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October 1, 2015

The enthusiastic reaction of the Friday, Sept. 25, audience to Mary Poppins, currently playing at the Shedd, indicated the musical was “practically perfect” in every way. Children and adults — mesmerized by the spectacle of flight, animated props, song-and-dance numbers as well as period-invoking sets and costumes — seemed to thoroughly  enjoy themselves.

September 24, 2015

Joe, the blue-collar mechanic at the center of VLT’s Mercy Killers, considers himself the ultimate all-American — a red-state, Rush Limbaugh-listening son of the American dream.

All that changes when Joe’s wife is diagnosed with cancer and he falls through the rabbit hole into a world of exorbitant medical costs and unyielding insurance networks. Out-of-pocket costs are demanded from “pockets that just aren’t that deep.” A man who has staked his life in the value of hard work now stands to lose everything to a heath care system that seems not to care at all.

September 17, 2015

We’ve all played this game: If you could share a drink with one person from history, living or dead, who would you choose? For music fans in general and jazz fans in particular, the answer is often Billie Holiday. 

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, running now at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, gives audiences that chance. The play debuted in Atlanta in the mid-1980s, with a recent off-Broadway run starring Audra McDonald in the titular role. 

September 16, 2015

In theater, the imaginary barrier separating an audience from the action on stage is called the fourth wall — a sort of make-believe TV screen that, by mutual agreement, keeps art on one side and spectators on the other.

Artists have been fucking with the fourth wall for decades now, inviting the audience to a naughty peek behind the Oz-like curtain where the dirty secrets of creativity hide. In the wrong hands, the device is cloying and cheap and self-satisfied, like listening to a bong circle of conspiracy theorists.

September 10, 2015

Award-winning playwright Aaron Posner grew up in Eugene. And since Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s season opens with Posner’s Stupid F@#*ing Bird, it seemed a great excuse to ask this renowned artist about his old paper route.


Chekhov’s The Seagull inspires Stupid F@#*ing Bird. How did you plumb Chekhov’s “Theatre of Mood” for the funny? 

August 27, 2015

A curious girl can raise only so much hell for a totalitarian regime: When Ximena makes too much noise, the state takes away her voice. Literally.

Set in a faceless authoritarian state, Degenerate Arts Ensemble’s Predator Songstress — produced in conjunction with the new Oregon Performance Lab — sets out to examine repression, surveillance, interrogation and the power of noise. The play runs Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29, at Lane Community College’s Ragozzino Hall.

August 20, 2015

From the moment you take your seat at Cottage Theatre, waiting for the lights to dim, Quilters transports you into a quaint, home-lovin’ kind of feeling. Opening with old-time music with a heck of a lotta twang, the women of the musical burst in running and laughing — yee-haws and all — giving you a slight pause to ask: “What have I gotten myself into?” 

August 6, 2015

VLT casts Anne of the Thousand Days as a post-apocalyptic feminist tale of Tudor intrigue

William Faulkner once suggested in an interview that the essential ingredients of any good drama are family, money and murder. This might help explain our ongoing obsession with the House of Tudor, those ingrown English monarchs whose rule included ample instances of greed, intrigue, betrayal and bloody battles for the rights of primogeniture.

August 6, 2015

Set in 1928 Arizona, The Shedd’s revival of Whoopee! is populated by rootin’ tootin’ cowboys, rich tourists and the occasional hypochondriac.

Based on the 1923 play The Nervous Wreck, this goofball musical comedy by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson was made famous by both the Ziegfield Broadway production of 1928 and the 1930 Eddie Cantor film. 

In the vaudeville era, shows like Whoopee! cobbled together already popular tunes with a loose plot, peppering zany narratives with plenty of jazz standards and daffy jokes. And it’s still a winning combination. 

July 16, 2015

With 20 songs and the precedent of a 1983 film starring Steve Martin and Bill Murray, Little Shop of Horrors isn’t the easiest musical to pull off. But Red Cane Theater, home of the Phoinix Players, succeeds in telling the story of the Venus flytrap from Hell on Skid Row. 

July 16, 2015

You think your dad has outrageous stories? 

According to Edward Bloom, the years before he became a salesman were filled with heroism, giants, witches, mermaids and indentured servitude in the name of love. 

June 25, 2015

In the canon of musical comedies, it doesn’t get much better than How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Playing this weekend at The Shedd, this hilarious 1961 musical slyly satirizes the midcentury corporate American workplace, as its hero, J. Pierrepont Finch, a humble window washer, ascends the rungs of the corporate ladder by not really doing anything. 

