“in the red and brown water

Portland Playhouse returned home Saturday night for the opening of “In the Red and Brown Water,” the first part of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “The Brother Sister Plays” trilogy, and goodness gracious it felt good to be back home. In the intimate confines of the made-over church on Northeast Prescott St., the audience could draw near the pulsing light of McCraney’s poetic, mythic play and the actors could keep the rhythms throbbing and connections direct and strong.

Before the season began, this is exactly how I had hoped August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” would be, this immediate and close, this sharing of a common purpose. Those plays suffered other fates, though, when the company had to leave the church while it appealed a decision by the City to evict them from the space for violating a zoning ordinance, a decision that was utterly unnecessary was indeed overturned by City Council.

The move and the appeal ate up scarce Portland Playhouse resources, and at this point, the City owes the company an apology and a nice fat check as compensation. Seriously. But money isn’t adequate compensation, really, and the whole affair makes me angrier the more I think about it. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of the Bureau of Development Services, and its Director, Paul L. Scarlett, should have stepped in and done the right thing from the beginning,instead of forcing the company to go through the appeal process, and I think the compensation due Portland Playhouse should come directly out of their fat paychecks.  You thought you were protecting us from a theater company?


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