Cassandra Boice

Love’s Labour’s Lost: on Post5’s uncertain future

The scrappy theater company hits a crossroads, with no artistic leadership, the loss of its nonprofit status, and no shows in the immediate future

From its beginnings in 2011, Post5 Theatre has had its fingers on a vital part of Portland’s pulse. The often packed houses have swayed between a rowdy fellowship and an emotional entourage, depending on the comedy or tragedy on stage. And it’s done it at bargain ticket prices, allowing it to develop a younger and broader audience than many of the city’s higher-budget companies.

Now all of that is endangered, and the company’s survival is in question: there will be no new productions at least through the first few months of 2017. The leadership triumvirate of artistic directors Paul Angelo, Rusty Tennant and Patrick Walsh resigned early this month after announcing the company had lost its Sellwood district home and revealing that it had also lost its vital 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which is crucial for fundraising and tax purposes. The company’s board expects Post5 to regain its nonprofit standing. But even with that, it now faces the difficulty and expense of finding a new performing space in a tight real-estate market. And it has no artistic leadership.

Bill Cain's "Equivocation," directed by Paul Angelo and featuring Todd Van Voris (left) and Keith Cable, was a hit for Post5 in September 2015. Russell J Young photo

Bill Cain’s “Equivocation,” directed by Paul Angelo and featuring Todd Van Voris (left) and Keith Cable, was a hit for Post5 in September 2015. Russell J Young photo

Earlier this year in an interview with Willamette Week, Angelo, Tennant and Walsh commented on the changes taking place at Post5 under their leadership after months of silence to the press and ticket buyers. The trio’s artistic direction was a departure from that of founders Ty and Cassandra Boice, who had come to embody what the company was about. Ty was a handsome leading man and deft comic actor with a devoted following. Cassandra was a smart and canny director with deep comic chops. Together they worked long and hard and set the tone for what became known as a scrappy, creatively populist company that was counted on for, among other things, smooth and accessibly populist Shakespeare productions. When they left, Post5’s image and reality seemed bound to change.

The new leadership group told Willamette Week that the next productions’ budgets would be conservative, but they hoped to create more sophisticated and edgier approaches to plays. The artistic directors also mentioned they’d been dealing with a few unexpected struggles, but felt they were now contained. As one of them told WW, “Every theater here is one big mistake from going under.”

After seven productions in the current season, the trio tendered their resignations on Nov. 1. Things were not, to put it mildly, as they had expected. With three months of back rent due, Post5 was about to lose its space. Angelo directed his last play there, Coyote on a Fence. The Post5 board members hustled to find spaces for their final production of the season, company member Philip J. Berns’ unique spin on A Christmas Carol. As of today, Nov. 21, the company’s website lists the play as part of its season, but the ticket link says “there are no current dates or times.”

Continues…

A light & breezy ‘Much Ado’

Post5's rollicking screwball touch gives Shakespeare's comedy an entertaining populist flair, but takes it easy on the dark parts

When I caught up with Post5 Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing on a not-too-sweltering Saturday night, each seat in the little Sellwood theater came equipped with a miniature hand-held fan, just in case. Curious, I fumbled with mine a bit, pressed a button in front, and – spritz! – a mist of moisture sprayed my face. The helpful woman in the next seat gently pointed out that the button for the fan part was on the back, and so it was. Still, I didn’t mind getting a little water in the kisser: it seemed to fit right in with the show.

Cassandra and Ty Boice as Beatrice and Benedick: who's chicken now? Photo: Russell J Young

Cassandra and Ty Boice as Beatrice and Benedick: who’s chicken now? Photo: Russell J Young

It wasn’t just that several of the actors were getting soaked left, right, and upside down like contestants in a wet T-shirt contest at a dive bar. It’s also that spritz and surprise are key to the company’s whole approach to this witty and subtly edgy comedy: a clowning goofiness, a touch of bawdiness, a rollicking swagger, a pie-in-the-face physicality. This production is much ado about laughter, a smooth evocation of Post5’s desire to knock the stuffiness out of Shakespeare and bring him in plain quick language to the people. It’s a friendly sort of Shakespeare, swift and well-spoken and eager to please.

