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Portland's Micro Distillery Boom

March 24, 2010 1 comment
Drink Spirits

Drink Spirits

Updates to On Portland have been a little sluggish over the past month or so and that’s because we’ve been hard at work on launching a new site and project focused on spirits like Top 10 Irish Whiskey PicksAn Exploration of Tequila and Mezcal, The Gin Fizz called Drink Spirits.

Portland is at the center of a revolution in spirits that is very reminiscent of its role in the explosion of micro brew beer. Now on the SE side of Portland there’s an established Distillery Row with several key micro distilleries making artisanal and craft spritis.

Some of these notable distilleries include:

In addition to exciting things happening on the micro distillery front Portland’s cocktail scene has been exploding.  Some of the cocktails being served in Portland are as good or better than you’ll find in places like Los Angeles, Chicago or even New York.

Some of the notable things happening in this space:

  • Teardrop Lounge launched a massive new cocktail menu with a mix of classic cocktails, cocktails from notable bartenders around the country and home grown drinks from the amazingly  talented: Daniel Shoemaker, David Shenaut and Ricky Gomez. (1015 Northwest Everett Street)
  • Beaker & Flask another bar getting national attention with a mix of classic cocktails and locally designed drinks and buzz worthy bartender Elizabeth Markham behind the bar (727 SE Washington St)
  • Laurelhurst Market award winning bartender Evan Zimmerman is doing monsterous things with a tiny bar at the back of this notable ‘steak/deli’ restaurant. Hand cut ice and extremely inventive drinks have won Evan huge acclaim  (3155 East Burnside Street)
  • Clyde Common – Neil Kopplin has helped put Clyde on the map with extraordinarily solid classic cocktails and a bar menu which consistently draws the crowds. (1014 Southwest Stark Street)

In some cities you’d find bartenders competing against each other, but in Portland they all come together an collaborate under their  Oregon Bartender’s Guild with monthly events you don’t have to be a bartender to attend and an annual distiller’s festival that has been getting some national attention.

With Drink Spirits now off the ground and running we’ll have a lot more frequent updates here at On Portland and we invite you to check out some of the key articles on the spirits site:

Portland Public School Redesign Means School Closures

February 4, 2010 4 comments
Skip McKallip, member of the Grant Cluster Parents for a Thoughtful High School Redesign

Skip McKallip With The Map of Portland Schools

The idea sounds like a good one: update the structure of Portland Public High Schools to accommodate the changing population and needs of an ever-developing higher education platform. The unfortunate thing is that the plan may ultimately be less about updating individual schools, meeting their needs and helping them succeed, and more about trying to creating an equal divide across the district of offerings and students.

In representing the board at a recent Grant Cluster Parents for a Thoughtful High School Redesign meeting, Portland school board member David Wyde laid out the issue:

Read more…

Categories: Schools Tags: , ,

Hot Cocoa with Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee

January 18, 2010 No comments
Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee House

Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee

Here’s something that is uniquely Portland. Tessy and Tab Reading Club, a twice per month subscription by mail ‘magazine’ for early readers (aged 2-6) is located on the east side of Portland.  One afternoon late last year, magazine publisher Judy MacDonald Johnston followed her love for coffee to the newly opened  Heart Coffee on  NE 22nd and Burnside.  She was so taken with the coffee shop that she decided to make it the subject of the an issue of Tessy and Tab.

The result is a pairing of two fantastic local craft businesses, each with a strong vision and passion for doing something unique.

Tessy and Tab Reading Club is a breath of fresh air in a market where even 2 year olds are heavily marketed to. Focused on developing early readers, it delivers two printed booklet-like magazines per month via mail.  The club helps instill the the love, passion and skills for early readers. It provides an exceptional ‘marketing free’ environment for kids to learn to read. We’ve been subscribers to the club for many years and have given subscriptions as gifts. It’s a truly exceptional publication and it’s located right here in Portland.

