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April 20, 2017

Through family — through the shared, interconnected knots between the generations — a loose tapestry is woven that cinches down to become the present moment.  

And so we find ourselves laughing, reflecting and understanding as we view a humane, accessible and embryonically powerful new work — Blue Door by Tanya Barfield, playing now at Oregon Contemporary Theatre.

April 13, 2017

“Eleanor Roosevelt is someone who has really infiltrated my life,” Jane VanBoskirk says. “It’s helping me deal with Trump, hearing what she went through and all the troubles she had.”

On Thursday, April 20, the Portland actor, who has made a career of one-woman shows about strong women, comes back to town for a single performance of Eleanor Roosevelt: Across a Barrier of Fear at Springfield’s Wildish Theater.

All proceeds from the one-woman production, which is sponsored by Eugene Weekly, go to Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon.

April 13, 2017

There’s always something a bit queasy about the prospect of a community theater taking on a big and bouncy Broadway musical: Despite the best intentions, the inherent limitations of local theater, compounded by the complex requirements of such shows, often lead to a production that is uneven at best, disastrous at worst. Fiasco is forever waiting around the corner.

March 30, 2017

Technically speaking, Dear World isn’t a very good musical. In fact, it’s well-nigh ridiculous, a shameless crowd-pleaser that is somehow baggy and thin at once, swapping character development and narrative coherence for broad strokes of platitude and attitude stitched together by the pomp-and-circus-pants of forced Parisian gaiety and bunk philosophical truisms. The songs are pretty good, though.

March 23, 2017

There’s nothing quite like very short plays to whet or renew your appetite for live theater. Don’t like what you’re watching? Wait a few minutes, and you get a brand-new story.

That constant variety helps explain the popularity of the Northwest Festival of Ten-Minute Plays, which premiered its ninth annual incarnation last weekend with an evening of eight 10-minute new plays at Oregon Contemporary Theatre.

March 16, 2017

In Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, some sisters could use a little prayer. The convent’s out of cash — no one’s tithing anymore! — and Mother Superior (a resplendent Cindy Kenny) declares the situation dire.

Enter Chelyce Chambers as Deloris, a nightclub chanteuse with a heart of gold. Deloris witnesses some bad doings by her bad boyfriend, and — you guessed it — has to don a nun’s habit to keep from getting whacked.

(Wait? Wasn’t this a 1992 hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg? Yup, the same, but now with singing and dancing, because … why not?!)

March 9, 2017

The University of Oregon Theatre Program presents two student plays this weekend and next: The Fruit Stand by Sravya Tadepalli and On the Street Where We Used to Live by Cora Mills.

Both plays are winners of the New Voices playwriting competition. The UO’s Joseph Gilg has shaken off retirement to direct.

March 1, 2017

Sarah Ruhl is an interesting playwright. Her work achieves emotional valences that, for me, are completely contradicted by her style — a style I find myself hard pressed to describe with any satisfying accuracy. Mamet on anti-depressants? Chekhov lite? Swift with a Swiffer?

Ruhl’s writing is mannered yet silly, frivolous but somehow depthy, a bitter pill coated in sugar. Her loudest harangue remains a coo. Distinctly middle-brow and yet hardly milquetoast, she seems to set herself up as a wag and nag for the NPR glitterati, a bit preening and twee but itchy-scratchy nonetheless.

February 23, 2017

Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play, opening Friday night, Feb. 24, at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, posits an idea that seems utterly un-American: What if it’s OK not to be happy? What if we don’t need to smile all the time, despite our ingrained right to the pursuit of happiness?

February 23, 2017

Identity is a bitch. By the time we’re grown up enough to ask ourselves who we are and what the hell we’re doing with this thing called life, we realize our so-called self is an infinitely convoluted and mysterious patchwork — a mashup of past indignities, adopted attitudes and a certain incommunicable something howling deep inside for meaning and contact.

February 9, 2017

Before there ever lived a boy named Peter Pan, before there existed a place called Neverland, a girl named Molly adventured with three orphan boys on a remote island inhabited by a tribe called, improbably, the Mollusks. One of the boys would go on to be named Peter, and would never grow up, and Molly’s daughter, Wendy … Well, that’s for another story entirely.

That is the conceit behind Peter and the Starcatcher, a short-running 2012 Broadway show based on a prequel novel to the much better known tale of Peter Pan, as told in play and novel form by J.M. Barrie.

February 2, 2017

Slamming doors, pretending to be statues, hiding under tables: These theatrical devices are as old as theater itself, and they’re in great supply in J.K. Rogers’ directorial debut The Emperor of the Moon, playing now at the University Theatre. 

January 26, 2017

Long-running PBS series (now on HBO) Sesame Street teaches children the fundamentals: ABCs and 123s, but also the principles of sharing, self-confidence and acceptance of others.

