James Sharinghousen

God speaks. You listen.

The Lord God Almighty, Creator of the Universe, lays it all on the line in the celestial comedy "An Act of God." Listen up, or be left behind.

Let it be known that the Lord God Almighty, Creator of the Universe, Incorporeal Presence Sometimes Taking on the Form of Flesh, is now appearing several nights a week and Sunday afternoons in Portland, Oregon, at Triangle Productions, whose home on Northeast Sandy Boulevard is fortuitously known as The Sanctuary.

His Awesome Holiness has taken the form of a local actor of some repute named Norman Wilson, and is playing Himself in a little comedy called An Act of God, which is purportedly written by a television funnyman named David Javerbaum, multiple winner of and nominee for Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and/or producer for Jon Stewart and David Letterman and others, but if you want to know The Truth the monologue seems to be coming Straight From the Mouth Of, if you know what I mean. No burning bushes or any of that old-style cosmic show-biz stuff. Just some jokey insider talk-show chat and the occasional reverberating roar when something gets under His temporal skin.

God on His couch, spreading the word. Triangle Productions photo

A few things are on The Divine One’s Mind, perhaps most pressingly the rule of law as interpreted by the overly adoring and literalist masses. “Yea, I have grown weary of the Ten Commandments,” He pronounces. “In the same way Don McLean has become weary of American Pie.” A hit like that defines and typecasts you: You can’t get away from it. G-d lets the audience in on a few puckish stretchings of the truth in the telling of original stories (the actual quote, it turns out, was “And Adam and Steve were naked and knew no shame”) and splits a Celestial Gut that anyone still takes that two-by-two thing seriously: He means, how many animals are there, and how much room was on that ark? And He announces a new Big Ten, keeping a couple of the old ones but in the main tossing the original list into the Heavenly trash bin. Among the newbies: Thou shalt not tell others when to fornicate, Thou shalt not kill in My name, Thou shalt separate Me and state. All very sensible, it seems, but who knows if these ones might take hold, or if the old ones might not hang around embarrassingly like Confederate Hero statues in Southern town squares, ruthlessly and rigorously defended by unbending believers in the Old Faith?

Continues…

The Buyer, the Cellar, and Babs

James Sharinghousen pulls triple duty in a comedy about an out-of-work actor, his boyfriend, and Barbra Streisand's personal shopping mall

Buyer and Cellar, now ringing up sales at Triangle Productions, is a sharp and poignant celebration of gay culture and one of its divas, the fab Babs. The story isn’t based upon actual events, but most of the background is true.

Actor James Sharinghousen takes us winningly on a 90-minute ride of snarky observations, money struggles, and a clawing ascent toward intimacy. He juggles playing three different characters – a down-and-out struggling actor, a frustrated film producer, and Barbra Streisand – in a tale as strange and alluring as, well, Hollywood.

James Sharinghousen, pulling triple duty. Photo: David Kinder/kinderpics

James Sharinghousen, pulling triple duty. Photo: David Kinder/kinderpics

Alex More is the hero of the play, a burnt-out, unemployed actor who’s too nice to succeed in the Hollywood racket. Between endless and fruitless auditions, he’s taken the odd retail and amusement-park character jobs. His drama studies in Chicago should’ve propped him up for success. Instead he’s honed customer-service skills to pay the rent and get bread on the table. Alex wants to live in a world where you make good art and people appreciate it. Never mind the brutal competition and critics. His naiveté sets him back in the job market, but puts him ahead in the heart department.

Continues…

Drammys: a night for Misbehavin’

Portland Center Stage's Fats Waller musical sweeps up six trophies at Portland's annual theater awards; "Orlando" wins big; actor Gavin Hoffman hits a double

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Portland Center Stage’s bold large-scale rethinking of the intimate Fats Waller musical revue, swept up much of the hardware Monday night at the Drammy Awards, sharing the spotlight with Orlando, Profile Theatre’s brash adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s time-traveling, gender-bending adventure novel.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ dominated the evening with six awards, including best production of a musical, director of a musical (Chris Coleman), music direction (Rick Lewis), ensemble performance in a musical, scenic design (Tony Cisek), and costumes (Alison Heryer, who was also nominated for Orlando).