Heart Coffee is a relatively new coffee house and roaster (run by notable snowboarder Willi Yli-Luma). Featuring one of the simplest and most straightforward menus I’ve seen in a coffee shop, Heart Coffee has an extremely myopic focus on servering the absolute best coffee you can get in a cup.  While I was there for the “Cocoa with Tessy and Tab” event they were roasting beans. You’d think that they were conducting a science experiment.  I’ve seen beans roasted in many places in town, but never with such intense focus and attention.  The coffee served at Heart is out of this world and is in the league with some of the very best coffee in Portland.

Since the issue of Tessy and Tab takes place at Heart Coffee, the owners of both companies invited local subscribers to come to Heart Coffee to share some hot cocoa and meet the reading club creators.  The baristas from Heart Coffee drew elaborate pictures in the foam of the hot cocoas and the kids colored in pictures of the barista’s animal alter egos from the latest issue. It was a fantastic pairing of two local businesses following their hearts and doing something special.

For More info:

Categories: Books, Family Tags:

Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage Review

January 17, 2010 2 comments
Snow Falling on Cedars Portland Center Stage

Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage

I honestly didn’t have huge expectations for Kevin McKeon’s adaptation of David Guterson Snow Falling on Cedars. So many popular books and movies have been poorly adapted for the stage recently and
Scott Hick’s 1999 film adaptation
of Guterson’s best selling book simply left me cold. Imagine my shock when I was blown away by one of the best productions I’ve seen on a stage in Portland. McKeon’s adaptation is simply amazing and coupled with Chris Coleman’s pitch perfect direction and uniformly excellent acting, Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage is nothing short of a triumph.

Set in the late 40’s and early 50’s, Snow Falling on Cedars follows the trail of Kabuo, a Japanese American fisherman accused of murdering a fellow fisherman in a small northwestern island town. The play flashes back and forth between the trial and the years leading up to it, covering the interweaving stories of the characters. Smack dab in the center of Snow Falling on Cedars is a look at the Japanese internment camps in America, enacted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Although Snow Falling on Cedars covers an important point (and arguably one of our lowest points) in American history, the play is more about the relationships and connections between the people involved than the history itself. Olivia Oguma and Vince Nappo play Hatsue and Ishmael, two childhood playmates who flirt with something more. Their relationship comes to a head with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There’s a devastatingly beautiful moment when Hatsue turns to Ishmael and says, “Look at me, look at my face, I have the face of the enemy!” It’s within a moment like this between characters that brings everything together and adjoins the greater narrative, the historial context and makes this play work so well.

A lot of credit goes to Kevin McKeon for his masterful adaptation of Guterson’s book. McKeon covers considerable ground in his stage play and really has a sense of how to capture and present the soul and essence of the book. McKeon often gives us just enough of a glimpse at something as he weaves back and forth throughout the lives of the key characters. This results in some truly magical moments, and while fleeting, they give us a tremendous amount of insight and connection with the story. One of my favorite moments of the play involves the coupling of Hatsue and Kabuo, a short scene played perfectly, almost magically; I’ll surely be thinking back to it a long time from now.

Director Chris Coleman, who has been playing around with inventive and minimalistic staging this year, really hits his groove working with McKeon’s adaptation. The staging transitions from scene to scene, emotional note to emotional note flawlessly. At one point we flash between the front lines in the South Pacific to a quiet and tender scene between two of the characters on the field of an internment camp and back again. Coleman’s actors never seem lost in the shuffle and he gives them a tremendous amount of faith and trust to carry off some of the most important elements of the play. In one scene two police officers, played by Scott Coopwood and Casey McFeron, pull a body caught in a fishing net out of the water and onto a boat. This entire scene is done using pantomime, and it executed so well you’d swear they had a real body on stage. I couldn’t help but think back to Coleman’s work on Ragtime and the show-stopping scene where Gavin Gregory (who plays Coalhouse Walker) sits down to play at an invisible piano.

