Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Sun Serpent—NW Children’s Theatre—NW Portland

Photo credit: ©2015 Jenny Bunce
A Bloody History Lesson

This visually entertaining, history lesson is written by José Cruz González and directed by Rachel Bowditch and Andrés Alcalá.  It is playing at their space, 1819 NW Everett St., in the Cultural Center through October 24th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-222-4480.

See if you can guess which country was formed after a “superior” race conquered their land, slaughtered the leaders and many of the natives (after having been given a friendly welcome), brought diseases which wiped out many of their people, forced them to abandon their language and religion and accept that of the conquering race, and did it all in the name of that great god, Greed (of land & gold).  If you guessed Mexico, you would be right.  But it’s a bit of a trick question because, except for the outright, overt slaughter of the innocents (we “humanely” put them on reservations instead) this description would fit the Europeans who settled America, too (and duplicated by many other nations, as well)!

But, I digress, this story, visually stunning, is about how the Aztecs were conquered by invading Spain, on the search for more land and gold, who were the Conquistadors under Cortes’ leadership.  What was once a rich country under Aztec leadership, now they had became slaves under foreign rule and much of their heritage was hidden or lost.  They were assimilated into what is now Mexico.  (But, from examples of many of the Mexicans migrating to the U. S., it seems that some of the population is still seeking a better way of life for its people.)

The story is mainly told through two brothers, Tlememe (Andrés Alcalá), the older and more practical of the two and Anáhuac (Sam Burns), naive and a bit of a dreamer.  Their Grandmother (Nelda Reyes), the keeper of the oral history of their people and matriarch of the family, tries to hold on to the ways of their ancestors.  But when the boats, with the “floating clouds,” invade their land, their lives will never be the same.  The older brother chooses to join the soldiers as a “sword carrier,” but the younger one still wishes to be a “sky dancer” and hold on to the old ways.

Soon war separates these two, destroys their village and the younger one is forced to fend for himself in the jungle.  Meanwhile, Cortez (Alcalá, again), has managed to find his way to their capital, the “City of Dreams” and, through an interpreter (Reyes, again), meets their leader (Burns, again) and demands gold and that he turn over leadership to him.  I think most people know how that relationship turns out…badly.  And the younger one manages to become an old man (Daniel Valdez, music composer, as well) and is narrating the story, so that something of his people is preserved.

All three stage actors are to be applauded, as they play over 40 characters in this story, and are quite amazing!  How they managed to keep them all straight is a tribute to their talents.  There is also the use of expressive masks (designer, Zarco Guerrero), puppets, shadow images, elaborate costumes (Sarah Marguier), beautiful projections (designer, Adam Larsen), as well as a very, versatile set (designer, John Ellingson) to enhance the tale.  And both the directors, Alcalá and Bowditch, have managed to keep the story coherent in all the chaos that could have ensued.  I take my hat off to the team that created this fantastic array of art, history and unique story-telling.

I recommend this show but, keep in mind, parking is difficult to find, so arriving an hour early is not necessarily a bad thing.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Turn of the Screw—Portland Shakespeare Project—SW Portland

A Classic Ghost Story

This story by Henry James is adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Hatcher and directed by JoAnn Johnson.  It is playing at the Artists Repertory Theatre space at SW Alder St. and 16th Ave. through October 18th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-241-1278.

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  On one level a great ghost story but, on another tier, a psychological thriller, or maybe a religious dilemma…you decide.  The actual James’ story is actually weaker than many of the adaptations that have been made.

There was a play on Broadway, on which the excellent movie version, The Innocents, with Deborah Kerr (co-authored by Truman Capote) was based, and the television adaptation by Dan Curtis, with Lynn Redgrave.  Then there was the confused prequel (with Brando as Quint) called The Nightcomers, another play adaptation called The Turning, an Ashland production of this show a number of years ago with Anthony Held and an old German poem (the name escapes me but, I believe, the title was the German words for Halloween Night).

