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March 19, 2015

The year is 1928, the last gasp of the good times before the crash of the Great Depression. Fringe is flying, bathtub gin is flowing and Queenie and her man Burrs are in a bad romance.

March 19, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum captured our country’s imagination when it debuted on Broadway in 1962. A young Stephen Sondheim wowed audiences with an interesting score, providing a teaser to his masterful later works. The book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart is based on Plautus’ Roman comedies, resulting in a goofy, sometimes brainy farce that manages to reflect a deep respect for the humor of antiquity.

March 5, 2015

When it comes to accessing the arts, sometimes money isn’t the only obstacle. Institutions like museums, theaters and concert halls may inadvertently express an air of exclusivity, creating an invisible barricade to community members who don’t fit the profile of “arts patron.” 

Locally, the Eugene Opera is addressing this issue through its innovative Community Tix program, which provides free and reduced tickets to its performance season, along with something less tangible: a sense of belonging. 

February 26, 2015

Alas, poor George and Martha: As the boozy, bitchy combatants at the center of Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, these two go at it like rabid animals, incapable of restraint, tearing at each other in an alcohol-fueled barrage of verbal abuse, all set to the tinkling rhythms of ice plinking against a cocktail glass. And the beating goes on.

February 19, 2015

Veteran teacher, director, author and the inspiration for Ms. Wingit of the nationally syndicated cartoon Stone Soup, Judy Wenger is a Eugene icon. And she’s directing again, with a gleeful adaptation of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs for Rose Children’s Theatre.

During her 37 years in education, Wenger developed a theory of theater education that rests heavily on community and respect, at the expense of starpower.

February 12, 2015

Chronicling the lives of five women in show business, the new play Five of a Kind spans half a century of friendship and social transformation. Written by Anita Dwyer and Adrienne Armstrong, the play premieres this week, Feb. 13-15, in a “reader’s theater” format at the Very Little Theatre. 

February 5, 2015

Send Shakespeare to the moon.

Put him in the middle of Nazi Germany, the antebellum South, the Prague Spring, the Whiteaker Block Party. The miracle of Shakespeare’s plays, and the iambic mechanics of their impossible flexibility, is that wherever you set them, Shakespeare more or less remains Shakespeare — even in Castro’s Cuba.

February 5, 2015

Lane Community College’s inaugural Playwright’s Showcase 2015 gives student playwrights the chance to see their nascent works come to life onstage while also gaining real-world expertise in arts management. Through this innovative program, students not only nurture creative projects, but they learn firsthand how plays are produced and promoted.   

This year’s showcase, which runs Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 12-15, features five plays, each written and directed by students or former students.   

January 29, 2015

Caryl Churchill’s new play Love and Information is simultaneously the worst and the best first-date idea ever. In the intimate horseshoe shape of UO’s Hope Theatre, the play’s litany of 57 scenes and 100-plus characters was so relentless that it never occurred to me to shift so that my date could grab my hand. 

January 15, 2015

Ah, yes — when God finally arrives in all his glory to destroy the wicked and raise up the true believers in a dazzling city of eternal happiness, how beautiful it all will be! Right? Right?

December 11, 2014

It’s a timeless literary trope, from Ecclesiastes to Groundhog Day: A cynical man, mired in despair and the funk of worldly resentments, is confronted with the error of his ways to such an extent that he undergoes an immediate and permanent transformation, emerging from darkness into light. Such victories of the spirit are the epitome of happily ever after, and we never tire of their telling.

December 11, 2014

Bob, Phil and Larry are in the existential hell that is the 26th-floor suite of a Holiday Inn overlooking Wichita, Kansas. Their JCPenney grey suits and their hopes of selling industrial lubricant set the prosaic scene for this morality tale. 

November 26, 2014

There’s something fuzzy and bittersweet about that old populist daydream of an adorable orphan so possessed by optimism that her mere presence can sand down the rough edges of a capitalist tycoon and compel an embattled president to launch the New Deal.

If that’s not a political fairy tale for a bygone era, I don’t know what is.