It’s this kind of deep trust in the artform and the capacity of his actors that makes Chris Coleman a truly great director, and under his direction, the actors rise to the occasion. Olivia Oguma gives an award worthy performance as Hatsue, carrying her character through a huge life arch from pre-teen to a married woman with kids. Vince Nappo takes his character Ishmael on a similar journey and caps the show with an emotional moment that is simply amazing. Bruce Locke gives the role of Kabuo a rich texturing despite the fact that his character is extremely reserved.

Across the board the performances in Snow Falling on Cedars are excellent even though many of the cast members double and triple up, playing a variety of roles throughout the show. My one and only gripe about the production is its opening. The characters come on and speak in narrative to set things up. It works but not nearly as well as when we see the characters interact with dialogue. Admittedly, this is a minor issue and in many ways is like complaining about the frame on a true masterpiece, which is what this is.

Kevin McKeon’s adaptation of Snow Falling on Cedars is so good and Chris Coleman’s Portland Center Stage production is so well performed it has the potential to become a truly classic piece of theater. McKeon works magic with Snow Falling on Cedars, crafting a truly contemporary theatrical experience using classic theatrical tools, and in the hands of Chris Coleman the result is simply amazing. Snow Falling on Cedars has the potential to be the kind of show that moves on from its Portland debut to New York and then beyond. It’s a truly great piece of theater and is absolutely not to be missed.

Snow Falling on Cedars plays at Portland Center Stage 1/12-2/17. Tickets Start at $35.

For more information:

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Xanadu The Musical in Portland Review

January 13, 2010 1 comment
Xanadu The Musical in Portland

Xanadu The Musical in Portland

It’s hard to write a review of Xanadu The Musical with a straight face. Part of me is thinking, “Really, you’re going to pick apart a musical based on one of the cheesier films from the 80’s?” and in truth there will be some people who click off their brain and just enjoy the brief 90 minute staging of this kitschy musical no matter what faults it has, and that’s fine. The problem with Xanadu The Musical is that it actually far, far worse than the movie it’s based on.

Adapted from the 1980 film with Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and Michael Beck, Xanadu is a fantastical story of a Greek demi-god sent to Earth to be a muse for a struggling artist. In the process she breaks some cardinal rules, including falling in love and getting involved with the creative process itself. Peppered throughout the story are some classic songs from the film including “Magic“, “Suddenly“, “I’m Alive” and the theme song “Xanadu“. None of these songs are pure classics in their own right, but they do really capture some of the delicious elements that make the 80’s so fun to wax nostalgic over.

Musically this gives Xanadu a fairly solid base. Like Mama Mia, there’s enough of a musical foundation for a fun night of musical theater. Unfortunately the music is so subverted in favor of cheap gags and poor staging that it’s hard to genuinely enjoy it.

Elizabeth Stanley, who performs the lead role, has a fantastic voice, similar in tone to Oliva Newton-John, with a depth and breadth that truly fills the auditorium. But she so hams it up while singing that it’s really difficult to enjoy her genuine talent. When she isn’t singing, Elizabeth Stanley’s performance is really subpar. For part of the show she sports an absolutely horrid Australian accent. The accent is yet another aspect of the show played as a gag, but it’s so poorly executed it’s painful.

Stanley’s co-star Max Von Esson, who plays Sonny Malone, has such a small stage presence that he’s absolutely eclipsed by Stanley. Von Esson reminds me of the kind of performer you see on a cruise ship or at Disneyland. He awkwardly hams it up and then completely under delivers when it comes time to really sing. Von Esson even comes up short in terms of skating – in the grand finale he doesn’t even skate. With all the talent out there (including the cast-offs from all the seasons of American Idol), it’s hard to believe they couldn’t find a better performer to play Sonny.

Of all the other cast members the only other real highlight of the show is Larry Marshall, who has the unenviable task of performing a role originated by the great Gene Kelly. Marshall is one of the only genuinely talented and well rounded performers on stage. He seems to be the only one to be able to balance both the humor and the narrative of the musical and both sings and acts wonderfully.