The story, on the surface, is about a young Governess (Dana Millican), about to acquire her first position at a place called Bly Manor, in which she will be in charge of two children, the precocious Miles (Chris Harder), ten years old and his shy, uncommunicative younger sister, Flora.  Their uncle (again, Harder) wants nothing to do with their upbringing and education and is leaving that totally up to her and the Housekeeper, Mrs. Groves (once again, Harder).

She learns early on that Flora has not spoken since the death of the first governess, Miss Jessel.  And Miles has been expelled from school for some undefined bad behavior.  She believes he may have been somewhat influenced by the uncle’s valet, Peter Quint, now also deceased.  The rest of the tale concerns the Governess’s efforts to investigate the secrets that she believes lies hidden within this old house and it’s questionable past.  To tell more would spoil the discoveries.

Why this is considered such a multi-layered, psychological story is because Miss Jessel is often pictured by the lake (some psychologies see this image as a sexual representation of a woman) and Quint on the tower (a phallic representation of a man).  Also, it can be said, that the governess is sexually repressed (a virgin, probably) and, besides the house, the garden (of Eden?) is the other prominent location.  Biblical, perhaps, as well as psychological.  Is this a battle between Good and Evil for souls on the innocents?  So you have at least three levels to consider and the tale works equally well on any of them.

This is told in a story-telling style in which the major characters are played by only two individuals, as well as the narration and sound effects.  It is done on an essentially “black box” theatre setting with very little set pieces, minimal costuming, and subtle lighting to suggest mood changes and shifts in locations.  In other words, it is up to the actor’s & director’s talents, the author’s words and the audience’s imagination to complete the bulk of the presentation.

Johnson has done an amazing job of picturing this complicated story for us and yet not passing judgment on which of the levels she herself has decided on (although, I’m sure, she and the actors have made that determination for themselves).  Johnson can certainly be called an “actor’s director” for she, herself, is a fine actor and, therefore, knows from whence they came.  Quite a riveting evening in her capable hands.

And this is a tour-de-force for actors.  Millican, always good in whatever productions I’ve reviewed her in, is captivating, commanding and a little scary as the conflicted matriarch of this beleaguered brood.  She always rides that thin line between what may be real and what may not be.  This may be Millican’s finest hour!  Harder manages to pull off three roles, the authoritarian uncle, the proper Mrs. Groves and an enigmatic, ten-year-old boy.  Quite a feat and he does it brilliantly!  Everyone one of the characters are done in the same costume with no make-up changes and only a subtle alteration of the voice, walks/stances and facial expressions and yet you are never confused as to which character he’s enacting.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of these fine actors gracing our stages.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Adrift In Macao—Broadway Rose—Tigard, OR

Dark Cinema

This musical tribute to film noir is written by Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick, directed by Isaac Lamb, choreographed by Dan Murphy and music direction by Mont Chris Hubbard.  It is playing at their new space at 12850 SW Grant Ave. in Tigard.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-620-5262.

The term film noir literally means what my heading proffers, film of the night or darkness.  This type of cinema usually was told in flashback, with a voice-over narration by the anti-hero, a femme fatal,  a comic side-kick, a floozy with a drug/alcohol problem, assorted dumb bad guys, assorted dumb law types, a mastermind criminal (usually not revealed until the last reel), dark and foggy settings and various, nefarious characters lurking in the background.  A perfect surrounding for homage to the film noir era.

If that doesn’t inform you as to what you’re in for, then try this:  Bullshot Crummond meets Casablanca meets Hitchcock meets Maltese Falcon meets …Roger Rabbit.  We encounter the mysterious loner, Mitch (Michael Morrow Hammack), who wanders into the exotic Macao one day with a score to settle with a master criminal named MacGuffin (a parody in the name itself).  He checks into a “gin joint,” which is run by the duplicitous, Rick (Gary Wayne Cash) Shaw (think about it).  Among Rick’s regulars is his sometimes ditzy, main squeeze, Corinna (Danielle Weathers), who loves “nose candy,” and his number one man and piano player, the exotic, Tempura (Gene Chin).

