissa Heller’s costumes are perfect in their perfect absurdity, and the makeup design is too wonderful.

Scott Palmer, Assistant Director Cassie Greer, and the rest of the small army responsible for this Bag & Baggage offering hit every note right. It may be another five years or so before the fine ladies of Farndale Avenue come back across the pond – miss this gem at your peril!

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production Of Murder at Checkmate Manor is playing at The Vault, 350 E. Main Street, Hillsboro, through the end of October, with 7:30 p.m. performances October 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31 plus 2:00 p.m. shows on October 22 and 29. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

You Can’t Take It With You A Solid BCT Comic Hit

Gary Anderson, Dennis Proulx, Jeanine Stassens, and Benjamin Philip

By Tina Arth

In many ways, Beaverton Civic Theatre’s current production of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t It With You is simply another version of last year’s The Addams Family – but without the music. Both plays are terribly funny (although Kaufman and Hart’s show is by far the wittier of the two), both feature a naively quirky family, completely out of touch with reality despite living in the middle of New York City, and in each play a daughter falls in love with a “normal” guy and grapples with the problem of how to introduce her family to his.  However, your affection for last year’s production should not be used as a reason to skip the one running now – it’s just too funny to miss, and every bit as appropriate a mood-lifter now as it was during the Great Depression. Director Kraig Williams and his cast clearly had a lot of fun putting the show together, and the audiences are having just as much fun watching the result.

Set in 1936 New York City, the show revolves around the extraordinarily free spirited, naively self-indulgent family patriarch Martin Vanderhof, his daughter and son-in-law Penny and Paul Sycamore, the Sycamore’s daughters Alice and Essie, and a stage full of hangers-on who have somehow insinuated themselves into the household. Alice is the only “normal” in the whole bunch, and she finds herself engaged (and madly in love) with her boss’s son, Tony Kirby. Alice and Tony plan to bring the folks over for dinner to meet their future in-laws, who have promised to be on their very best behavior, but with the help of an alcoholic actress, a Russian bear of a ballet instructor, four G-Men, a Grand Duchess, and a host of others the evening turns a bit, well, chaotic. A mass arrest and a broken engagement ultimately work out okay after Grandpa convinces the Kirbys that they need to mellow out – after all, they have quite enough money, “you can’t take it with you,” and they need a lot more fun and less work in their lives.

While there are some variations in experience and expertise, overall the cast is very strong. However, a few actors in both lead and supporting roles really stand out. Gary Anderson (Martin Vanderhof) is marvelous – calm, superficially logical, seemingly an innocent who has found a way to live life on his own terms. His demeanor never rises above lukewarm, but his deceptive calm masks a wily old guy who demands our attention every time he chooses to speak. Patti Speight (Penny) is also a treat – a loving mother, wife and daughter, she convinces us that she is completely unaware of the absurdity of her approach to life (who becomes a playwright simply because a typewrite is accidentally delivered to the house?).

In supporting roles, Les Ico (as the maid’s boyfriend Donald), Jeanine Stassens (as the uptight Mrs. Kirby), and Diana LoVerso (as the inebriated actress Gay Wellington) are particularly effective in selling the laugh-out-loud humor in their roles.  Both Ico and LoVerso augment their exquisite timing with their mastery of physical comedy, and Stassens’ tightly wound persona unwinds so gradually that we hardly realize what’s happened until she has subtly given us way too much information about her desiccated love life.

It’s tough to know whom to credit for the set – the set consultant? The scenic artist? The painter? In any case, the lights come up on an exquisitely detailed, cluttered but somehow charming living room that accurately reflects the chaotic diversity of the home’s genuinely whacko inhabitants. 

Director Williams has done a fine job of keeping the farcical elements of You Can’t Take It With You from drowning out its subtler comic moments.  Although it’s a long show (almost three hours including two intermissions) it never drags, and is well worth a few hours of your time.

Beaverton Civic Theatre’s production of You Can’t Take It With You runs through Saturday, October 14th with performances at 7:30 PM Fridays and Saturdays, 2:00 PM on Sundays at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Taste of Neverland in Forest Grove

 Molly (Emily Smith) fighting with Black Stache (Noel Oishi) with the cast looking on.

By Tina Arth

The word “charming,” when applied to a play, is often a reviewer’s analog to that death knell of blind dates, “a good personality.” Two more potential danger signals? Try “sweet” and “silly” on for size. However, Theater in the Grove’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher (a play by Rick Elice, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) is charming, sweet, and silly – and so very much more. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Dave Barry is one of America’s funniest (and silliest) writers, and his comic style can be found all over the play. Director Jessica Reed and her cast have fully embraced the playful, childlike (but not childish) spirit of the story, and the result is a terribly funny, touching production that makes children giggle while reminding adults how much richer our lives are when we stay in touch with that little bit of Peter Pan and Wendy that lurks in the hearts of all but the most jaded grown-ups.

Did you ever wonder about Peter Pan’s backstory? How did he get to Neverland, why won’t he grow up, why can he fly, what’s up with Captain Hook and the crocodile, and so many other mysteries? Peter and the Starcatcher answers these and many more questions beautifully, with none of the dry, reality-based pragmatism sometimes imposed by adults attempting to explain away childhood’s magical moments.  The story is way too complex to summarize, yet simple enough that the kiddos in the audience have no trouble keeping up. In a nutshell, the play is an adventure on the docks of England, ships on the high seas, and on a faraway island. A nameless orphan boy finds an unexpected friend, the compassionate and strong Molly. Together, the two children (with a little help from their friends) outwit two different bands of evildoers, including the inept pirate Black Stache. In the end, a magical secret is kept safe and the world is (at least temporarily, I’m afraid) saved from unimaginable evil.  The tale give us the genesis of Peter and most of the other fascinating characters in Peter Pan, all delivered with a nice combination of broad humor and sly wit reminiscent of the most sophisticated Warner Brothers cartoons.

Young actors Canden Clement and Emily Smith have great chemistry as Peter and Wendy. Clement is defiantly pathetic at first, lashing out with palpable anger at everyone around him, but he gradually grows into the hero we know as Peter Pan. Smith shifts gracefully between three modes – friendship, leadership, and motherly, with just enough romance to keep it interesting but not enough to make it awkward. However, it is Noel Oishi (Black Stache) who really steals the show – his odd combination of flamboyance and self-absorption is delivered in a style that wanders from utterly deadpan to over-the-top, and his star turn as a mermaid (who knew they could tap dance?) is not to be missed.

Almost every cast member has at least one sparkling comic moment, but special notice is owed to Robin Michaels, William Ferguson (his Fighting Prawn is hysterical), Heidi Share, and the small but fierce Joanna Galvan. Also not to be missed is the lovely Prudence Dawes, a tiny scene-stealer if ever there was one.

The show’s aura of playful fantasy is set as soon as the lights come up with Leslie Crandall Dawes’ amazing set design – sometimes a pirate ship, sometimes a forested isle, sometimes an undersea grotto – but always a playground for the young at heart. Ward Ramsdell and Anne Kennedy’s lighting design is inspired and lovely, and Spencer Putnam manages the complex lighting cues like a pro. Hannah Early’s work at the keyboard and Brian Lacock’s work on drums add immeasurably to the entire production, providing a range of sound effects in addition to accompanying the musical numbers that pop up occasionally in the play.

If you have kids, take them – but if not, go see Peter and the Starcatcher anyway. It’s a rare treat, and a real ray of sunshine to help with some figuratively and literally dark days ahead.

Peter and the Starcatcher plays at Theatre in the Grove, 2028 Pacific Avenue, Forest Grove through October 15th with performances at 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday and matinees at 2:30 pm on Sundays.