One of the biggest problems with Xanadu The Musical is that it seems to have a fairly strong disdain for the time period which the film and story are set in. Throughout the show the 80’s are often referred to as ‘culturally devoid’ and references to most of the 80’s things are more pejorative than positive. The musical also seems to have a disdain for the very artform of the musical itself. It constantly pokes fun and commentates on the very institution of art that it is. This creates an undertone to the piece which is far from celebratory. Rather than trying to be so self referential, Xanadu had an amazing opportunity to celebrate the absolute over-the-top aspects of the time period and musical theater art form; instead, it seems more interested in bashing it.

The staging for Xanadu The Musical is an absolute mess. Rather than embracing the crazy and wonderful styles of the 80’s the stage looks more like a cheap, dull ampithere with columns and risers that accommodate on-stage seating. Having audience members sit on the stage has become fashionable after plays like The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Spring Awakening. In both those productions the placement of these audience members served a purpose. Here it’s just another element tacked on to make the show more ‘hip’.  These audience members are out of place in this period piece and are only really there to help make the stark staging feel less empty.

My absolute biggest gripe with Xanadu The Musical is how nearly every moment of the show is played for laughs. The show is littered with so many cheap jokes and gags that it leaves very little room for anything else. This completely subverts the characters and the narrative so it becomes extremely difficult to care about anyone or anything in the show. I think it’s possible to play Xanadu over the top and still have some genuine moments between characters.

Ultimately Xanadu is one huge opportunity lost. The original movie had an element of huge spectacle which gets completely lost in the adaptation to stage. Xanadu could have been a flamboyant and unrestrained celebration of an era that wasn’t ever aware how ‘far out’ it really was. But, I don’t think the creative team behind Xanadu genuinely loves the material or the era they’re presenting, I think they saw a good opportunity to mount a Broadway production that would attract a 30something audience who would place very little demands on the play and would appreciate its short running time.

Xanadu plays at the Keller Auditorium January 12-17th. For more info:

(ed note: Portland Opera informs us that Max Von Esson sprained his ancle prior to the performance I saw and so did not skate as much due to it.)

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Avatar in 3D at Roseway Theater Reviewed

December 17, 2009 2 comments

AvatarI want to love Avatar, I really do. Almost everything that Director James Cameron has touted about the film over the past few years is absolutely true. The film absolutely breaks new ground visually with the best use of 3D I’ve seen in a narrative film (the best use of 3D overall I still think is U23D). Visually it is simply stunning. The world of Avatar is one of visual delights which rivals almost any film I’ve seen. The character animation is as close to human as I’ve ever seen. No films have had CGI characters and creatures which feel so alive. For the most part, Avatar is wonderfully acted. Sam Worthington is superb as Jake Sully, crippled Marine set free through the use of an avatar. Zoe Slanda is also fantastic in the lead female role, Neytiri, a Na’vi trying to protect her homeland from the invading humans. Even CCH Pounder puts in a stand out performance in a supporting role.

Unfortunately Avatar isn’t everything that it could be, or even should be. Side by side strong performances are some ridiculously bad ones. Giovanni Ribisi is laughably bad as a corporate boss focused on acquiring “unobtainium” from the land beneath the Na’vi. Stephen Lang is straight out from a bad Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damm movie as a Marine who will hit his objective at all costs. Also, I’m sad to report the actual Avatar script is extraordinarily predictable and uneven. Plot turns are so ridiculously linear and easily anticipated that there rarely is any sense of surprise in the story. Some of the dialogue is also extremely bad, laughably so (expect them to become rampantly overused as Twitter updates and Facebook statuses for months to come).

But with all its faults, Avatar isn’t a bad movie. Aside from the pure visual spectacle, there are some genuinely magical moments. In it’s 2 1/2 hour running time there are definite sections which pull you in and help make you forget the films many faults. And yet, Avatar fails at becoming a great film. James Cameron clearly has all the tools to create legendary cinema, and yet he fails here, relying on a bad script and some poor actors who knock his film out of contention for being truly great.