Tony Award-winning musical comedy Avenue Q — written by Jeff Marx, Robert Lopez and Jeff Whitty (an Oregon native and University of Oregon grad) — is like Sesame Street for the quarter-life-crisis set. Complete with Jim Henson-style puppetry, the show, which debuted in 2003, offers advice for getting through that tough, post-college patch.

January 12, 2017

ONCE, winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, comes to the Hult Center Jan. 17-18.

EW recently caught up with its star, Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, 21, who plays the show’s lead, known as “Girl.” 

“I love Girl,” Lesser-Roy says. “She is, first and foremost, strong. And she’s beautifully honest.” 

The musical tells the story of an Irish musician (Guy) and a Czech immigrant (Girl), drawn together by their shared love of music.

December 22, 2016

Eugene actor David Stuart Bull was born and raised in England, just over the border from Wales. And for 30 years, Bull has brought a piece of his childhood to Lane County, performing Dylan Thomas’ timeless classic, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, at Café Soriah. 

Bull, a retired chimney sweep, says his connection to Thomas’ work goes back to his youth. “It’s like revisiting my childhood Christmases,” Bull explains.

December 8, 2016

A classic Broadway musical in every sense of the phrase, including its most ambivalent and queasy connotations, Annie Get Your Gun is a textbook example of American stage artistry at its mid-20th-century apotheosis: With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, the show oozes a charm and confidence completely devoid of cynicism, which is not to say the static stereotypes it trots out (racial, sexual, socioeconomic) are lacking in self-criticism, or even their own undoing.

December 1, 2016

David Sedaris is a masterfully droll storyteller, and his one-man play The Santaland Diaries, playing now at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, is the perfect pairing for this heightened holiday season.

Let’s face it: 2016 has been a smoldering dumpster fire. Prince, Bowie, Rickman — that little election a few weeks ago — even Thanksgiving couldn’t go unscathed, as everyone’s TV mom, Florence Henderson, was called to the Brady Family Meeting in the Sky. Curse you, year from hell!

We need some laughs. 

November 23, 2016

I try to get away, but it keeps pulling me back in: Trump. It’s infected everything, this national nightmare. As I flail and floggle about for answers and curatives, it seems that simply everything becomes an abysmally significant metaphor — a parable for incipient fascism, rampant bigotry and the ugly chancre now broiling at the core of the human spirit.

November 10, 2016

As the stage faded to black on the final scene of University Theatre’s current production of The Dead, and the cast finished belting out a musicalized version of what might be the finest closing paragraph in all of English fiction, I suddenly found myself clutching my head with both hands. Yes, I tend to overreact. I take no pleasure in relating this, but it must be done.

November 3, 2016

Director Michael P. Watkins of Actors Cabaret of Eugene brings a steampunk twist to Richard O’Brien’s cult musical The Rocky Horror Show and, of course, the performance will make you wish you’d donned your fishnets and black lace corset.

Unsuspecting newlyweds Janet (Hailey Henderson) and Brad (Benjamin Sanders) open the show’s wild ride with a tale of young love. Dammit, Janet, you should have known life is never as simple it seems. The pair faces car trouble while en route to visit former high school science teacher, Dr. Scott (Scott Machado).

October 27, 2016

Dan LeFranc’s quickly dives into a chaotic script with his play, The Big Meal, which features an otherwise mellow plot. Two young lovebirds meet and begin the dance of a relationship, sparking a tale that unfolds over the next five generations — all at the same restaurant table. 

The play had its off-Broadway world premiere at the American Theater Company in Chicago back in 2011. The character’s multi-generational stories unravel around the crucible that is the American dinner table, and director Brian Haimbach brings it to life at Oregon Contemporary Theatre.

October 13, 2016

Although I’m aware that conflicts of one kind or another have rocked Ireland for centuries, my knowledge of early 20th-century Irish history is admittedly, and perhaps regrettably, patchy, and I’m going to go ahead and wager that, in 2016, it is for most people.

And this is a hindrance for Very Little Theatre’s current production of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock, on now under the direction of Michael Walker. 

October 13, 2016

If you could peer into this critic’s embryonic soul, I suspect you’d find A Chorus Line lyrics. 

I wore grooves into my album of the original cast recording as a kid, and heck, my supercool local public elementary school put it on as a fabulous bootleg production, minus the racier numbers, when I was in second grade. Over the years, I’ve probably seen it 25 times, from multiple national tours to Broadway. 

In other words, I know this show. 

September 22, 2016

It makes me all fizzy and giddy to see men dress up like women. There’s something so joyously liberating about it all. And I don’t think I’m the only one who finds female impersonators a total hoot and super sexy. Gay, straight, bi, femme, butch, blah blah blah: Just about everyone I know gets chirpy at the sight of an aging queen squeezed into a sleek satin dress and bellowing “I Will Survive” like a diva in heat.