And please it does, for the most part. Cassandra and Ty Boice, married in real life, make an attractive and playful Beatrice and Benedick, those squabbling would-be lovers who have to be tricked into seeing the mutual attraction that’s as plain as the noses on their rubbery faces. B&B are The Taming of the Shrew’s Petruchio and Kate without the troubling sexual politics: they’re more obviously equals, as much give as take, and bound, you get the feeling, for a true partnership (not that P&K aren’t, too, within the context of their times). The whole enterprise has a screwball-comedy feeling, a George Cukor giddiness, with exaggerated physical animism and repartee for the pure fun of repartee. Ty Boice plays the bachelor-misogynist thick and heavy at the start, then tumbles quicker than a gymnast into sappy puppy-love. Cassandra Boice digs into his ribs sharply and mercilessly, but with obvious affection and a rueful sense of reluctant self-deprecation.

Pretty much everything about the show speaks easy-to-follow, from the late ’50s/early ’60s pop soundtrack to Alana Wight-Yedinak’s casual costumes to Aaron Kissinger’s cleverly pop-up set, which finds surprising and amusing spaces all over the tight little stage for director Darragh Kennan to deploy his good-sized cast. And there are some attractive supporting performances here: Stan Brown’s Don John, whose sole excuse for his innate nastiness seems to be that he’s a bastard (this is Shakespeare, so that’s literal); Adam Eliot Davis’s garrulous bad-guy Borachio, whose run-on ad libs drive Don John nuts; Paul Angelo’s Don Pedro, the conquering hero returned from the war; Scott Parker’s gregarious Don Pedro, host to everyone and father of the would-be bride; Olivia Weiss’s Margaret, whose friskiness unleashes unanticipated mischief; Samuel G. Holloway as the Friar, who, like the friar in Romeo and Juliet, seems to have more basic common sense than pretty much anyone else on stage; and, in the major subplot, Chip Sherman as the love-smitten young soldier Claudio and Aislin Courtis as a welcomingly spirited Hero, the object of Claudio’s affection and eventual disdain: I’ve seen Hero played as pretty much nothing but a pretty face waiting to be victimized, and I like the spunk that Courtis gives her instead.

The laughs roll out as the play rolls on, and I enjoyed myself, sometimes quite a bit. Still, a couple of things kept the show from being everything I thought it might be. The first is minor and understandable, a creative idea that doesn’t pan out. For the crucial wedding scene, in which Claudio, having been led to believe that Hero is a bawd, denounces her and she falls into a dead faint, director Kennan has the cast and audience leave the theater space and troop outside to the building’s courtyard. It’s a nice setting, but the interruption breaks the flow, and it doesn’t do the audience any favors. If you’re tall or get out in time to grab one of the few outside seats, you can see the action fine. If you’re short or don’t get a seat, you find yourself straining to see what’s going on. Sometimes what seems like a good idea just isn’t.

The more consequential second drawback, I think, keeps the production from digging into the difficult dramatic territory that darkens the play when Hero is so deeply wronged, and makes the tale more than just a rollicking lark. I wish that Kennan and the Boices had put the brakes on the immediate affability between the bickering lovers – had made their self-realization seem less a foregone conclusion and more a prize they can win only by fighting through the thickets of their own self-delusions. In this key sense the production is let down by its eagerness to entertain. Benedick and Beatrice are jolly misanthropes, and the Boices give us a lot of jolliness without much misanthropy. B&B think they despise each other, and then, in this production, give it up almost on a whim: without battling to overcome their own prejudices, everything comes too easily. It deflates the fury in Beatrice’s demand of Benedick – that he kill Claudio – and robs Beatrice and Benedick of the stern morality and willingness to stand against the tide that separates them from the rest of the play’s pack. Suddenly the petty injuries inflicted amid the general amusement of the evening have mortal consequences, and the terror of the thing should be felt.

