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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.

August 6, 2014

Intellectual though he was, writer H.L. Mencken positively came undone, his friend Anita Loos observed, under the beguiling spell of some … blonde.

August 6, 2014

Ellie Greenwich is the boss. A master songwriter, Greenwich had a hand in composing buckets of Top 40 hits, such as “Chapel of Love,” “Hanky Panky,” “Da Doo Ron Ron” and other baby-boomer jams.

July 16, 2014

Throughout the opening night performance of Grease at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, I noted that my 8-year-old companion, and the elderly gentleman next to him, were both alternately laughing, clapping or simply enthralled. Young and old, they were watching a musical from the 1970s about teenagers from the 1950s; they were both loving it.

June 25, 2014

A limitless cosmos of doorways and dead-ends, New York City is a dream, as much a state of mind as it is a place on the map. Adam Gwon’s 2009 musical Ordinary Days beautifully captures the chaotic flux of NYC in a nutshell, by reflecting in microcosm the city’s everyday influence on the romantic lives of two couples. Deceptively simple in form, Gwon’s love letter to Gotham is a minor masterpiece of lyricism and perk, condensing worlds of emotion into a mere 90 minutes.

June 19, 2014

“A lot of people around age 13 are trying to find themselves,” says Jenny Bryant, performing this weekend in 13 at Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene. Castmate Angel McNabb adds, “The play relates to middle school, because kids are always trying to find a group where they fit in.” 

With music and lyrics by the Tony award-winning American playwright Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn and direction and choreography by Lanny Mitchell, 13 features a cast of young people from around the region, ranging in age from 10 to 16.

June 19, 2014

According to Aristotle, comedy is harder to pull off than tragedy, and farce is the most challenging genre of all. How to get the audience to emotionally engage with all of the goofy plot twists, the ridiculous sight gags and the improbable situations? How to, in the immortal words of film star Donald O’Connor, “Make ’em laugh?” Well, if the lofty goal is a good old-fashioned giggle, then Cottage Theatre’s Moon Over Buffalo doesn’t disappoint. 

June 12, 2014

Claire, Jason, Warren and Deb are just four ordinary New Yorkers, but their lives intersect in the most extraordinary ways as they search with classic longing for love and fulfillment in a very modern setting.

Ordinary Days is a contemporary musical by up-and-coming American composer Adam Gwon. According to Charles Isherwood of The New York Times, “Mr. Gwon writes crisp, fluid and often funny lyrics that reflect the racing minds of the four New Yorkers on a nervous search for their immediate futures.”

June 5, 2014

According to Dr. La Donna Forsgren, playwright and associate professor of theater arts at University of Oregon, there are three things newcomers should know when they sit down to enjoy her adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at Hope Theatre:

1. Clap when you want.

2. Laugh when something funny happens.

3. Dance along if you like the music.

(Oh, and there will be a bathroom break, too.)

May 29, 2014

According to the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers, 13 percent of American high school bio teachers explicitly teach creationism in the classroom. Sixty percent give evolution very little class time and 17 percent don’t even touch the subject at all, wanting to avoid the whole controversy. These statistics speak to the state of radical religious interference with education, which gives a ’50s play new relevance in the 21st century.