This of course leaves us with the essential question: should you go see Avatar? Even given all its faults and imperfections I’m recommending that, yes, you go see this film. Avatar is worth the price of admission for the visual spectacle alone, and it does deliver an extraordinary experience. But I’d strongly advise going into it with the understanding that it is a very imperfect film, that it has some really significant faults, and to be truly enjoyed those faults need to be ignored or forgiven.

Avatar is an exciting piece of cinema, its technological achievement will surely have a major impact on films that follow it. It also is the ‘killer app’ for 3D movies and is probably the film which will be credited with keeping 3D around and not letting pass as a fad. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been a great film.

If you’re going to see Avatar in Portland, I HIGHLY recommend you see it in 3D at The Roseway Theater. The Roseway is the best movie theater experience in Portland with the best digital projection and sound and it would be an absolute shame to see this movie any other way. The Roseway Theater is Located at 7229 SE Sandy Blvd. Avatar has a midnight showing on Friday December 18th and then runs 12:00 3:30 7:00 10:30.  You can also follow the Roseway on twitter at @rosewaytheater for updated showtimes and more.

Categories: Movies Tags:

Bob Saget in Portland – A Review

December 13, 2009 No comments
Bob Saget

Bob Saget

Many people may still see Bob Saget as Danny Tanner, the wholesome Dad from the late 80’s and early 90’s sitcom Full House. Or perhaps they see him as the goofy host of America’s Funniest Home Videos. However, if those people were to catch Bob Saget doing standup they’d realize he’s actually one of the dirtiest comedians performing today. Saget plays a lot with these clashing perceptions in very much the same way a five year old takes pleasure in saying the word ‘shit’. It’s a mix of shock, amusement and perhaps delight in shaking people’s perceptions.

Saget embraces his dirty side right off the bat, joking about his love life and the possible paternity connection to some of the people in the audience. Saget spends a lot of time poking fun at himself and his own image, even telling a story about how someone yelled “I suck dick for coke” to him while he was spending time with his mom. He follows with a volley of dick jokes, the rapid fire approach finding some hitting their mark and some missing, but Sagat is cool, comfortable and at ease as he lobs his jokes into the audience.. The first part of Saget’s show felt very alive and unstructured and featured a lot of off the cuff and improvised material. Many of the evening’s funniest moments came out of this part of the show and his unrehearsed interactions with the audience. I enjoyed the fact that Saget’s opening was all over the place. For a comedian who has been around quite a long time it’s great to experience their raw sense of humor, something that is much more alive than the general schtick that they become known for.

After Saget was done playing with the audience, he moved into a segment of jokes that came from his father Benjamin Saget. In both a tribute to his dad and an explanation of “why I’m like this”, Saget told a number of wonderful and charming dirty jokes.

Picking up a guitar, Saget transitioned from telling jokes to singing them and he played several humorous songs to the audience, many of which he’s performed on his HBO special or on TV. My favorites of his songs were “My Dog Licked My Balls“, “Old English Folk Song” and “Danny Tanner Was Not Gay” (which he closed his show with).

In all Saget delivered a really solid night of comedy. His complete comfort and ease on stage and his wonderfully dirty sense of humor are an absolute delight to watch. I liked how Saget moved through different styles of comedy and seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself onstage. Unfortunately, Saget’s opener, Ryan Stout, was the opposite of Saget, with humor overly contrived and uncomfortable. Stout seemed to be trying to play in the same space that Michael Ian Black does but without the charm. Stout does a have a sharp sense of humor, but  he needs to find a way to be more authentic with his routine and material and perhaps learn some ease from Saget. (Also, an opening act shouldn’t keep checking his watch – it’s bad form).

For more info on Bob Saget:

Categories: Comedy Tags: , ,

Shop Local Portland – Amy Ruppel

December 8, 2009 No comments
Amy Rupel's Oregon

Amy Ruppel's Oregon

Now that the buy binge that is Black Friday has come and gone and you’ve snagged those $10 Blu-Rays from big box retailers and other doorbusters it’s time to open your wallet and support many of the great businesses, caftspeople and artists here in Portland.

