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April 21, 2016

Sharply written and deeply empathic, Steve Yockey’s Blackberry Winter trains a bright light on Vivienne, whose mother has lived with Alzheimer’s disease for a few years and is now in the throes of transitioning from assisted living (Vivienne refers to it as “the Residence Inn”) to a more confining, yet safer, nursing home.  

Played with tenderness and perfect clarity by Mary Buss, Vivienne is magnetizing as she draws us towards onstage objects that both elicit and anchor all-too fleeting memories: a little wooden horse, a pile of ladies’ scarves, a trowel. 

April 21, 2016

If we could time travel, rock-‘n’-roll fans might want to dial their wayback machines to Memphis’ Sun Records, Dec. 4, 1956, when legends Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash created an unforgettable musical session.   

Perkins, already a powerhouse with hits like “Blue Suede Shoes,” had booked the studio that day and hired a little-known session player to back him up — a guy named Jerry Lee Lewis. 

April 14, 2016

It’s not necessarily downbeat to claim that a given theatrical production is completely carried by one performance in particular — to lavish praise on an actor who puts the play on her back and carts it expertly and, of equal importance, joyously from her first appearance on stage to the proverbial drop of the velvet curtain.

This is especially true in community theater, a distinctly democratic institution where the egalitarian instinct gives a nudge to tender swaths of talent that blend in a stew of ability, some of it realized but not always.

March 31, 2016

Ah, Paradise: What an orchard of happiness. Endless green, endless time and endless innocence, unsullied by death and the knowledge of it. What’s not to like? But God, in his infinite wisdom, looked upon Eden’s immaculate expanse and thought unto himself: Needs something. Needs a beholder to appreciate my handiwork and artistry, my Godness. Needs people.

And so there were people, and everything went to hell.

March 31, 2016

“It’s been some time that I’ve been wanting to have music that gives voice to those who’ve gone through Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” says Eugene Concert Choir artistic director and conductor Diane Retallack, who has poured her energies into making the world premier of composer Joan Szymko’Shadow & Light a reality. 

 

March 17, 2016

Two couples, one reeling from the horrific murder of their only daughter, the other coping with a terminal illness that is reaching its late stage, come together and confront their demons: This is the thumbiest of thumbnail sketches of The Quality of Life, a play by Jane Anderson that explores the specter of death, the lash of loss, the cycles of grief and how people make meaning amid chaos and crisis — in short, it’s about life itself.

March 10, 2016

With perfect political timing, a new dinner theater company brings Murder on the Campaign Trail to town

The newly minted Mystery Mayhem Theater Company’s dinner show, Murder on the Campaign Trail, opens in Springfield this weekend, with a sendup of the political process and whodunit rolled into one. 

The show’s co-producer, Tony Stirpe, cut his teeth on shows like this.   

March 10, 2016

Clocking in at nearly four hours, University Theatre’s production of Scorched is something of an endurance test, and the stamina it requires is more than just physical. Bloody and unrelenting, the play transports the audience front and center to hell on earth, and its emotional impact is undeniable, like a seizure of post-traumatic stress that won’t let you go.

March 3, 2016

Written in 2003, Scorched is by Lebanese-Canadian writer Wajdi Mouawad. Opening Thursday, March 3, University of Oregon theater arts instructor Michael Najjar directs the play at University Theatre. 

Scorched is about a pair of twins who attend the reading of their mother’s will,” Najjar explains. “They are charged by their mother to find their father and brother they never knew they had.”

If the siblings don’t follow this request, they are not allowed to bury their mother properly. 

March 3, 2016

Lauren Gunderson’s 2011 play Silent Sky is about succeeding and failing, seeking and discovering, journeying and arriving. That is to say, it’s the story of a life — the life of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. Silent Sky, directed by Elizabeth Helman, is playing now at Oregon Contemporary Theatre.

Working at Harvard at the turn of the 20th century, Leavitt made significant discoveries leading to the development of the Hubble Telescope. 

February 25, 2016

As the tilted Earth spins and progresses through her orbit, late February brings light and warmth flooding back to us. But spring is not the only fresh thing bubbling up from all points the south. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland soon greets the lengthening days, buzzing with new stories that are beautifully staged.

Under the artistic direction of Bill Rauch, the internationally renowned festival’s 81st season boasts first-run plays, elegant classics and a commitment to bringing a broader world perspective to the stage. 

February 25, 2016

How to Be a Sissy, a new solo work by actor-writer Brian Haimbach, opens with the memory of a little boy wearing a towel on his head and imagining that he has long, glorious hair. 

