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November 25th, 2009 WW Editorial Staff | Theater
 

Unholy Nights

Three unconventional holiday shows, in order of depravity.

     
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THE LYING KIND
IMAGE: Owen Carey

HOLIDAZED (Artists Rep)
Last November, Artists Rep premiered this pan-holiday comedy by Marc Acito and C.S. Whitcomb, which covers the entire season from Halloween to Christmastime. It has been brought back, according to the company’s P.R., by popular demand. Supermom Julia (Susannah Mars), who scrambles to balance holiday preparations with Luna (Ana Reiselman), a homeless, pagan teen who charms her way into Julia’s heart and household. Though some may find the time-old messages of love and charity touching, it’s a far cry from A Christmas Carol and the hokey script isn’t always saved by the talented actors supporting it. Mars gives an energized and skillful performance but is too often dragged down by camp, in the form of her drag-queen college friends, or schmaltz, in the form of the ghost of her hippie mother. Michael Mendelson, playing multiple roles, gives the most endearing performances—specifically as Julia’s sister, Krystee, who manages to make even a hair flip hilarious. Jon Kretzu’s direction makes for an entertaining two hours, but for a holiday tale it lacks heart, despite an impressive turn in the second act from Reiselman. ALI ROTHSCHILD.

THE LYING KIND (Third Rail Rep)
What does it take to entice Third Rail, a company fond of very loud, very dark comedies, to stage a show during the sappy-but-profitable final six weeks of the year? Bobbies, vigilantes and an excruciatingly awkward strip scene. Anthony Neilson’s bitter farce tasks a pair of cowardly cops (John Steinkamp and Michael O’Connell) with informing an elderly couple (Jacklyn Maddux and Richard Matthews) that their daughter has been killed while driving home on Christmas Eve. They do their best, but, through a series of increasingly preposterous misunderstandings, wind up juggling an angry chihuahua, an unstable pensioner, two concussed bystanders (Damon Kupper and Amy Palomino) and a thuggish mother (Isaac Lamb) hell-bent on finding a pedophile to torture and lynch. Cheery! It’s far from the best play the company has staged, or, but for Lamb’s wonderfully vulgar hooligan, the best performances I’ve seen from the cast of some of Portland’s best actors, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. Neilson doesn’t seem to have any greater ambition with this script than to entertain and throw spitballs at Britain’s culture of mob justice, and that suits me just fine. His madcap shaggy dog story (the dog being, in this instance, a corpse) is a refreshingly cynical antidote to the season’s schmaltz. BEN WATERHOUSE.

BINGO WITH THE INDIANS (Portland Playhouse)
This extraordinarily obscene comedy by Adam Rapp, about a trio of theater artists—a war-obsessed lesbian director (Lava Alapai), sneakily sinister gay stage manager (Brian Weaver) and drug-addled actor (John San Nicholas)—in a shabby motel room, plotting the robbery of a small-town bingo night to finance the production of a terrible-sounding new work, contains no reference to the holidays. It does contain some of the most creatively foul-mouthed banter I’ve ever encountered in the theater (“clean my gun, you flabby-titted ho” is representative of Rapp’s force, if not his wit), a lengthy sampling of Three Sisters, onstage anal defloration (simulated) of the motel-owner’s son, a cocaine-fueled rap about a fetishist buying dirty diapers from a 2-year-old girl, dick waggling, face-stomping and a lot of big-idea talk about the magic of theater. The Tarantinoesque heist-flick opening scene belies an intensely creepy story of seduction and alienation. A stage warmup exercise, “smile/unsmile,” in which an actor holds a smile until his partner tells him to stop, becomes a metaphor for the narrative, which lurches between hilarity and horror as abruptly as the fleeting facial expressions of it characters. There are a lot of ideas floating around in this script, but they don’t coalesce into anything coherent. Despite some excellent acting—San Nicolas’ pornographic swaggering as cokehead Stash might be the best performance I’ve seen this year—Bingo misses the jackpot. BEN WATERHOUSE.


SEE IT: Holidazed: Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St., 241-1278. 7:30 pm Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 pm Sundays. Closes Dec. 20. $20-$47. The Lying Kind: World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St., thirdrailrep.org. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays. Closes Dec. 13. $15-$29. Bingo With the Indians: The Church, 602 NE Prescott St., 205-0715. 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays. Closes Dec. 13. $14-$19.
 
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