News & Notes: We catch up and we fall behind

Some thoughts on Dave Frishberg and Rebecca Kilgore, "Song of the Dodo," Union Tanguera, and "Twist Your Dickens"

Last night I dropped by Ivories for a late supper with a few friends. On Wednesdays, Dave Frishberg and Rebecca Kilgore usually command the bandstand the lounge, and last night they were joined by Lee Wuthenow on tenor sax. Things were nice and informal, frequent collaborators getting together to share some old songs that hovered near the mainstream American Song Book without quite landing there. While I was listening, “Old Devil Moon” was probably the most central. The music they made was very smart, a little understated, and deeply proficient, and of course, I left with a smile on my face.

I also left thinking how many great experiences are available on any given night in Portland, even a Wednesday, and how any of them could sustain a long consideration (tonight at Ivories pianist Tom Grant continues his vocal showcase with Julie Collura and Heather Keizur). Anything involving these three certainly could, and I made a mental note to come back later with my reporter’s hat on and an empty notebook and pen in my pocket. But then I did the same thing, in a way, with Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble’s “Song of the Dodo”: I promised to get back to it later.

Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble's "Song of the Dodo"/Gary Norman

Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble’s “Song of the Dodo”/Gary Norman

I brought it up in the context of Veterans Day and Joe Sacco’s new graphic book on the Battle of the Somme, hoping to light on it again. And now it’s entering its closing weekend, and I haven’t. Fortunately, others have reviewed it positively and in a more timely fashion, including the Mercury’s Alison Hallett who concludes her review this way:

For me, a big measure of the success of a non-narrative show—when there are no characters to assess, no storyline to follow—is how effectively the show engages my curiosity. Do I want to understand this cryptic piece of theater? Is there humor and rigor? Am I motivated to understand how the pieces fit together? In the case of Song of the Dodo, the answer is yes.

I didn’t find “Dodo” cryptic, exactly. The three sections are comprehensible, though very different, and though they aren’t explicitly connected, they echo, one in the other. The play is a pastiche of elements (interviews with Katharine Hepburn and Nicol Williamson, who died last year, Euripides’ “Hecuba,” and yes, the song and antics of the dodo bird), and the juxtaposition of elements generally strangers to each other leads us to a deeper encounter than any of them might have generated by themselves. And the performances are excellent, not uniformly excellent, each excellent in its own way.

So yes, I could go on…


Let’s see, what other reminders do we need to give ourselves?

Why yes, Claudia Codega and Esteban Moreno’s French-Argentinian tango company, Union Tanguera, performs “Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night)” an inventive projection of the dance form into the 21st century through a story as old as tango itself—the flirtations, betrayals, and romance that can happen during one long night in Buenos Aires. Since Portland has a fairly large community of tango fans, the audience should be one of the attactions, too. White Bird is bringing them for three nights, Thursday-Saturday (Nov. 21-24), at the Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. Cold nights sometimes require hot dancing.

"Twist Your Dickens," Portland Center Stage/ Patrick Weishampel

“Twist Your Dickens,” Portland Center Stage/ Patrick Weishampel

The Second City comedy team of Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort have devised a zany (and R-rated) re-interpretation of “A Christmas Carol,” filled with comic sketches, improv and guest stars. The biggest star is Craig Cackowski (who plays “Officer Cackowski” on the TV sitcom “Community”) as Scrooge, though the cast is full of comedy veterans, including Second City’s Beth Melewski. “Twist Your Dickens” runs through December 22 at Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave. Goodness knows what they’d do to “Great Expectations” (but honestly, I’d like to find out.)

One Response.

  1. Cynthia Kirk says:

    Thanks, Barry, for the reminder about Dodo, which I’d noted a while ago…”sounds interesting.” I was able to get a closing night ticket.

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