I’m not knocking snagging some of those cheap cyber monday deals it’s just extremely important to support local.  In our first spotlight on a local business or artist you should support is Amy Ruppel. Amy is well known to many of you who follow the local art scene and she’s one of the artists who have made birds such a fashion and art craze here in Portland.

Although Amy might be best known for her birds it’s her new Oregon print entitled “home” that we’re crazy about. Amy is only doing 100 of these limited edition signed prints at only $40 each.  This is an insanely cheap price considering that Amy’s ‘stock’ is on the rise. Amy is working on a super secret project that will be getting her HUGE national exposure in 2010!  In addition to the Oregon print, Amy has a wide variety of holiday sized and priced works for sale. You can order these online or catch her along with MANY other amazing artists at the Crafty Wonderland on Sunday December 13th at the Oregon Convention Center 11am-7pm

For more information on Amy Ruppel:

Categories: Shopping Tags: ,

The Santaland Diaries with Wade McCollum Review

December 7, 2009 No comments
Wade McCollum in Portland Center Stage's The Santaland Diaries

Wade McCollum in Portland Center Stage's The Santaland Diaries

Wade McCollum is one of the select few performers in Portland that makes whatever performance he’s in one worth seeing. One of the most entertaining and likable people on stage in Portland, McCollum consistently delivers exciting and engaging performances well worth the price of admission. With Portland Center Stage‘s production of David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries we get just over an hour of pure McCollum.

The Santaland Diaries follows one fatefully holiday season when Sedaris decided to work as “Crumpet” an elf in Macy’s New York Santaland. The play takes place during Sedaris’ leaner starving artist period, long before he became a household name for his dry, witty and offen askewed humor. McCollum does an excellent job of capturing Sedaris’ wit and humor while making his performance feel very real and immediate. During the first part of the monologue McCollum reaches out to the audience to directly connect what he’s saying with people in the crowd. He acts more like a guy telling a wild tale at a party than someone on a stage.

As the piece continues more and more characters enter the story and McCollum literally embodies each with pitch perfect vocal and facial technique. McCollum does more than impersonate people he channels them and this makes this one man show feel like it’s populated by an entire cast of characters. One of the risks of McCollum’s Jim Carrey like talent is that he’d get so lost in all the characters he’d lose the sincere undertone of the piece. McCollum seems keenly aware of this and adeptly plays a wide range of emotional notes throughout the piece, ultimately leading a crescendo of emotion that feels as genuine and sincere as if it had really happened to McCollum himself.

Sedaris’ piece itself is far from perfect. There are definite highs and lows to it. The closer the piece gets to Christmas Eve the more rushed and muddled it becomes. But it does finally hit its mark as it covers the flood of last minute Christmas shoppers all clamoring for their chance to hang with Santa. If you aren’t a fan of One Life To Live (which I am not) there are a good number of jokes and references which will go right over your head.

The real reason to see The Santaland Diaries isn’t really for David Sedaris’ humor or even because it’s a nice holiday tale, it’s Wade McCollum. McCollum is so eminently entertaining, any time he steps on stage with this kind of electric energy it’s absolutely worth seeing and The Santaland Diaries is no exception.

The Santaland Diaries runs through January 2nd at Portland Center Stage. Tickets $44-$49. Due to demand the show won’t have any rush tickets.

For More info on The Santaland Diaries with Wade McCollum:

Imago Theater No Exit Review

October 22, 2009 No comments

“…being roasted on the spit, sulpher and brimstone. What a laugh! As if they needed it! Hell is other people.” Jean-Paul Sartre

You wouldn’t think that an existentialist play with three people who emotionally torture each other for an hour and a half would be so enjoyable, but Imago Theater‘s production of No Exit manages to find the playfulness and absurdity buried beneath the surface of Jean-Paul Sartre‘s famous play. Staged on a floating, tilting square, Imago’s No Exit is a dynamic and constantly moving production.