Rick also employs a sexy, cigarette girl, Daisy (Olivia Shimkus) and a handy bartender, Joe (Joey Cóté).  The all have their secrets and to add even more spice to this sizzling array of misfits, in walks the alluring Lureena (Pam Mahon), a dame to be reckoned with.  She immediately takes over the star spotlight as the lead singer, booting Corinna to the less desirable job of “blowing on the dice” for customers.  It is soon evident that Rick and Mitch are sweet on Lureena but she is playing hard to get.  It is also obvious that Rick has more than a café to run and is into some shady business.  And why is this piano player always lurking in the shadows…questions that will have to be viewed to be answered because, after all, this is a mystery.

The time might be the early 50’s and the setting in Asia but the songs and music seem timeless.  The whole cast have very strong voices.  The stand-out deliveries in song are “Mambo Malaysian” with Weathers as a Carmen Miranda-type; “Rick’s Song” wonderfully done by Cash; “So Long” belted by Mahon; and “Revelation” presented in kaleidoscope fashion by Chin.  And the dance numbers by Murphy are exceptional.  My favorites were “The Chase” with the ensemble; “Adrift In Macao,” with the leads; and “Sparks,” with Mahon and Hammack.

The set by Larry Larsen is amazing, giving us an overview of a seedy city with fog included (a bit too much at times).  The costumes by Grace O’Malley fit the period and seemed very authentic.  Hubbard and his small band of big talent was super in keeping up with the many and varied rhythms of the show.  And Lamb, the leader of the pack, has done well with honoring a genre.  It’s not easy to parody something without having it lapse into camp but he has rode that fine line and given us a fitting production for us to “wax nostalgic” about a bygone time.

The musical talent and acting is always first-rate at this theatre.  Mahon as the Rita Hayworth type of leading lady, is just great in look and voice.  Hammock is also in fine voice for the handsome leading man, ala Robert Montgomery.  Cash is always a stand-out in a show and he does well as the chiseled-face, Bogart-type as the anti-hero.  Weathers portrays the luckless gal, like a Joan Blondell or Gloria Graham type, and your heart goes out to her.  And Chin, as the typical, ethnic stereo-type from this era, has more up his sleeve than his arm.  He is truly a stand-out in his many masks.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Best Of Everything—Bag & Baggage—Hillsboro, OR

“…Best of Times…Worst of Times…”

This is from the book, written by Rona Jaffe, and adapted for the stage by Julie Kramer and directed by Michelle Milne.  (It was later made into a film with Hope Lange, Joan Crawford, Steven Boyd, et. al.)  It is playing at their space in the Venetian Theatre at 253 E. Main St. in Hillsboro.  For more information, go to their site at

The 50’s, for women, was not a good time to be a “working girl.”  Granted, the country was just out of a World War (and into a Cold War), the economy was good but the division of the sexes was just as divided as ever.  The woman had more than proved herself (as if she ever had to) with taking over “male” jobs during the War years and having their own units in the Service, but that was then…  Now, back to the ugly reality of putting people in their proper places, and the woman’s was at home and being subjected to the male’s whims (or so was thought at the time).

In the working world in the Big City (in this case NYC) filing, typing, fetching and looking pretty in case the boss (male, usually married) wanted some late-night “dictation.”  But, in Jaffe’s world, a woman rising to a managerial position was almost unheard of (and usually with a lot of whispering as to how she may have achieved that).  The martinet, Miss Farrow (Morgan Cox), has done just that and is an Editor at Fabian Magazine, stories of rather saucy tales of life.  And she guards this position with a passion, bordering on a mania.  But, into this insular world, walks a newbie, plain-Jane, Caroline (Cassie Greer), just recently jilted by her boyfriend, Eddie (Andrew Beck) and ready to bury herself in work.

