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April 10, 2014

A soul stolen by a photograph, a tree-worshiping Christian camper and five wildly different folks stuck in a box: It can only be the Northwest Festival of Ten-Minute Plays, the fascinating evening that feels like flipping up rocks and seeing a pulsating world beneath, then moving to the next. NW10 encompasses all the grand excitement of sharing art without any of the pretension.

March 27, 2014

British theater is heady, chewy stuff — especially British farce, which typically excels in wit and wordplay. Consider, for instance, a playwright like Sir Tom Stoppard, who included in his masterpiece Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead a scene in which the two leads play a rapid-fire “Game of Questions” that is essentially verbal Ping-Pong on speed. In general, American drama post-Tennessee Williams lacks such linguistic finery.

March 20, 2014

More so than any other theater company in town, Actors Cabaret of Eugene continues to reflect the spirit and ethos of Eugene. Led by artistic director Joe Zingo and executive director/producer Joe Roberts — and with help from the indomitable Mark Van Beever, whose music direction is always top tier — ACE channels the best of our local culture by remaining free-spirited and at the same time hewing close to a tradition that is equal parts frontier strong and renegade D.I.Y.

March 13, 2014

Spiritual fracture and cultural alienation are at the heart of Ecstasy: A Water Fable, a play by Egyptian-American writer Denmo Ibrahim based on the Sufi tale “When the Waters Were Changed.” Directed by Michael Malek Najjar, UO’s University Theatre’s production of Ibrahim’s work — a triptych that flashes among three characters all seeking some form of reconnection with their origins — is technically adept and swift, clocking in at about 90 minutes.

March 6, 2014

Lavish parties, love, murder, truth and ennui: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 tale of the amoral moneyed class continues to raise questions in a new century.

Tangled up in someone else’s messy, selfish love triangle, Nick Carraway is simultaneously dazzled and disgusted by the wealthy residents of Long Island. His questions of money, power and what some people expect to be able to buy in this world are particularly apt in 2014. 

February 27, 2014

The Phoinix Players have made it their ongoing — and often lonely — mission to single-handedly revive musical theater in Eugene, and they do an admirable job at conjuring the sort of song-and-dance productions that sent Broadway hellzapoppin’ from the era of Tin Pan Alley to the Great Depression. The troupe, a clutch of talented 20-somethings, is adept at mounting small-scale floorshows that oftentimes achieve a kind of retro grandeur. When they’re on, they hit the mark beautifully.

February 13, 2014

Lord knows, existentialism is old hat by now: It’s practically taken for granted among the cognoscenti that God is dead, life is meaningless, language is a prison, we are alone, etc., etc. Used to be the muscular existentialist pose involved an angry brow knitted under a fedora, with cigarette ash dropping upon a tattered copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra; now, every 13-year-old playing Grand Theft Auto with a belly full of Dr. Pepper knows that life is a bunk game, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

February 6, 2014

John Cariani’s 2004 romantic comedy, Almost, Maine, flopped when it opened in New York but is now the most produced play in our high schools, which might just tell you everything you need to know about this play that is beseechingly quaint and cosmically cute but not altogether lacking in bite.

January 30, 2014

Some things never change, especially in Eugene, where great pockets of time stop and drop into a sinkhole of self-fertilization. Look at our eternal perpetuation of hippie nostalgia, which has become a cottage industry in itself, for better and worse. Marx noted that all great historical moments — like the long-gone Age of Aquarius, for instance — occur twice, the first time as tragedy and the second as farce, and for those among us who forget that Easy Rider did not have a happy ending, a pair of plays currently in production carry a strong corrective message.

January 23, 2014

“I don’t understand what you are trying to say. I have never understood anything you are trying to say,” says George, the protagonist of The Language Archive.

Can you love language but have no words for love? George is a passionate linguist but a passive spouse. He cannot express his love for Mary. She, in turn, hides odd little poems about her unhappiness and then denies ever writing them, such as, “Husband or throw pillow? Wife or hot-water bottle? Marriage or an old cardigan? Love or explaining how to use the remote control?”

January 16, 2014

You can be in. You can be out. That goes for all of us, wherever we are. Every community, no matter how open, has its own rules and its own method of communication.

Billy’s family is no different. 