Imago's No Exit Tilting Stage

Imago's No Exit Tilting Stage

Imago’s No Exit stage pitches and moves under the weight and movement of the actors. This tilting and movement becomes more angular and dramatic as more actors are added to the mix. Using such a strong device to present the play, Imago ran the risk of having No Exit be a one trick pony. Through the first part of the play the novelty of the tilting stage does generate strong excitement, which tapers off as the play settles in. This transition point is handled extremely well and the staging transforms from a novelty into an essential character in the show. I loved how the moving stage changes the audience’s physical perspective on the show; at times, actors seem to float in the air in front of us, and at others they seem to be falling away into the darkness.

Director and set designer Jerry Mouawad seems to be constantly playing with the arrangement of the actors on stage, using that constantly shifting dynamic to enhance the tension and create drama. Mouawad does a fantastic job of coordinating the actors’ positioning, lighting and Sartre’s text into a piece that far exceeds anything that could be done on a conventional stage. Mouawad also seems to realize how important it is not to rely simply on the technical device of the teetering stage for the success of the show, so he injects a nice undercurrent of humor to balance things out.

Much of the humor in Imago’s production of No Exit is generated by Bryce Flint-Somerville who plays the role of the Valet. Bryce’s performance of the Valet is a blend of Dr. Daamen Caligari from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Jim Carrey. It’s a delicious mix of near-comic insanity which starts the play off on a fantastic note and carries it through the first half.

Tim True and JoAnna Johnson in No Exit

Tim True and JoAnna Johnson in No Exit

Bryce’s intensity and humor is well balanced by Tim True who plays Garcin, a pacifist writer who is at constant odds with the world and his sense of self. Tim True plays Garcin in near opposite to Bryce as he constantly draws his energy and intensity inwards rather than playing everything out in exageration. True is excellent throughout the production even though he seemed to stumble with his lines a few times throughout the evening. I’ll give True the benefit of the doubt here as I saw the production on opening night. I’m sure as he settles into the run these stumbles will vanish and he’ll be left with a simply exceptional performance.

Adding a much different kind of intensity is JoAnn Johnson, who plays Inez, an aging, lusting lesbian postal worker who has a flair for the dramatic. “I’m a bitch” exclaims Inez, and Johnson seems to enjoy every last morsel of playing that. At times it felt like Johnson was channeling Gloria Swanson, using her physicality to communicate in dramatic fashion as much as her words. Towards the end of the show Johnson injects something into a very serious moment that is so unexpected and disarming I had a hard time containing my laughter.

Maureen Porter in Imago's No Exit

Maureen Porter in Imago's No Exit

Maureen Porter rounds out this excellent cast playing a fantastically alive Estelle, a woman who lived to be desired and persued by men. Porter is captivating and when she performs her key monologue you simply can’t take your eyes off her. Unfortunately Porter’s performance is handicapped by an absolutely horrid blond wig that she wears through out the show. It’s Halloween bad and it greatly distracts and detracts from the performance. It may seem petty, but it sticks out so accutely and is really my only gripe with an otherwise fantastic production.

In other hands Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit might be a tough piece to get through. Loose in its narrative structure, extremely morose and tightly confined in a single space, a performance of No Exit runs the risk of making you feel utterly trapped and miserable. There is no schadenfreude in watching three people emotionally torture each other, but Jerry Mouawad and the Imago Theater company have found something immensely entertaining and even absurdly enjoyable within this play. Through its innovative staging and deliciously performed characters, Imago has created a fantastic piece of theater that is extremely enjoyable and absolutely worth seeing.

Imago Theater’s No Exit runs October 15th – November 15th [Thursday @ 7:00 ($28); Friday @ 7:30 ($33); Sat @ 2:00 ($33) & 7:30 ($39); Sunday @ 2:00 ($28) Youth/Senior tickets are $3 less.] The theater is located at 17 SE 8th Ave (just south of Burnside).

For more information on Imago Theater’s No Exit:

Categories: Theater Tags: