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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 11.26.08




A Holiday Hand

The men of Forever Plaid return to spread cheer

by Anna Grace

Earl Ruttencutter, Gerald Walters, Rob Rudeen and Don Kelley are The Four Plaids

The male harmony groups of the ’50s are dead, figuratively by the evolution of rock and roll in the ’60s — and literally in the case of The Four Plaids, hit by a bus full of Catholic schoolgirls heading to see The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.

But The Plaids were sent back to earth on a special mission: to give the one great performance they never had — you might have seen their performance in Forever Plaid. And that show did so well that their author has sent them back on another mission, this one in the name of Christmas Spirit, in Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings, now running at the Actors Cabaret of Eugene.

This is a fun musical revue. In the beginning, the boys in plaid can’t figure out what their mission is, but it seems to involve telling a lot of jokes and singing feel-good music. Then audience and characters alike figure out that there is no plot, but so what? Four goofy guys in Mr. Rogers sweaters make you laugh and smile.

Some wonderfully fun moments sparkle, such as an attempt to work the celebrations of every world religion into a Christmas carol.  A 3 minute, 11 second remake of The Ed Sullivan Show is reminiscent of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Note: Plenty of Baby Boomer nostalgia might make Gen Xers (and O-ers) want to take a boomer along for the unapologetically schmaltzy show.

In horn-rimmed glasses, a plaid jacket and cummerbund, actor/director Don Kelley is in his element. He leads a cast of able singers and should be pleased with their sound. Don Kelley’s charming portrayal of Smudge and his finely crafted harmonies are a treat. Ron Rudeen, Earl Ruttencutter and Gerald Walters round out the Plaids nicely.

The rehearsal focus must have been on the music, for while the singing is dreamy, the acting can be stiff. Still, for the most part the characters are charming and goofy; nobody’s bad.

The four singers’ mission, in the end, is to bring harmony to a discordant world. I entered the theater tired and wondering if there is a special place in hell for stores that blast sappy versions of Christmas songs in the weeks before Thanksgiving. I left feeling relaxed, thinking about where we’ll get our Christmas tree and wondering if I had the right ingredients to bake ginger cookies. The Four Plaids extend a hand to help us into the holiday season, and I’d recommend that we take it.

Plaid Tidings continues through December 14. Tix at www.actorscabaret.org or 683-4368.