Into this concrete jungle are also Gregg (Arianne Jacques), an aspiring actress (of sorts), willing to do anything to get a part; Brenda (Stephanie Leppert), a type of blonde bimbo, easily (mis-)led; the carefree, April (Kaia Hillier), who is just looking for a husband; Mary Agnes (Jessi Walters), a naïve beginner, looking for her place in the world; Mr. Shalimar (Joey Copsey), a nasty old goat  who likes young girls; and Mr. Rice (Copsey, again), writer for a religious magazine, who befriends Caroline.

This tale follows the lives of these ladies with all the ups and downs expected in the topsy-turvy battle of the sexes.  Some will have their hearts broken, some will get pregnant, some will find what they are looking for (and, sometimes, lose it, again, too), some marry and one will die.  Obviously I can’t tell you too much more about the story, as these are discoveries the viewer must make.  But, in the end, perhaps one will not necessarily be happier but certainly wiser.  And, keep in mind, the 60’s were just around the corner, and times would be “a-changin’.”

This is listed as a melodrama and follows the style of the books/films of Valley of the Dolls and The Devil Wore Prada, among others.  But, with that in mind, the acting is so naturalistic and convincing, and the staging so inventive, that it makes up for the sometimes sudsy story.  Milne has really wowed the audience with her clever set-ups on an essentially bare stage, with tables and chairs and very few props, to tell the story.  The movements of the actors are almost dance-like and the set changes could be put to music.  It is the story-telling style of theatre at its best, allowing the actors’ talents and the audience’s imagination to enhance the plot.  Well done, Ms. Milne!  Hope to see more of your work.

Greer is an amazing actor, having seen her play the flamboyant Daisy in their Great Gatsby and now stretching to the other side of the spectrum to play the subdued Caroline in this play.  Her alto voice is an asset in her ability, as well as the focus and believability in the characters she portrays.  She is, as always, super in this part!  Copsey, too, is quite the chameleon, as he plays a seemingly nice young man and then an old codger, among others.  And, if I hadn’t known it, I would have suspected it was different actors in these parts.  Well done.

Hillier is very good in the major role of a woman who just wants to get married and settle down.  Your heart goes out to her as he plays well the many layers of the stages she goes through.  She is, I believe, the sister of Clara, who is a well-known, very good actor in this company and in Portland theatres.  And she does herself proud here, as she has in past shows.  Also very good is Walters as the naïve and confused woman who struggles with her identity.  Her reactions in the shower scene and where she has to make some tough decisions as to choices in her life are outstanding!  I look forward to seeing both these actors, too, in future productions.

By the way, I’m quite aware that I use the word “actor” when referring to females on the stage.  An actor, as defined, is simply a person who performs or acts on a stage, there is no gender attached to it.  It has always been a point of contention, among the theatre community, as to which noun to use when describing a female in the acting profession but, myself, I prefer “actor” and many ladies I know prefer it, too, although I still sometimes use the noun actress when describing someone.

I recommend this play, especially for the staging of it and the acting in it.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Our Town—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

This classic American play about small-town life is written by Thornton Wilder and directed by Rose Riordan. It is playing at their space, 128 NW 11th Ave., through October 11th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700.

The Past is just that—passed.  But that doesn’t stop people from waxing nostalgic about it, as it’s often fond memories of the salad days of our Youth:  A time that we frolicked in the innocence and magic of those good ole days, a simpler era of dreams and discoveries.  Not unlike the tale of Anne and her adventures at Green Gables and on the island of Avonlea or
Ray Bradbury’s beautiful poetic tribute to his childhood in Dandelion Wine. These are, indeed, wonderful tales, but hidden from us at the time was also the real adult world of prejudice, war, pressures of the “rat race,” and trepidation about the future.  So when we hark back to  memories of bliss, what we are really looking for is the “Garden of Eden,” Paradise, a time when all was at peace and beautiful.  And what Wilder has done, brilliantly, is to show us both worlds, the pleasure and the pain, of growing up in small-town America, in this case Grover Mills, New Hampshire, at the beginning of the 1900’s.