Even the lightest of Shakespeare’s comedies are jagged things, with reminders of the tragic flip side of the game, and the best productions meet that reality head-on rather than shying away from it. The Boices’ B&B are great fun as far as they go. I think they could deepen, and give the show a greater impact. What isn’t there, though, shouldn’t detract from what is: an enjoyable, approachable, and imaginative evening of Shakespeare that at its best is genuinely beguiling. It’s a cheerful Much Ado, a date-night show, an elaborate entertainment and, for the Shakespeare-phobic, a good introduction to the joys to be had inside the bardic universe.

Shakespeare’s comedies are remarkably elastic, open to varying interpretation, and it’s interesting to compare this Much Ado to the Portland Shakespeare Project’s current Twelfth Night. Both productions emphasize (in different ways) clear language and a clean narrative. Much Ado has a modern setting and Twelfth Night is traditionally Elizabethan, but that’s a surface difference. While Much Ado seems lighter than it might be, Twelfth Night seems darker than it often is: its comedy comes with a melancholic air that’s inherent in the script but not always played with such determination. Jim Butterfield’s Toby Belch is less the lovable comic drunk of many productions and more clearly a plain old sour and bleary-eyed alcoholic. Allen Nause’s fool Feste is almost bellicose, capable of something close to viciousness, joking around while a raincloud hovers over his head. David Bodin’s maltreated Malvolio does not go gently into that comic-foil night. Together, they alter the atmosphere. The stakes are pounded in sharply, and the laughter comes, but nervously.

A little nervousness might help this bright and friendly Much Ado reach a higher (or perhaps a better-rounded) plane, too. Or maybe that’s just the spritz talking.

*

Much Ado About Nothing continues through August 16 at Post5 Theatre, 1666 S.E. Lambert Street. Ticket and schedule information are here.

At Post5, the comedy’s the thing

A witty, clownish, contemporary "Twelfth Night" is one of the funniest shows of the season

By CHRISTA McINTYRE

If Shakespeare and his inner Falstaff wanted to create a play for everyone, his democratizing agent would be a joyful and laughing audience, ready for any bet. In spring, the daffodils are nodding their heads, tulips are in open bloom, and wisteria reach past the gables. It’s an excellent time for Post5’s springlike new Twelfth Night, because with what you will (Shakespeare’s subtitle for his fantasy), love, or the laughing at it, will trump us all.

From left: Jessica Tidd, Chip Sherman, Trri Paddleford, Jim Vadela, Tom Walton. Photo: Russell J Young

From left: Jessica Tidd, Chip Sherman, Trri Padellford, Jim Vadela, Tom Walton. Photo: Russell J Young

Cassandra Boice directs a seamless and contemporary presentation of this eternally hopeful comedy. We’re greeted by a 1980s Miami background, where the clown Feste is a Gilligan or other heavy-lidded participant in the play (see recent laws passed about marijuana use in the state of Oregon). Throw away the canticle: a ukulele and kid’s accordion serenade us with The Beatles’ Let it Be. The aristocratic Olivia’s maid-in-waiting, Maria (played by Tori Padellford) arrives on the scene in a very polyester uniform, and what we see in ads about maids’ uniforms is played true.

Here lies the point and distinction of Post5’s interpretation: Boice and company take a play more than 400 years old and make it relevant and cryingly funny, marching the best parts of our humorous icons onto the stage in a very affordable seduction.

