|Matt Ostrowski (as Thad) and Les Ico (as Nick) Charity Crawford |
(as Susie Sue) and Jenn Brownstein (as Mary) in General Mayhem.
By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
Hillsboro Artists’ Regional Theatre (HART) fills an essential niche in the West Side theater scene by regularly providing a venue where area playwrights can display their work. Hard on the heels of HART’s third annual “Page to Stage” competition comes Pieces of the HART, a presentation of five original one-act plays by local authors ranging from Portland to Forest Grove. To be completely honest, we had some trepidation about the whole thing, both as audience members and as reviewers – but it was a fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining evening.
Those of you who don’t plan to stay home handing out candy can still enjoy a lively Halloween populated by lethal hamsters, contract killers, thwarted death-by-rhinoplasty, and other surreal and (usually) humorous tales – but you must go quickly, as the program’s brief run means there are only six more chances to catch it. General Mayhem (by Peter Stein, directed by Sam Stein), The Third Rail (by Case Middleton, directed by William Crawford), Recovery (by Patrick Brassell, directed by Ilana Watson), Serial Date (by Milo T. Collins, directed by Brandon B. Weaver), and American Cupcake (by Michael Johnson, directed by Dan Kroon) provide a fun-filled night with lots of dark situations, plenty of laughs, unexpected twists and turns (who knew that the good-looking guy in the brightly colored underwear would turn out to be straight?) and more than a few ponderable moments when the players and audience can truly focus on the human condition.
Rarely has the phrase “community theater” been as appropriate as it is in Pieces of the HART, for the evening is truly a communal effort by an amazing group of multitalented multitaskers. Overall coordination of the program comes from Forest Grove’s Peter Stein (also one of the authors), augmented by 18 actors filling 30 different roles – but the overlap does not end there. Director William Crawford also provided set design, and is one of the board operators. The other board operator, Milo T. Collins, is also an author. Stage manager and lighting designer Justin Campbell plays a role in Recovery, and director Sam Stein serves as prop master for the evening. The seven actors who perform in multiple plays are not only quick-change artists, they are able to successfully transform their personalities to fit the demands of five very different scripts.
Special recognition is due to Crawford’s extremely flexible set design. The minimalist framework is cleverly and quickly adapted to the demands of the five shows, and very little time is lost on scene changes as the settings shift rapidly from home to train station, restaurant to therapist’s office, and more.
Mature themes and language pop up in several of the works, so Pieces of the HART is not appropriate for children (or narrow-minded adults). This stricture still leaves a substantial potential audience in the region – and we owe it to ourselves to celebrate and support the area’s vast pool of talent.
Pieces of the HART runs through Sunday, November 9th at the HART Theatre, 185 SE Washington, Hillsboro with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.