The story is bittersweet, as a Stage Manager (Shawn Fagan), weaves the tale of a small town, mainly two families, of the Gibbs and the Webb’s, and lets us see life on a simpler scale, but also holding it up to an urbane world, reflecting in a mirror, darkly.  He is the god (probably Wilder himself) of this creation and tells us many details of rural life there.  There is the dedicated Dr. Gibbs (Paul Cosentino) and his forward-thinking wife, Mrs. Gibbs (Gina Daniels).  They also have two children, George (Sathya Sridharan), a star, high-school athletic, and his younger, precocious sister, Rebecca (Hailey Kilgore).

Next door to them are the Editor of the town newspaper, Mr. Webb (John D. Haggerty), a fountain of knowledge of the goings-on of the town-folk, and his industrious wife, Mrs. Webb (Tina Chilip).  They also have two children, the studious teenager, Emily (Nikki Massoud) and her younger brother, Wally (Henry Martin).  It should go without saying that Emily and George are “meant” for each other.  There are other townies such as the drunken choirmaster, Simon (Gary Norman), two town gossips, Mrs. Soames (Sharonlee McClean) and her lady friend (Laura Faye Smith), the know-it-all, Professor Willard (Leif Norby), and others, but the story focuses mainly on the two “star-crossed” young lovers and their families.

It follows George and Emily over 13 years as they become friends, talking from their second-story bedrooms to each other on moonlit nights (I, too, did this, at their age, across a driveway to a neighbor girl named, Julie.  Those fanciful hours we wiled away were precious).  Then comes the fateful meeting when they realize they are in love, to their marriage and, finally, to the death of one of them in their mid-twenties.  The final act is of those who have died, relating their thoughts, not unlike Edgar Lee Masters’, Spoon River Anthology, in which the departed reflect on Life.

And, maybe, it is in these moments, where the full message of Wilder’s story is revealed, that we should hold on dearly to those fleeting moments in our short lives that are precious to us and accomplish all the good we can, connect with each other and, when the end does come, know that we have done the best we can with what we have in the little time allotted to us.

The play, as written, is done on an essentially bare stage, with the Stage Manager setting the scenes with his narration.  Personal props and much of the action is mimed and only chairs are used to create acting spaces.  It is a wise move to follow this lead, which Riordan has done well, even giving the illusion of souls floating between the Hereafter and Earth, as if waiting for the next stage in their evolution.  It also allows us to create our own memories of such an existence, as the Stage Manager suggests, so that we are fully enveloped into the story.

The cast is mixed racially and culturally, as it should be, and I applaud them for this, as casting should be blind and only the best actor should be cast for the part, without regard for ethnicity, age, gender, etc.  Fagan underplays the part of the Stage Manager, which is as it should be, only asserting authority when the story needs to move forward.  Well realized.  The two young lovers, Sridharan and Massoud, are very believable as their relationship grows.  They certainly capture the spirit of Youth and awkward naivety in the teen years.  The rest of the cast is equally good and, having some well-known Portland actors in supporting roles, adds to the creative weight of this production.

One more point (as I ascent my soapbox) and for those of you who have read past reviews of mine, will recognize my tirade.  There is a line in the show fore-shadowing a warning, perhaps, for future generations, for people to really look at each other and to realize Life while they live it!  This does not mean on a video screen.  It means listening to the crickets at night, admiring the mysterious moon, gazing at the amazing stars, smelling the flowers on a dewy morning and connecting, one-on-one, touchable, to the important people in your life, for it is, as Wilder reports, too short, so make the best of it …and get off those frigging screens, as artificial life is no real life at all!