November 13, 2014

Well, this is certainly not your grandmother’s Jane Austen. With overt sexuality, barebones plotting and updated humor, University Theatre has taken Austen’s beloved classic out for a new spin that, depending on your sensibility, may or may not make sense.

November 13, 2014

When the new musical Constance & Sinestra and the Cabinet of Screams premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the summer of 2011, Lane Community College student Anna Parks happened to catch a performance of the quirky show. Parks later brought the idea of presenting the offbeat musical to LCC’s Student Production Association, and after clearing sizeable hurdles to secure the rights to the play, the LCC theater will be among the first venues outside of the UK to debut this darkly twisted fairy tale. 

November 6, 2014

Who can resist a story that starts with a trio of children flying out the bedroom window to a land where you never grow up? Add a fearsome, hook-handed sea captain and a mischievous fairy, and you are solidly in the grasp of the marvelous adventure of Peter Pan, a version of which — Disney’s Peter Pan Jr. — opens Friday, Nov. 7, at Churchill High School under the auspices of Rose Children’s Theatre. 

October 30, 2014

As perhaps Eugene’s foremost purveyor of new theatrical works, artistic director Craig Willis at Oregon Contemporary Theatre (OCT) is a tireless advocate of the hidden gem, the offbeat barnburner, the unfamiliar fandango. For Willis, the hunt is always on. He spends many a weekend traveling hither and yon along the coast — to Portland, to Seattle — attending table reads and walk-throughs of new plays, all in dogged pursuit of something fresh and lively for audiences here in town.

October 16, 2014

Deception — slick, fertile, invasive deception. The Very Little Theatre’s latest production, Private Eyes, floods the theater with the sickening ocean of emotion that comes from being lied to by a lover, then dangles a life preserver just out of reach. This funny and painful play examines the concept of deceit in every possible manner: the deceit of your spouse, your shrink, yourself, even your audience.

October 9, 2014

Tossing aside its usual family fare, the Cottage Theatre reaches for something darker in its current production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins

“Angry men don’t write the rules,” sings the infamous John Wilkes Booth, ably played by Kory Weimer, “and guns don’t right the wrongs.”

Booth is just one of nine assassins who have their day in this 1990 musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and songbook by John Weidman. 

October 2, 2014

The frontline of the fight for civil rights isn’t only in the courtroom or marching down the street, but on stage from Alaska to New York City to Eugene.

Interdisciplinary performance artist Ryan Conarro visits the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art this week to perform his latest work, this hour forward, a multi-media production reflecting the changing state of marriage rights. 

“It’s a piece exploring family, love, marriage, identity and the gay rights movement,” Conarro tells EW.

September 25, 2014

The Ghosts of Tonkin, a dramatic work about the Vietnam War by Bellingham, Washington-based playwright Steve Lyons, will show Sunday, Sept. 28, at Wildish Theatre. Lyon’s play is a behind-closed-doors investigation of the political maneuvering that led to the conflict, focusing on such historical figures as Robert McNamara, Barry Goldwater, Lyndon Johnson and Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, one of only two U.S. senators to vote against the war.

I’ll start by playing devil’s advocate. Why do we need another dramatic work about Vietnam?

September 18, 2014

Within minutes of meeting Becky (Storm Kennedy), the modern-day Madame Bovary at the center of Steven Dietz’s comedy Becky’s New Car, this frenetic, chatty woman has addressed the congregated, welcomed us into her cluttered living room and even enlisted an unsuspecting audience member in helping her stop a drip in the ceiling.

September 18, 2014

Cartoonist Charles “Chas” Addams shared his penchant for the macabre in The New Yorker for more than five decades. Who can forget Wednesday Addams and her brother Pugsley gleefully playing with a tiny guillotine on Christmas morning? Or Uncle Fester opening up the medicine chest only to reveal it’s full of poison? 

August 28, 2014

The plays of Shakespeare are infinitely flexible, capable of being transported across time to various historic eras and transplanted into soils that are vastly different than those originally intended. Some adaptations work splendidly, others not so much: I’ve seen the Bard by turns relocated to late-20th-century Venice Beach, wedged wickedly into Nazi Germany and, not too long ago, given the hipster goose of modern Manhattan.