June 25, 2015

First, the bad news: Cottage Theatre’s excellent production of David Auburn’s Pulitzer-winning drama Proof ends its run this weekend, so you’ll have to scramble to get tickets.

The good news, then, is that, should you land seats, you will be treated to one of the finest local productions of the year. Directed with a sure hand by Alan Beck and featuring a small cast of talented local actors, this production achieves an almost perfect balance of emotional resonance and technical finesse. The play is so engaging and moving, so rich and dynamic, it feels like a dream.

June 18, 2015

When performer Nancy Hopps first tackled the one-woman show Raw Canvas in 2001, her life was in a radically different place than it is today. 

“I had just come through cancer, relationship changes,” Hopps recalls. “I was a busy, active parent to a teenage daughter. Coming back to the play now, I realize even more that the character’s weighing her own passions and artistic fulfillment against societal and familial expectations.”  

June 11, 2015

The Very Little Theatre’s current main stage production Superior Donuts, directed by Stanley Coleman, is a work of both comedic and dramatic realism, like a buddy film with a twist of gut-wrenching social commentary. 

The interwoven genres at work here are not too surprising, as it comes from playwright Tracy Letts, who’s most famous work August: Osage County deals with the dark underbelly of Americana as a dramedy.

June 4, 2015

The drums beat, heavy and slow at first, then picking up speed like a heartbeat. The rhythm pushes for answers, for ancestry. Dontrell cannot escape the dreams calling him to this quest — dreams of a forebearer who leapt to his death from a slave ship during the Middle Passage.

But Dontrell has a scholarship to maintain, a family to deal with and he can’t swim. Making his way into the middle of the Atlantic feels as hopeless as any hero’s journey. Faith, fate and family will all step in to shuffle his chances of success.

May 28, 2015

How is it the board game Clue has so captured our imaginations? One would never consider creating a film out of Chutes and Ladders, and I can feel my eye start to twitch just thinking about what Monopoly: The Musical might look like.

But a dramatization of Clue? We’re so there. The who-done-it game has inspired stage and screen adaptations, and Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene’s current production focuses the energy on the 1993 musical for dinner theater fare.

May 28, 2015

Nearly every situational comedy in the history of television — Three’s Company being the purest and most salient example — can trace its ancestry to Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, which in turn divined its easy, effervescent form from the classical Aristotelian unities of action, time and place.

May 28, 2015

Oregon Contemporary Theatre artistic director Craig Willis recalls hearing a reading of a new play, Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea, at a 2013 showcase for the National New Play Network (NNPN) he attended in San Diego. 

“Clearly, this play inspired the most reaction that weekend,” Willis says. “You could tell that there was a special voice behind it.” 

May 14, 2015

“I am a physical storyteller,” performer Bill Bowers says. “I am interested in the study of ‘How would you say something if you couldn’t use words?’”

Bowers visits Lane Community College this week for a residency that includes a free workshop for the public May 27 and a performance of Bowers’ critically acclaimed Beyond Words May 30.

 “Words immediately ask us to intellectualize, to interpret, to process information,” Bowers says. “Physical theater asks us to respond more from the heart than from the head.” 

April 23, 2015

Let’s be real: At least 80 percent of the time, taking on a production of Les Misérables is a bad idea. “Ambitious” doesn’t begin to describe this excruciatingly melodramatic 1,500-page historical novel-turned-stage musical. 

April 23, 2015

Sight Unseen is an Obie award-winning play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies. The play, which opens this week at The Very Little Theatre, takes as its subject a renowned artist and strips him naked of all the trappings of success, leaving almost nothing where a man once was.

April 16, 2015

Theater has long served as fertile ground for new ideas to germinate, with playwrights boldly questioning the status quo and planting the seeds of change.

Eugene audiences will have the opportunity to examine two politically charged plays, as the University of Oregon Department of Theatre Arts presents Chantal Bilodeau’s Sila: An Arctic Story and Lane Community College’s Theatre Department performs Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

April 16, 2015

Sara is unlucky. She has a problem with light bulbs blowing out, leftovers spontaneously combusting and goldfish going belly up before their time.

But in the new comedy Lucky Me by Robert Caisley — now playing at Oregon Contemporary Theatre — Sara finds something special because of her supposed faults, not in spite of them. 

Written in a snappy style reminiscent of Kaufman and Hart, Caisley populates Sara’s leaky apartment with a cast of genuine and lovable misfits.