I recommend this production.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Understudy—Artists Repertory Theatre—SW Portland

Kafka and the Artist

This comedy-drama is written by Theresa Rebeck and directed By Michael Mendelson.  It is playing at their space at SW Alder St. and SW 16th Ave. through October 4th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-241-1278.

Ah, the secret life of the Artist.  What is it like to lay your guts out there on the stage for the whole world to see and not know how it will perceive you?  It is frightening, horrifying, exhilarating, and the highest high you can ever achieve.  But, at its low points, when there is no platform to display our wares, it is a Kafka-like Hell in which we are nobody of any importance.  Such is the nature of this fickled, prancing beast we call Art.

Kafka’s world would not approve of Artists, but Artists would have understood Kafka.  The need of individualism, the grip of isolation, the cry to be noticed, is the world of Kafka’s “heroes.”  And, in this play, the actors are presenting one of his shows.  Also, like all theatrical productions, those who are behind the scenes, truly see and experience the world as it is.

Harry (Gavin Hoffman) has auditioned for and gotten the role of the second understudy to the star of the show, Bruce, a very expensive big name from the films.  He has played bit parts but his dream is to be on Broadway, which now he is.  Problem is that the stage manager, Roxanne (Ayanna Berkshire), he has known before, and she has not gone “quietly into that good night.”  In fact, she was an actress herself at one point until the world, which is “too much with us,” gave her a good crack on the head, and took its toll on her emotional and artistic life.

Another sticking point in this show for Harry is that the first understudy, Jake (Jared Q. Miller), who he is to rehearse with, feels that Bruce is a god, making Jake a sort-of demi-god, and he and Roxanne are looking for nothing more than a puppet to go through the motions.  But Harry, being a true artist, wants to spread his wings a little and show what he can do.

Also, the lighting person (never seen) seems to have her own ideas of what should be presented onstage and, therefore, the stage seems to have a life of its own.  Caught up in a real-life Kafka world, are they?  Life imitating Art, or vice-versa?  You’ll have to see for yourselves.  But one thing I can reveal is that Artists, in the end, tend to stick together because, after all, there is no one else like them on earth who would understand them…is that not Kafka-like, as well?

Kafka, like Beckett (Waiting For Godot playing at NW Classical Theatre Collaborative now), was an existentialist writer, too.  His books, and films of them like The Trial (Orsen Welles and Anthony Perkins) and The Castle (Maximilian Schell), are quite good but they show a very bleak world.  The Understudy, and it’s response to that vision, show the true colors of what humans can attain when they are allowed to be Free to express themselves as they will.

Miller looks and plays to the tee the part of a man going for the big bucks first regardless of the crap he has to do.  He has an epiphany of sorts by the end and we see that he is more than just a handsome action-hero type.  Well played, as he comes off as a jerk at first but we like him by the end.  Berkshire, too, gives us a together-gal on the outside but a seething volcano underneath.  She, too, goes through changes as the play progresses.  This young lady is someone to watch, as she can play the many layers, good and bad, of a being, and you care about her.  Hoffman is terrific as the catalyst, an actor chomping at the bit to be unleashed, but knowing he has to play the game in order to get anywhere is this cock-eyed world.  He barrels ahead two steps, then retreats one, all the while slowly making progress forward.  You hate him at times, then appreciate him, all a tribute to the actor’s talent.

And the fifth character, unseen, is the set itself, which, as mentioned, takes on a life of its own.  It well may represent the invisible world at large, putting road blocks in our way or changing our courses, all to see just how we will respond.  Mendelson has picked a winner and he should certainly understand the subject matter, as he is one of the best in his field!  I’ve always appreciated his talent, whether on the “boards” or directing aspiring artists, he a true Master of the Arts himself.

