Theatrical progress

A venue-to-venue tour of Portland
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  January 2, 2008

As an avid theater-goer, there are times when I hanker to positively consume a fine play — to invite its essence into the deepest crannies of my cells, to imbibe its very spirit, rendered distilled and quaffable. An impossible, overblown desire? But no, gentle reader. Not in the Phoenix’s perennial issue of Ideas. Please indulge me now in my contribution to theatrical Things Which Should Be, The First Annual Portland Stage Rage.

Or, if you like, the “Scene Careen” — for we will all surely be careening by the end of it. Like its well-loved forbear, the Pub Crawl, the Rage will take a crew of aficionados tramping from venue to venue, this time encountering specially-orchestrated excerpts, personnel, and beverages. Read along and imbibe vicariously as I present a possible mock-up/prototype for The First Annual Portland Stage Rage:

We start upstairs at Amigo’s, order up an array of tequila shots and margaritas, and settle back for a few potent swills of Tennessee Williams’s Night of the Iguana. In Puerto Barrio, on the west coast of Mexico, we meet the nervous, defrocked Rev. Dr. Shannon (I envision Lanyard founder Kevin O’Leary) — now a bus-tour guide. He’s brought a busload of hostile lady Baptists to the cheap, bohemian hotel run by wanton widow Maxine (Karen Ball). Here he exchanges various encounters with the carnal Maxine, with a Lolita-type schoolgirl (Kat Kiernan), and with an ethereal spinster traveling with her grandfather (Liz Chambers).

After a few rounds in lush, lyrical Mexico, we trudge uptown as far as Brian Boru, where we regroup over tall glasses of porter. Here, our setting is the rough public house (or shebeen) of Michael James, in County Mayo; our script, J.M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. When stranger Christy Mahon comes into town claiming to have killed his father, vicarious thrills (rather than moral approbation) abound. Since this play was produced so heartily last year by AIRE, I propose keeping their excellent cast, which included Tony Reilly as the pubkeeper, and Nate Amadon as the patricidal stranger.

Now a few drinks into the blocking of our Rage, while we feel the beginnings of anesthetization but can still appreciate a good sting, it’s time to detour into the realm of that worst, most superfluous scourge of the theatrical landscape: the critic. However bitter, snarky, and addicted to gin the reviewers of the local theater pages may be, they can’t hold a candle to Dorothy Parker, who was so wittily caustic (she famously noted that Katherine Hepburn “ran the gamut of emotions from A to B”) that she was canned by Vanity Fair. Stage Ragers will encounter Parker’s catty observations (to be read by this reviewer) and her martinis, at the Top of the East — in the spirit of her spiffy 1920s haunt, the Oak Room of Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel.

We now proceed farther west to a view of the Casco Bay Bridge at the foot of Brackett Street. Yes, our Rage now makes a stop at the seedy Icehouse. Here, over the cheapest and most corrosive of whiskey, we will hear from the grackle of drunken pipedreamers, pimps, former anarchists, and stools of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. Among the slew we’ll have Keith Anctil, Chris Horton, Paul Haley, Craig Ela, David Butler, and Tony Reilly (doing a quick-change, if he’s amenable). As the young Anarchist lad whose who has secretly ratted out his Anarchist mom, we’ll have Ian Carlsen; and as Hickey — the hardware salesman whose arrival and lavish spending everyone anticipates — Mark Honan.

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