December 12, 2013

John Oldman is either a “caveman, a liar or a nut.” A tenure-track professor quite suddenly announces his departure from the university where he has comfortably taught for 10 years. His fellow professors insist on the ritual of cheese, crackers and a proper going away, only to have their party ruined when John works up the courage to tell them the truth. He is 14,000 years old. He never ages, never dies and has been adrift in the world since the late Paleolithic age, learning about himself as the world comes to understand its own history.

December 5, 2013

“Why Star Trek?” asks Christina Allaback, an adjunct theater professor at the University of Oregon. “Why not Star Trek?”

November 27, 2013

If you’d been living in a swamp since you were seven, you might not be too concerned with personal hygiene either. Still, while he’s not the handsomest of guys, with his green skin, bulbous nose and trumpeting ears, Shrek has plenty of odoriferous humor and heart, and he’ll need both to save Duloc’s fairy tale creatures, rescue the princess and cope with his new sentimental feelings of … love? 

November 27, 2013

Movies are grand, but theater is alive — something to remember as the 2013-2014 season settles into its groove.

When we recline in our cozy seats before the big screen, we are supplicating before a product, a bit of prefabricated horseplay that, despite our various responses, is as inflexible and immutable as a ride on a roller coaster.

November 14, 2013

Czech-born playwright Tom Stoppard was knighted as a British subject in 1997, a gesture of literary pomp that, while entirely deserved, nonetheless must have struck Sir Tom as a delicious twist of irony.

November 14, 2013

At the North Crawford Mask & Wig Club, Central Connecticut’s finest community theater, Tom Newton is waxing philosophical on love, pure and complicated. 

“The way I see it,” he notes, “love and theater have a lot in common. They’re both seductive. They both make promises they can’t always keep. And they’re both chock-full of attractive people who are maybe just a little too addicted to drama.” 

October 24, 2013

Brian Haimbach waited, watched and learned. His first year as the lead theater faculty at Lane Community College slipped by as Haimbach got to know the college and the community.

Now, he’s ready to bust out some change. 

Haimbach’s vision encompasses transfer degrees, acting competitions, community connections and the revamping of a vibrant old theater department.

October 17, 2013

“Even if he was a communist, why would he have cards printed up?” the writer asks, hearing that General George Marshall has just been accused by Joseph McCarthy of being a card-carrying communist. It’s just another day at the office — the crazy, neurotic, hysterical office for Lucus (Zachary Twardowski) as he tries to make it as a comedy writer for a major comedian against the pressures of lowering network standards and Cold War propaganda.

October 10, 2013

The Knights Who Say “Ni.” The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog and the Gorge of Eternal Peril. A three-headed giant, a sorcerer named Tim and that petulant French sentry who threatens to “fart in your general direction” before vowing to “taunt you a second time.”

October 3, 2013

It’s Fronkonsteen!” he barks, steadfastly denying his monster-making roots in Transylvania. But when the death of his grandfather necessitates a trip back to the family castle, the temptation is too great. The young neuroscientist’s eyes glow as he reads through his infamous grandfather’s notes. He becomes possessed by possibility of creating life. The townsfolk, long horrified by the Frankenstein family business of animating corpses, don’t trust this transplanted New Yorker with a turnip, much less a newly dead body and an abnormal brain.

September 26, 2013

It’s the stickiest month of the year in rural Oklahoma, and the air conditioning is off. That’s the way Violet Weston likes it, despite the fact that she’s hosting a houseful of sweltering family members who’ve gathered in her home following her husband’s disappearance. Her three daughters are here, and they’ve brought assorted husbands and children in tow. Caring for seemingly fragile Violet in her hour of need should feel like a “Very Special Episode” of your favorite TV show.

September 12, 2013

A pair of city slickers arrives in a podunk town. They’ve come to close the local saloon, which is financially strapped. The businessmen’s trip is something of a lark; though their mission is clandestine and cutthroat, they find the saloon, and the people in it, quaint and charming. One of the businessmen starts to fall for the saloon’s proprietress, a gorgeous, lovelorn woman with a stubborn streak. Drama ensues, and the whiskey flows. Fights erupt. Hearts collide.

September 5, 2013

Found Space Theatre tackles tough issues with Two Mothers Speak: Memoirs of a Passion