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ArtsWatch Weekly: ‘Broomstick,’ Charles Addams, and other frights

By Bob Hicks
October 27, 2015
News & Notes

Here in this little corner of Oregon ArtsWatch World Headquarters, we still get a little excited about Halloween. The current occupant, when he was a child, lived in a place where a few outhouses still dotted the countryside, and he recalls the breathless tales of marauding high-school miscreants out on holiday crime sprees, tipping the things over whether they happened to be in use or not. Ah, tradition: That’s what makes America great.

We like hot apple cider (maybe with a shot), and Night on Bald Mountain or The Monster Mash blaring on the music box, and tykes in strange costumes knocking on the door in a mad quest for high fructose corn syrup in its stickier forms. On the evidence, a lot of other people like this ritualized revel on the dark side, too.


In the Día de los Muertos/Halloween mood: Milagro Theatre's La Muerte Baila swirls with the season of the dead. Photo: Russell J. Young

In the Día de los Muertos/Halloween mood: Milagro Theatre’s La Muerte Baila swirls with the season of the dead. Photo: Russell J. Young

  • Veteran actor Vana O’Brien grabs onto Broomstick, New Orleans playwright John Biguenet’s solo show that the Los Angeles Times calls “an arresting blend of evocative humor and eerie gravitas … about an Appalachian crone who may or may not be a witch.” At Artists Rep; opening night (natch) Halloween.
  •  Michael Graves’s Portland Building, which has something of a nightmare reputation of its own, hosts a Dia de los Muertos installation Wednesday through November 4, a collaboration of muralist Rodolfo Serna, young artists from the  Boys & Girls Club, and members of Portland’s Mexica Tiuhui Aztec dance group.
  • Stumptown Stages’ musical-theater version of Stephen King’s bloody fable Carrie, which Christa Morletti McIntyre, in her ArtsWatch review, says “celebrates the worst of us,” continues to knock ’em dead in the Brunish.
  • Milagro Theatre continues its original Day of the Dead show, La Muerte Baila: A Last Dance To Remember Forever, through November 8. Go ahead: Dance like your life depends on it.
  • And sure enough, the Oregon Symphony‘s chipping in Friday night with a show called Disney in Concert: Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ a title that allows us the frightening pleasure of putting the words “Disney,” “Nightmare,” and “Christmas” in the same sentence. (It’s a Danny Elfman score. That’s a good thing. The show’s sold out. That’s a bad thing.)


And just when you thought you were getting out of this thing alive, here comes Charles Addams.

Yes, that Charles Addams, the one known to television and movie nostalgists for The Addams Family, and to fans of The New Yorker and other havens of cartoon art for his fabulous forays over a long and illustrious career into the everyday macabre: his famous image of the ski tracks in the snow going neatly around a tree, one line elegantly on either side, and continuing sublimely down the slope, for instance; or the one of Medusa scowling in the chair at a hair salon, a clutch of perplexed stylists trying to figure out what to do with the snakes. Their prospects do not look good.

Image used with permission from The Tee and Charles Addams Foundation.

Image used with permission from The Tee and Charles Addams Foundation.

I dropped in Saturday night at Cerimon House, in the Alberta Arts District, for the chautauqua-style arts and humanities center’s gala reopening celebration after an ambitious stem-to-stern remodeling, and got a sneak peek at Charles Addams: Family and Friends, an exhibition of 52 original pen and ink illustrations, a few of them quite large, from Addams’ cartoons. The show opens officially on Thursday, and runs through December 13. It’s a West Coast premiere of this exhibit, which slithers wryly around the building’s halls and walls, and it’s great fun to spot the originals of cartoons you remember fondly, and to discover ones you’d somehow missed. Addams, who was born in 1912 and died in 1988, had his finger firmly on the pulse (or maybe the exposed carotid artery) of the American psyche. He domesticated horror, making it just another form of everyday normality, creating a puckish universe balanced neatly and gleefully on the slender line between light and dark. And, of course, entertaining millions along the way with his heady, cheeky, outlandishly civilized cartoons. Catch ’em if you can.



ArtsWatch links


Marie Equi and Mary Jr. in 1920. Photo courtesy Oregon Historical Society.

Marie Equi and Mary Jr. in 1920. Photo courtesy Oregon Historical Society.

Portland’s lost radical. Angie Jabine, reviewing Michael Hellquist’s “vivid new biography,” discovers Marie Equi, a fascinating and largely forgotten figure from the city’s radical days of the early twentieth century, a woman who marched side by side with Margaret Sanger and was arrested with her.

Buskers’ holiday: a musical tour of Europe’s streets. Portland writer and photographer Angela Allen turns her camera and notebook on the street music of Europe, discovering a wealth of styles and approaches.

Keeping up with the Joneses. Reviewing Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses at Third Rail Rep, I find “quiet heartbreak and existential whimsy,” plus some fine acting and a surprising number of laughs.

Music for the theater. ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell goes to two new shows in which music is a crucial theatrical element – The Sound of a Voice at Theatre Diaspora and the premiere of Cuba Libre at Artists Rep – and discovers radically differing approaches.


Katherine Longstreth's evidence of dance past.

Katherine Longstreth’s evidence of dance past.

Marginal Evidence: the art of dance. Martha Ullman West investigates dancer and choreographer Katherine Longstreth’s own investigation, in a gallery installation, of her own past and artistic processes, and likes what she sees.

The doctor said play them that video game music, it seems to make them feel just fine. Writer Maria Choban finds kids are discovering vivid and vital contemporary music in a place that might surprise their parents and cultural hand-wringers in general: the video games they play.

Northwest Dance Project: now and wow. The Portland company’s most recent “New Now Wow!” program, I write, shows off the dancers’ excellent form, particularly in the return of resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem’s excellent Mother Tongue.

Tipsy in the city: all fall down. Marty Hughley reviews Adam Bock’s Drunken City at Theatre Vertigo, a play, Marty writes, that “has a knack for studding innocuous barbs and doomy discord,” and which is also, well, fun.

Drunk in the city: one flask over the line. Photo: Theatre Vertigo

Drunk in the city: one flask over the line. Photo: Theatre Vertigo




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