Portland Center Stage's "Ain't Misbehavin'": best ensemble in the best musical on the dest-designed stage. (Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv)

Portland Center Stage’s “Ain’t Misbehavin'”: best ensemble in the best musical on the best-designed stage. (Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv)

Orlando, which was part of Profile’s season of plays by Sarah Ruhl, won the coveted award for best production of a play, plus two other major categories: best actress in a play (Beth Thompson, who was also nominated for best supporting actress in Profile’s In the Next Room, or the vibrator play) and director of a play (Matthew B. Zrebski).

The Drammy Awards ceremony, Portland’s annual celebration of top achievements in theater, jammed the downtown Newmark Theatre of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts with a mixed crowd of theater fans and stage professionals, from actors and directors to designers and stagehands. In all, 117 productions were considered for awards by the 16-member Drammy committee. Late-season shows that were still running in June, such as Portland Playhouse’s hit Peter and the Starcatchers, Corrib’s Our New Girl, Triangle’s American Idiot, defunkt’s The Udmurts, and Artists Rep’s Grand Concourse and The Skin of Our Teeth, will be considered for 2016-17 awards.

Actor and director Beth Harper, founder and artistic director of the professional-training Portland Actors Conservatory, won this year’s lifetime achievement award, and it was a popular choice: when she walked onstage she was greeted with a standing ovation by the crowd, several of whom had graduated from the Actors Conservatory, and several more of whom have worked with her in shows. “For a girl from Pea Ridge, Tennessee, Miss Beth, you have done all right,” actor and director Brenda Hubbard said in introducing her. Harper thanked her own mentor, the legendary late Portland teacher and director Jack Featheringill, and commented, “It really does feel quite lovely to be appreciated.”

Gavin Hoffman scored a rare double victory in the acting categories, taking home the best actor Drammy for his performance as a desperate actor juggling life and art in The Understudy at Artists Repertory Theatre, and the supporting actor award for his performance in Great Expectations at Portland Center Stage. David Bodin shared the supporting-actor award for his Malvolio in Portland Shakespeare Project’s Twelfth Night. “I’m not greedy, really I’m not,” Hoffman said disarmingly in the second of his two acceptance speeches.

Best actress Beth Thompson in best play production "Orlando" at Profile Theatre. Photo: David Kinder

Best actress Beth Thompson in best play production “Orlando” at Profile Theatre. Photo: David Kinder

Other major acting awards went to Brian Demar Jones for best actor in a musical (Under the Influence, Fuse Theatre Ensemble), Malia Tippets for actress in a musical (Heathers: The Musical, Triangle Productions and Staged!), Jamie Rea for supporting actress in a play (A Doll’s House, Shaking the Tree), Cassie Q. Kohl for supporting actress in a musical (H.M.S. Pinafore, Mock’s Crest Productions), James Sharinghousen for supporting actor in a musical (Oklahoma!, Broadway Rose), and Kai Tomizawa for young performer (Junie B. Jones: The Musical, Oregon Children’s Theatre).

Among several special awards, the Portland Civic Theatre Guild gave out $17,000 for several projects, including $2,000 to the Rex Putnam High School theater department for children’s theater programs, $4,000 to CoHo Theatre for an exterior sign, $5,000 to John Ellingson to study puppet design in England, and $6,000 to Shaking the Tree for lighting and sound equipment. And the group Age and Equity for the Arts awarded $30,000 – $10,000 to Profile Theatre, $20,000 to CoHo – to support equity programs. Imago Theatre won the Artslandia Award of $5,000 in advertising and publicity.

The evening’s hosts were the seven members of The 3rd Floor comedy troupe, and what might have been a logistical disaster turned out instead to be a smooth, sometimes surprising, and often very funny addition to a show that ran a little over two and a half hours. The group’s quick wits and easy teamwork made the evening run like a machine – the sort of machine that includes spatters of blood, a cranked-up Carmina Burana soundtrack, an 8-foot-tall Sasquatch helping to announce the best-costume nominees, and at least one close-to-the-bone running gag. The troupe’s performance was refreshing and bittersweet: after 20 years onstage, it’ll call it quits after a July 9 reunion/retirement show at Artists Rep.