We can guess while reading or watching Shakespeare’s plays at his love of mythology and travels to distant lands. As with Herodotus, we listen for his insights on human values and understanding of others, even in the most fantastical of tales. And Twelfth Night is fantastical. A brave Duke Orsino, having failed to win Olivia’s hand, lies in melancholic turbulence. Overcome and seemingly unable to manage his kingdom, he still chooses a good and strange confidante in the recently arrived Cesario. Cesario is actually Viola, twin to Sebastian, whom Viola/Cesario believes drowned at sea. Viola dons a man’s appearance and becomes the voice of love for Count Orsino as he presses his suit for Lady Olivia’s hand. All of Cesario/Viola’s speeches are meant for the love of Orsino, even as she strives to win his current object of affection, Olivia. Olivia, meanwhile, remains in mourning for her brother. Sebastian, who has not drowned after all, returns to shore and is mistaken for his sister, who is pretending to be a man. Meanwhile, a troupe of sycophants settle into bouts of undisturbed drinking, bedding, and the occasional preemptive song. Shakespeare presents his audience with a strange and hybrid confluence of circumstances on an unknown island, with little cultural reference: we just have to understand a basic hierarchy of lady, duke, fool, maid, etc. It all gets deliciously muddled: A maid takes a man, a maid as a young man would like to take a man, a man would like to take a lady, a man took a maid many times, the maid of the lady sets out to take the lady’s man, and a man and maid of the lady set out to take a man who would like to take the lady, forging letters that expose the heart of all, ad infinitum and bee pollen. Because in the end, love triumphs all. If this seems consumptive and confusing, then you have not had a friend or fallen in love.

However, like the brooding Malvolio, you may have put on your yellow stockings and garters.

Jeff Gorham, as Sir Toby, cousin and leech to Lady Olivia, deftly lays out all that there is about being a drunk. He bounds onstage in an obvious pillowed stomach and torn-astray tie that becomes a physical fixation. Within a few minutes we reach the anchor Boice has given him – his Toby-meter, the rhythm of his consistent drinking from the bottle.

Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Stan Brown), Sir Toby’s Bertie Wooster-minded accomplice, is red-cheeked and beauty-marked, a parody of his own class. He matches scene for scene the virility of the manchild with an empty optimism.

If, in Shakespeare, the point is always on point and made well about love, Jessica Tidd as Cesrio/Viola captures unconfused a man and maid. With her sweeping doe-gaze of wide-eyed openness and a little John Travolta knee across the floor, she makes us believe wholeheartedly in the young and attractive Cesario giving counsel that only a woman in love may give: throwback kicks, arched eyebrows and those “yes, this is love” poses. There is that.

And she plays Olivia as seamlessly as, back in the day, a man (rather, a boy) would have. This Olivia is a rose of Spanish Harlem, ample in skirt and pointed knee. She meditates upon her chosen, fragrant and fond in her focus to attain the person she shall have: flippant as in nature, yet becoming sure as an anchor toward the end. Chip Sherman, further complicating matters as a man playing Olivia, gives us a lady very capable of choosing and taking her man, as all ladies should. As Feste becomes a Venice Beach rescuee, so Olivia is an Eartha Kitt.

Traditionally, Olivia’s man-in-waiting Malvolio is played as a stuffed-shirt Puritan, a straight man countering the incessant and boorish charms of the drunks and fools lining up at his mistress’s door. Yet he, too, is not disinclined to the temptations of nature, and the straight man becomes his own foil – or at least, we believe so until the end. Ty Boice presents Malvolio as a Carol Burnett asexual butterfly with the acrid wit of a Tim Curry. He shakes and stutters and gives a gap-toothed smile as his transformation takes shape.

In such little touches, Cassandra Boice’s intelligent direction comes through. She translates Shakespeare’s stock characters into figures from our own cultural experience. At first we laugh at every moment of Malvolio’s yellow bondaged legs, until his last monologue, when both Boices drive what has been laughable into true compassion. Malvolio, perhaps the only character in the play in whom an honesty resides, is driven to address his assault – and for the audience, ridicule becomes compassion.

Post5, as with a few other small ensembles that push the envelope in art, makes theater a living experience and opens Portland’s cultural dialogue by being affordable. The theater is small, but ambitious. At moments in Twelfth Night when the plot is rushed, and the supporting cast is less consistent than the leads. None of these small points should make you miss one of the funniest productions of the season.

