If Portland In Play hoped to create a patchwork portrait of Portland, this is what it looks like: debates about being PC at food carts, spacey new age therapists, Bernie Sanders tramp stamps, homeless sages, hikers tripping on shrooms, cycling nurses, and illegal immigrant workers replacing the carpet at PDX.
Portland In Play is the first event held by the writers collective LineStorm Playwrights (formerly P-Town Playwrights). Ten playwrights wrote one ten-minute play, each located in a different part of Portland. Weaving a complete narrative in such a short time isn't easy, and most of the playwrights seemed to answer the challenge with emotional topics: suicide, dementia, homelessness, or coming out as transgender in a seemingly heterosexual relationship. But there was a pervasive sense of humor—often in the form of Portland stereotypes—even in the plays that deal with the heaviest topics.
The most distinct part of Portland In Play was its stripped-down production value. A narrator read stage directions; the actors glanced down at scripts on podiums, and there were no lighting changes or sound effects. The actors who weren't performing sat in a row of chairs at the back of the stage and laughed and cried at the plays along with the rest of the audience. The stripped-down style allowed the emphasis to be on the playwriting, as well as allowed the actors to play with the dissonance between what was written and what you actually saw. The actors could choose to stretch their miming abilities or setup a kind of deadpan punchline (like Michael Teufel and Enrique Eduardo do when they portrayed participants in the Naked Bike Ride despite clearly being clothed).
Even though all the plays were at the very least funny or intriguing, the quality of the individual plays seems almost irrelevant. Ultimately, it's just awesome that Portland In Play exists: New work from local playwrights in an interesting and creatively challenging format.
SEE IT: LineStorm Playwrights will hold Short & Sweet at Hipbone Studios as part of Fertile Ground in January. Check out their website for updates on events.