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The complete list of 2015-16 Drammy winners and nominees. Winners are listed in boldface at the top of each category:

 

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Brian Demar Jones
Under the Influence
Fuse Theatre Ensemble

Max Artsis
Dogfight
Staged!

Jared Miller

Oklahoma!
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Joel Walker
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Gavin Hoffman
The Understudy
Artists Repertory Theatre

Bobby Bermea
The Set-Up
Cygnet Productions

Allen Nause

Chapatti 
Corrib Theatre

Seth Rue
Blue Door
Profile Theatre

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Malia Tippets
Heathers: The Musical
triangle productions! & Staged! 

Claire Avakian
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Courtney Freed
Falsettos
Live On Stage

Kailey Rhodes
Chicago
Metropolitan Community Theatre Project

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Beth Thompson
Orlando
Profile Theatre

JoAnn Johnson
Mothers And Sons
Artists Repertory Theatre

Val Landrum
The Miracle Worker
Artists Repertory Theatre

Kayla Lian
Davita’s Harp
Jewish Theatre Collaborative

 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

Jessica Wallenfels
H.M.S. Pinafore
Mock’s Crest Productions

Maija Garcia
Cuba Libre
Artists Repertory Theatre

Maria Tucker
Oklahoma!
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Kent Zimmerman
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage 

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Alison Heryer
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage

Sarah Gahagan
In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
Profile Theatre

Alison Heryer
Orlando
Profile Theatre

Ashton Hull
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
Portland Playhouse

BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL

Chris Coleman
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage

Diane Englert
Heathers: The Musical
triangle productions! & Staged!

Bruce A. Hostetler
H.M.S. Pinafore
Mock’s Crest Productions

Sharon Maroney
Oklahoma!
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY

Matthew B. Zrebski
Orlando
Profile Theatre

Michael Mendelson
The Understudy
Artists Repertory Theatre

Louanne Moldovan
The Set-Up
Cygnet Productions

Pat Patton
Waiting For Godot
Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL

Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage

Cuba Libre
Artists Repertory Theatre

In the Heights
Stumptown Stages

Thoroughly Modern Millie
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY

The Set-Up
Cygnet Productions

Cock
defunkt theatre

Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
Portland Playhouse

Orlando
Profile Theatre

 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Don Crossley
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Oregon Children’s Theatre

Kristeen Willis Crosser
The Understudy
Artists Repertory Theatre

Carl Faber
Orlando
Profile Theatre

Diane Ferry Williams
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage

 

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION

Rick Lewis
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage

Tracey Edson
H.M.S. Pinafore
Mock’s Crest Productions

Jonathan Quesenberry
Heathers: The Musical
triangle productions! & Staged!

Jeffrey Childs
Oklahoma!
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC

Ernie Lijoi, Kevin Laursen, Lawrence Rush
Under the Influence
Fuse Theatre Ensemble

Adrian Baxter
The Set-Up
Cygnet Productions

Rory Stitt
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Oregon Children’s Theatre

Matthew B. Zrebski
Chrysalis
Oregon Children’s Theatre (Young Professionals)

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT

Noah Dunham
How to Stop Dying
Action/Adventure Theatre

Ernie Lijoi
Under the Influence
Fuse Theatre Ensemble

Sacha Reich + Jamie Rea
Davita’s Harp
Jewish Theatre Collaborative

Claire Willett
Dear Galileo
Playwrights West

 

BEST PIT ENSEMBLE

Cuba Libre
Artists Repertory Theatre

Chicago
Metropolitan Community Theatre Project

Mame
Lakewood Theatre Company

Oklahoma!
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage

H.M.S. Pinafore
Mock’s Crest Productions

Heathers: The Musical
triangle productions! & Staged!

Under the Influence
Fuse Theatre Ensemble

BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

Orlando
Profile Theatre

Cock
defunkt theatre

The Set-Up
Cygnet Productions

The Understudy
Artists Repertory Theatre 

 

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

Tony Cisek
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Portland Center Stage

Stephen Dobay
In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
Profile Theatre

Tal Sanders
Orlando
Profile Theatre

Tim Stapleton
Waiting For Godot
Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

Rodolfo Ortega
Blue Door
Profile Theatre

Richard E. Moore
The Drunken City
Theatre Vertigo

Seth Nehil
Time, A Fair Hustler
Hand2Mouth

Scott Thorson
Sex With Strangers
Portland Center Stage

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

James Sharinghousen
Oklahoma!
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Troy Pennington
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Blake Stone
Heathers: The Musical
triangle productions! & Staged!