I recommend this show.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Waiting For Godot—NW Classical Theatre Collaborative—SE Portland

“Of No Importance”

This production of Samuel Beckett’s classic, avant-garde show is directed by Pat Patton and is playing at the Shoebox Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through October 11th.  For more information, go to their site at

Like the Director, Patton, I, too, have been fascinated with this play since the mid-seventies, where I first saw it in Buffalo, NY.  I was so impressed that I even wrote an homage to it, Games, which was produced a few times around the Western New York area.  What may make it so unique is that it seemingly is about nothing…where nothing happens and for any artistic-minded person, that is a challenge.  Since it may mean nothing…then it can be about anything…and the creative juices flow.

As one of the characters explains, “nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful,” which may be the theme of the show in its most basic form.  And where is the setting?  Is it an Afterlife, a Netherworld, Purgatory or Hell, a Dream, or is it taking place in the “windmills of your mind?”  Also, who does “Godot” represent?  Is he, as spelled out, God, or Death, or the Savior, or a Demon?  (Many Bible references are included in the text.)  When Beckett was asked who Godot was, on numerous occasions, some of his answers were, “I forgot” or “who is he to you?”  In other words, you’re choice.  It is, in short, about two characters…waiting...for something to happen…or someone to find them…or for some reason to go elsewhere…you decide.  But, whatever your decision, it will get you thinking.  And that may be its sole purpose.

The story (as such) is about two lonely people, friends, GoGo (Don Alder) and Didi (Grant Byington) trapped in a space and seemingly just trying to pass the time until Godot comes, or something happens to alter their course, or they get permission to leave (to where?).  To amuse themselves and to pass the time, they go through routines akin to vaudeville performers.  Other times they complain about the food, or tight shoes, or not being able to sleep, or bladder problems, or the fact they have no rope to hang themselves and thus end it all (or would it?).  But two things seem clear:  They can’t leave this space and their memory of the previous day has been erased or seriously altered.

Their world is not entirely unpopulated, as soon appear Pozzo (Todd Hermanson), a cruel but prissy slave-driver and his servant, Lucky (Steve Vanderzee), a sad man, seemingly destined to be pushed around all his life.  They purport to be on the way to the Fair where Pozzo is to sell Lucky and yet it seems they need each other (as do Gogo and DiDi for that matter).  They also act, at times, much like a vaudeville team, too.  And one more character to appear is the Boy (Eric Lyness), an innocent, messenger from Godot, who only answers questions with polite replies but also is the only one to have any insight as to who Godot is.  For more explanations as to the story’s progress, you’ll have to see it.

I have to admit I loved the simple but effective set (designer, Tim Stapleton) and the tree is terrific (installer, Michael DeLapp).  And Patton is a consummate professional for many years and he is at the top of his game here.  This would be a difficult play for any director (or actor) as, although the meaning may be ambiguous, the actors and director must have a point of view, as they need to create their own reality and project that.  While watching Patton’s interpretation, I felt I almost understood it but, more importantly, I believed they understood it.  Well done, sir.

The actors, likewise, are truly entrenched in their roles.  Byington is wonderful in portraying a guy who waffles between being the man-in-charge, to being just another cog in a giant wheel.  Alder perfects the Lenny-like, poor-soul persona but then comes up with witticisms and wisdom beyond his station in life.  And these two actors are extraordinary in the way they play off each other.  They are a perfect match and never out of character.  Bravo!

Hermanson is also a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde personality.  At one point being oh-so-proper in his demeanor then being very base in his behavior.  He always seems to need an audience.  He portrays this oily demi-god to perfection.  Vanderzee is perfect in the seemingly thankless role of a mostly mute character, then when he gets his chance to speak, after wearing the thinking cap, his stream-of-consciousness thoughts pour out like a dam bursting, leaving no room for meaning or interpreting what he says.  Nicely done.  And Lyness is fine as the obedient messenger.

A side point, Pozzo and Lucky’s relationship are not unlike the Sorcerer and his Apprentice (Mickey Mouse) in the Disney, animated film, Fantasia.  Mickey is the mute slave of a powerful wizard but, when he puts on the magician’s cap, he is the master and his minions do his work.  Might be the inspiration for those two characters.

I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.