January 24th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BEN WATERHOUSE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Fertile Ground Day 2: Willow Jade

Willow Jade at Portland Playhouse

I only made it to one show on the second day of the Fertile Ground Festival (see our reviews from day one here): Hunt Holman's play Willow Jade, a social satire about a bunch of losers in a small Washington town that turns into something significantly stranger, which is getting a very short but very full production at Portland Playhouse.

The play blends absurdity with despair in the best way. Doug (Patrick Oury) returns to live in his mother's house after failing to find a career as a "professional role-playing game facilitator" in Seattle. His mom, Sondra (KB Mercer) has rented out the mother-in-law apartment he used to call home to a couple, Willow Jade and Clinton (Jazzi Mason and Ben Plont), who may or may not be a Seattle soccer coach and one of his underage players on the run from the law. Doug starts a game of dungeons and dragons with his high school friends Lance (JJ Johnston), a slacker who's just as hopeless as Doug, and Steve (Matthew Dieckman), a slimy real estate agent in expensive bike clothes. Everything goes more or less fine until the cops and orcs show up.

Willow Jade is by far the best piece of work I've seen so far at the festival. Holman's writing follows a one-two pattern, following up each gag with an even more absurd one. ("Pitbulls are totally docile as long as you keep them away from other dogs or small children" Sondra's no-good boyfriend explains, in answer to her wondering why the dogs don't keep out raccoons. "Especially Fang, 'cause I don't fight him too much.) The cast are mostly excellent, but Plont and Johnston are especially so. And the script fits well with Portland Playhouse's strengths, welcoming the crazy energy the company exhibited in last season's bobrauschenbergamerica.

Unfortunately, the show is only scheduled to run through next Saturday, though the company may extend the run if it sees sufficient ticket sales. So see it next weekend while you can!

Portland Playhouse, 602 NE Prescott St., 205-0715. 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays. Closes Jan. 31. $10-$19.

Did you see a show this weekend that we missed? Please share your experiences in the comments!
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