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February 4, 2016

What if you could peer into the hearts and minds of the participants of a middle-school spelling bee, just to see what makes them tick? What’s motivating them? What performance rituals do they employ to correctly spell words like autochthonous or eudaemonic?

Cottage Theatre’s new production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee answers these questions and more in a winning production directed by Mark VanBeever. 

January 28, 2016
Left: Billy Harrigan Tighe in The Book of Mormon. Photo credit: Johan Persson.
Right: Alexandra Ncube in The Book of Mormon. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

January 28, 2016

No holds barred: There is nothing the ladies in Disenchanted aren’t willing to throw down in an effort to overturn society’s ideal of a Disney princess. From tirades about historical inaccuracies to really dirty Pinocchio jokes, all’s fair in Actors Cabaret of Eugene’s (ACE) production of Dennis T. Giacino’s irreverent musical.

January 28, 2016

There’s something slightly off about University Theatre’s current production of Water by the Spoonful, the Pulitzer-winning second installment in Quiara Alegría Hudes’ trilogy of plays about a returning Iraqi War vet who struggles to reintegrate himself into civilian life in the U.S.

December 9, 2015

You just want a bra. You want to get in, buy a bra and get on with your life. But the next thing you know you’re shoved into some tiny space halfway between a broom closet and a dressing room with a powerfully strong older lady. Aggressively this woman bends you over and pulls you up and actually, physically pushes your breasts around with her hands, then calls the other women in the shop over to have a look.

You have lost all dignity. But you have found a really great-fitting bra.

December 3, 2015

What is it about the encroaching cold and dark that sends us shivering out into the night in search of a collective theater experience? Local theaters can smell our desire, and like an expert patisserie, they set out the most familiar, uplifting theatrical fare to tempt us.

There will be no angst-ridden, painful social statements made on stage this December. The holiday theater season is about warm, familiar classics to satisfy an audience hungry for community and tradition.

December 3, 2015

Most of us have grown up with the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge rediscovering his Christmas spirit and, while the story doesn’t change, our relationship to the story does. 

Sometimes life makes Scrooges of us all with its litany of heartbreak, missed opportunities and too much time wasted stressing about careers and money. That’s what makes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol so immortal. 

November 19, 2015

On the surface, Irish author Martin McDonagh’s plays are foul, transgressive affairs, full of piss and vinegar and erect middle fingers. In the tradition of his literary forbears Swift, Joyce and Beckett, McDonagh is a relentlessly physical writer given to depicting all manner of human grotesquery — violence, perversion, degradation, deformity and compulsive cussing of the worst kind.

November 12, 2015

Playwright David Ives (A Flea in Her Ear, Venus in Fur) calls his play The School for Lies a “translaptation” of French playwright Molière’s classic 1666 farce The Misanthrope. Lies is now playing at University Theatre under the direction of Tricia Rodley.

Ives has maintained much of the source material’s language. The play is written in rhyming verse, and Ives adds well-timed modern zingers for comic effect. 

November 5, 2015

Former Register-Guard columnist Bob Welch spins his popular Oregon stories for a live audience, Nov. 5-6.

“I had a great ride for 24 years and I wanted to find a way to say thank you,” Welch says. 

Enter live theater. 

“It’s a celebration of our state in stories, songs, images and, of course, s’mores,” Welch says.

An Oregon native, Welch is clearly smitten.

November 5, 2015

A delightfully satirical sendup, 2001’s Urinetown: The Musical by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, pokes fun at everyone, from poet Bertolt Brecht and Les Miz, to our legal system, politics and capitalism. Refreshingly irreverent, Urinetown is a musical’s musical, and it’s given the five-star treatment by the capable team at South Eugene High School (SEHS). 

October 29, 2015

What would you give up for a fabulous, famous life of brilliant academia? What would you sacrifice for the sacred, animal warmth of family? Pulitzer-nominated Rapture, Blister, Burn digs into these uncomfortable questions of feminism.

October 29, 2015

[Editor’s note: EW originally printed this article with the wrong cast names. We are very sorry for the error. The names have been corrected. Please see our post addressing this mistake and debunking the rumor that we reprinted an old review here.]

October 15, 2015

Neil Simon’s play Lost in Yonkers (1991) asks one of life’s universal questions: Why is my family so crazy?  

Simon is an accessible, sentimental and popular playwright. And Very Little Theatre wrings all the sentimentality it can from a strong and winning production.

Set in 1942, Lost in Yonkers tells the story of Eddie and his family. Eddie (Paul Rhoden) has gone into debt covering his recently deceased wife’s medical costs. 

October 8, 2015

The guitar wails above the heart-deep drumbeat. Dirty hands clank against a chain-link cage and the old story rushes at us, hammering home the memory of ego and betrayal that killed a man preaching kindness.

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.