*

Twelfth Night continues through May 16 at Post 5 Theatre 1666 S.E. Lambert St. Ticket and schedule information are here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FG reviews: two from Post5

A witty 21st century sex romp and an overwrought family drama make their debuts at the new-works festival

Woman on the Scarlet Beast

Premiere production; Post5 Theatre, 1666 S.E. Lambert St.; through Feb. 8

Gender Tree

Premiere production; Post5Theatre, 1666 S.E. Lambert St.; through Feb. 9

 *

Post5 has put a lot of chips on the Fertile Ground table, opening two shows as full productions Friday night and calling them both world premieres rather than workshops. It’s a gutsy gambit, and maybe a little overeager.

Ridenour and Berns in "Gender Tree" at Post5

Ridenour and Berns in “Gender Tree” at Post5

 

Gender Tree, Cassandra Boice’s string of farcical mating vignettes, can be belly-laugh funny, and features witty and playfully stylized performances by its two clash-of-the-sex-titans stars, Rebecca Ridenour and Philip J. Berns. But as amusing as the show can be, and as crisply as it’s been directed by Ty Boice, it still has some structural issues to work out, and a couple of tough decisions to make, especially about its didactic ending. I hope that happens, because the promise is definitely here.

Gender Tree is what used to be called a sex romp, but it’s updated for the 21st century, and its wink is more rueful recognition than frat-boy coarseness or romantic situation comedy: Doris and Rock it’s not. It stars a man and woman, but considers all sorts of positions on the gender spectrum, from polyamory to dominance to cross-dressing to S&M to good old-fashioned who’s-on-top, with multiple stops along the way. It revels in the comic aspects of the human sex drive (and sometimes, animal sex drives, too) and the absurdities to which sex can drive otherwise reasonably sensible people. Things are exploratory but light, and the comically seductive Ridenour and Berns try on various sexual guises like costumes – sometimes literally. A lot of the fun is of the Greater Tuna type: watching two good performers do lightning shifts of costume and character. (The best recent example of this in town was Isaac Lamb and Leif Norby’s comic shape-shifting in Third Rail’s The Mystery of Irma Vep.)

Boice writes in her program notes that the play “started as a clown show for me.” That reveals itself most clearly in the second act’s long, Skin of Our Teeth-style section on the evolution of sexuality, from the primordial muck, to, well, wherever we are now. It feels as if this was the beginning of the play, the core idea, and the rest grew out of it. It could be plucked out and stand on its own as a witty comic dialogue. Within the larger play, though, it goes on too long: some judicious pruning would benefit the whole. Similarly, the videotaped interviews before each act with various Portlanders who talk about their views on gender and sexuality are appealing but overdone (and on Friday night, a little murky, too: the sound mix needs sharpening). They’re funny, and genuine, and insightful. Just a little less, please.

The biggest problem, though, is the didactic, overly earnest closing scene, in which Ridenour and Berns, in overlapping dialogue, give little lectures about the proper ways to approach this relationship and self-knowledge problem. It’s preachy, and it puts a damper on what the play has already conveyed implicitly. My suggestion: scrap the scene and look for a lighter, wittier, more sympathetic grace note.

 *

The Woman and the Scarlet Beast, a first play by novelist Caroline Miller, is earnest and deeply felt but also overwrought and monochromatic, pitched at high tension and never really letting up so the story can breathe a bit. Even the comic scenes are laden with portent and malevolence. It’s a three-generation family drama, with a wheelchair-bound and fiercely driven onetime prostitute (Adrienne Flagg) at its pivot, with her overly conciliatory mother (Jane Fellows) and repressed daughter (Olivia Weiss, as a reluctant novitiate who’s just been kicked out of the convent) completing the shifting triangle. Toss in a smarmy family “friend” (Aaron Kissinger) and a temptation-weakened priest (Stan Brown), and it’s a full house. If there is subtlety anywhere in this unhappy home, alas, I didn’t find it.