“I always played with dolls, as early as I can remember,” says Haimbach, who directs the theatre program at Lane Community College. “I don’t remember when I started putting the towel on my head — maybe about third grade.” As a boy, Haimbach’s mother made him keep his hair closely cropped.

February 4, 2016

In the 1970s, The New Mime Circus Theater Ensemble was one of Eugene’s several cooperative community projects. Today, the company has been resurrected in a new form by co-founders Judith “Sparky” Roberts and fellow performer Joe Cronin.

Fools Haven, a nonprofit, launched its inaugural performance with a Shakespeare showcase at Springfield’s Wildish Community Theater in December 2014, and has since staged several showcases and other works at the Eugene Public Library, the Very Little Theatre and other public venues.

February 4, 2016

What if you could peer into the hearts and minds of the participants of a middle-school spelling bee, just to see what makes them tick? What’s motivating them? What performance rituals do they employ to correctly spell words like autochthonous or eudaemonic?

Cottage Theatre’s new production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee answers these questions and more in a winning production directed by Mark VanBeever. 

January 28, 2016
Left: Billy Harrigan Tighe in The Book of Mormon. Photo credit: Johan Persson.
Right: Alexandra Ncube in The Book of Mormon. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

January 28, 2016

No holds barred: There is nothing the ladies in Disenchanted aren’t willing to throw down in an effort to overturn society’s ideal of a Disney princess. From tirades about historical inaccuracies to really dirty Pinocchio jokes, all’s fair in Actors Cabaret of Eugene’s (ACE) production of Dennis T. Giacino’s irreverent musical.

January 28, 2016

There’s something slightly off about University Theatre’s current production of Water by the Spoonful, the Pulitzer-winning second installment in Quiara Alegría Hudes’ trilogy of plays about a returning Iraqi War vet who struggles to reintegrate himself into civilian life in the U.S.

December 10, 2015

You just want a bra. You want to get in, buy a bra and get on with your life. But the next thing you know you’re shoved into some tiny space halfway between a broom closet and a dressing room with a powerfully strong older lady. Aggressively this woman bends you over and pulls you up and actually, physically pushes your breasts around with her hands, then calls the other women in the shop over to have a look.

You have lost all dignity. But you have found a really great-fitting bra.

December 3, 2015

What is it about the encroaching cold and dark that sends us shivering out into the night in search of a collective theater experience? Local theaters can smell our desire, and like an expert patisserie, they set out the most familiar, uplifting theatrical fare to tempt us.

There will be no angst-ridden, painful social statements made on stage this December. The holiday theater season is about warm, familiar classics to satisfy an audience hungry for community and tradition.

December 3, 2015

Most of us have grown up with the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge rediscovering his Christmas spirit and, while the story doesn’t change, our relationship to the story does. 

Sometimes life makes Scrooges of us all with its litany of heartbreak, missed opportunities and too much time wasted stressing about careers and money. That’s what makes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol so immortal. 

November 19, 2015

On the surface, Irish author Martin McDonagh’s plays are foul, transgressive affairs, full of piss and vinegar and erect middle fingers. In the tradition of his literary forbears Swift, Joyce and Beckett, McDonagh is a relentlessly physical writer given to depicting all manner of human grotesquery — violence, perversion, degradation, deformity and compulsive cussing of the worst kind.

November 12, 2015

Playwright David Ives (A Flea in Her Ear, Venus in Fur) calls his play The School for Lies a “translaptation” of French playwright Molière’s classic 1666 farce The Misanthrope. Lies is now playing at University Theatre under the direction of Tricia Rodley.

Ives has maintained much of the source material’s language. The play is written in rhyming verse, and Ives adds well-timed modern zingers for comic effect. 

November 5, 2015

Former Register-Guard columnist Bob Welch spins his popular Oregon stories for a live audience, Nov. 5-6.

“I had a great ride for 24 years and I wanted to find a way to say thank you,” Welch says. 

Enter live theater. 

“It’s a celebration of our state in stories, songs, images and, of course, s’mores,” Welch says.

An Oregon native, Welch is clearly smitten.

November 5, 2015

A delightfully satirical sendup, 2001’s Urinetown: The Musical by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, pokes fun at everyone, from poet Bertolt Brecht and Les Miz, to our legal system, politics and capitalism. Refreshingly irreverent, Urinetown is a musical’s musical, and it’s given the five-star treatment by the capable team at South Eugene High School (SEHS).