________________

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Review: a swift and lean rock-star ‘Hamlet’

As Post5 starts a half-million-dollar campaign for a new home, the great Dane prevaricates quickly

Last weekend at Post5 Theatre, managing director Corinne Patel announced a capital campaign seeking a little more than a half-million dollars to enable the company to find “our forever home.” She didn’t say where that forever home might be, only that it would be closer to the homes of their core patrons who have been driving out to Northeast 82nd Avenue; no doubt the secret is in the ticket system’s zip code data.

The campaign, while not exactly big-money, is a sign of ambition from a little, out-of-the-way theater company started just a few years ago by a pair of twenty-something guys from Southern Oregon. But Orion Bradshaw (who recently ceded the managing director job to Patel and became outreach coordinator) and artistic director/resident leading man Ty Boice have shown the pluck to get their fledgling off the ground.

Ambition and pluck come together, too, in Post5’s production of Hamlet, a lean and muscular push through this masterpiece’s challenging terrain.

Gorham as Claudius, Boice as Hamlet, Hadley Boyd as Gertrude. Photo: Russell J. Young

Gorham as Claudius, Boice as Hamlet, Hadley Boyd as Gertrude. Photo: Russell J. Young

Hamlet, to put it mildly, is a complicated guy. En route to the avenging of his father’s murder, he wrestles with a host of questions — practical, ethical, spiritual, perhaps even epistemological and existential. When he’s not tipping precipitously into either indignation or despair, he’s evincing a peculiar sort of brash uncertainty.

Clad in black, his blazer collar upturned, his eyes hidden behind large sunglasses, Boice’s Hamlet takes the stage as a rock-star prince, studied in his melancholy and emotional distance. Tall, blond and handsome, he looks the part of young Danish royalty.

The tricky part of playing Hamlet is making his intensely mercurial nature feel authentic and compelling; to render it somehow emotionally coherent yet still psychologically inscrutable. Boice hits this mark better in some scenes than in others. Bamboozling Polonius, the King’s adviser, he shows deft comic timing and shifting tones in his flagrant display of (real or feigned?) madness. Jousting verbally with the nefarious King Claudius — who has killed Hamlet’s father and taken both crown and queen — or with his erstwhile school pals Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.

At other times, Hamlet’s famously reflective eloquence pours out of him too quickly, a pressurized flow of verbiage. Quite why the speech speeds ahead, or occasionally slows markedly, isn’t clear as a matter of attitude or thought progression. Perhaps it’s meant to suggest a racing mind, fueled by a volatile combination of youth, grief, passion, confusion and fear. In any case, Boice does make Hamlet convincing as a character who could and should be a man of action, but whose thinking gets in the way.

As much as a Hamlet rides on its Hamlet, such a complex central character needs strong figures to play against. Jeff Gorham’s Claudius is conniving and ruthless, but never a cardboard villain; he wants what he wants, and that means he must stay his course just as much as Hamlet must his own. As Claudius is Hamlet’s foil in an ethical sense, Polonius is in a generational one, contrasting the young prince’s perceptive, questioning nature with a seasoned courtier’s dull certitude. Tobias Andersen, clipboard ever in hand, renders the old windbag as at once comically fatuous and admirably paternal; we can laugh at him, yet still feel for him.

Speaking of foils, Laertes, the son of Polonius, both is one and wields one. His father, like Hamlet’s, is slain, but unlike the prevaricating prince, he moves swiftly and furiously to action. Jake Street’s coiled, muscular intensity is just right for the role, especially in the climactic swordplay that brings all plots to a point.

What might stand out most in this production, though, is the prominence of Horatio, Hamlet’s loyal confidant. Casting a woman in the role — especially an emotionally attuned actor who also happens to be the leading man’s wife, Cassandra Boice — highlights the closeness and tenderness in the friendship as Horatio watches and even helps Hamlet along his collision course with tragedy.

Director Paul Angelo has done his part here, too. A spare scenic approach, utilizing merely a few curtains, chairs and small tables, lets the action flow, as do a few judicious trims to the text (such as clipping all the odd business at the end wherein Fortinbras, an invading Norwegian, is handed the Danish crown). Presenting the play’s most renowned scene, Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy, illuminated by only an intermittently flickering lighter is a terrifically apt choice, both visually and thematically. And though he needlessly presents the actors in the “play within the play” as inept boobs, and lets Phillip J. Berns ham it up far too egregiously (as is his wont) as the flippant gravedigger, Angelo otherwise draws smart, well-measured performances from the cast.

The truest ambition, after all, is founded on steady work and small yet worthwhile achievements. This Hamlet surely counts.

*

Post5’s Hamlet continues through May 4. Ticket and schedule information here.

Fertile Ground Review: ‘Therapy Hunger’

Is that a drug in your med kit, or are you just trying to heal me?

It’s a risky proposition to write a show and then star in it; riskier still to pick a highly personal theme that could cast you in unflattering light. Cassandra Boice braves that vulnerability for Therapy Hunger, a show that initially pokes fun at psychiatric medicine, and then probes it uncomfortably.

photo

Over the last year or so, Post5 company member Boice’s stage presence has been multifaceted. She’s been gorgeous, graceful and feminine in Arabian Nights; she’s been steely and cunning as Lady Macbeth. In the company where she is artistic director, HumanBeingCurious, she’s big on clowning and puppetry. Here, though, she’s enigmatic, maybe even withdrawn, playing an everywoman as the other actors, Chip Sherman and Maya Seidel, vamp characters.

In a series of skits, Boice plays a distressed woman in various therapy sessions that are unfortunately run by laughable quacks. A sex therapist (the hilariously officious Chip Sherman) cups his hand and whispers directly into her “vej-een.” An eating disorder counselor (the animated Maya Seidel) tears into a bag of Cheetos mid-sentence. A hippie healer (Seidel again) offers vague, pleasant mantras as a therapy for A.D.D., but then writes her a prescription to finish the job.

therapyhungerThese vignettes are certainly funny, but almost every interaction progresses the same way: Boice’s character plays along with each therapist’s odd requests, gradually realizing that they’re all as neurotic as she. Each session ends abruptly, with the therapist issuing a prescription. It’s a pattern. So is the (melo?) dramatic and prolonged finale, in which the three actors take turns aggressively scribbling and ripping a prescription pad while the others mime physical and mental distresses, clutching their stomachs and heads, retching and pacing. A hypnotic voice-over recites drug names in alphabetical order as we feel the patients’ pain.

Introduced by director Ty Boice as a “sound and fury” work rather than fully staged, this show has every right to be unfinished. Right now, it’s an intriguing series of moments, but compared to therapy narratives like Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation and super-blogger Allie Brosch’s depression comic in Hyperbole and a Half , there are some missing pieces.

In its present form, it’s unclear whether this show is personal or universal. If it’s personal, we need more real detail about Boice, or we need more fake detail about her character, Woman. Her character’s recitation of disorders could be brought to life with a personal story about how she experiences her distress, how it plays out in her daily life. Where she is when she panics. What she does (or doesn’t do) when she’s depressed….

On the other hand, if the show’s meant to be a universal comment, it’s still incomplete. In order to grapple with the issues more comprehensively and credibly, Boice would need to at least acknowledge the upside psych drugs provide, sometimes, for some people. To only show negative results in a universal comment is to…not gloss over, but scrape over, the subject. Maximally abrasive without being thorough.

So whether it’s personal or universal, Therapy Hunger needs to say more. Hopefully this in-process piece can take that trust-fall…without headache, fever, or shortness of breath.

—————–

A. L. Adams also writes the monthly column Art Walkin’  for  The Portland Mercury, and is  former arts editor of Portland Monthly Magazine. Read more from Adams: Oregon ArtsWatch | The Portland Mercury
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