Joe Theissen
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY

David Bodin
Twelfth Night
Portland Shakespeare Project

and

Gavin Hoffman
Great Expectations
Portland Center Stage

Matthew Kerrigan
In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
Profile Theatre

Todd Van Voris
The New Electric Ballroom
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Cassi Q. Kohl
H.M.S. Pinafore
Mock’s Crest Productions

Amanda Pred
Heathers: The Musical
triangle productions! & Staged!

Danielle Purdy
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

Emily Sahler
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Jamie Rea
A Doll’s House
Shaking the Tree

Crystal Ann Muñoz
Twelfth Night
Portland Shakespeare Project

Anne Sorce
Time, A Fair Hustler
Hand2Mouth

Beth Thompson
In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
Profile Theatre

 

BEST YOUNG PERFORMER

Kai Tomizawa
Junie B. Jones: The Musical
Oregon Children’s Theatre

Annabel Cantor
Ramona Quimby
Oregon Children’s Theatre

Morgan Fay
The Wrestling Season
Oregon Children’s Theatre (Young Professionals)

Agatha Olson
The Miracle Worker
Artists Repertory Theatre

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Beth Harper

 

SPECIAL AWARDS: 

Best Properties Design: Kaye Blankenship, In the Next Room,” or The Vibrator Play, Profile Theatre

Best Scenic Artist: Mindy Barker, The Drunken City, Theatre Vertigo

Best Solo Performance: Matthew Kerrigan, The Dissenter’s Handbook, Shaking the Tree Theater

Special achievement by a producer: Adriana Baer (Profile) and Samantha van der Merwe (Shaking the Tree), Passion Play

 

PATA SPOTLIGHT AWARDS:

The following Spotlight awards were presented by Portland Area Theatre Alliance (PATA):

  • Other: Kate E. Ortolano, sign language
  • Crew: Crew of The Skin of Our Teeth at Artists Repertory Theatre
  • Stage Manager: Karen Hill
  • Stage Manager: D Westerholm

 

PORTLAND CIVIC THEATRE GUILD AWARDS:

  • Mary Brand Award: $2,000 to Rex Putnam High School Theatre Department Children’s Theatre Program to bring theater to elementary school audiences that otherwise could not afford to attend.
  • Leslie O. Fulton Fellowship: $5,000 to John Ellingson for travel to England to study at the Beverly Puppet Festival in July, following which he will connect and interact with several prominent puppet companies in England.
  • Portland Civic Theatre $4,000 Award  to CoHo Theatre to pay for the creation and installation of an exterior sign marking the building and increasing the visibility of the theatre.
  • The Portland Civic Theatre $6,000 Award to Shaking the Tree to upgrade their lighting and sound equipment.

 

AGE AND GENDER EQUITY AWARDS:

  • $10,000 to Profile Theatre
  • $20,000 to CoHo Productions

Two can occupy this bench, at least for a while: James Sharinghousen (left) and Don Alder in Profile Theatre's "At Home at the Zoo." Photo: Jamie_Bosworth

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: At Home at the Zoo is not about Occupy Wall Street. When the play began, way back in 1958, and when it was finished, almost a half-century later, the Occupy movement didn’t exist.

Yet beneath its considerable entertainment value Edward Albee’s old-new play feels as current as a bullhorn-blaring encampment on a littered patch of downtown mud. It might almost have been called Occupy Central Park. Or maybe Occupy America’s Soul. In raw terms, the story comes down to this: Poor guy confronts rich guy in a park. Only one of them survives, and to say he “won” requires an extremely elastic, even willfully oblivious, understanding of the word.

From its outset the Occupy movement has been intensely and intentionally, if not always shrewdly, theatrical, and the situational roots of its theatrics are all over the stage in Profile Theatre’s new production of At Home at the Zoo. Albee’s comic drama is an expansion and reworking of his first produced play, The Zoo Story, which established his reputation as an up-and-comer before his hail-genius-well-met success in 1962 with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In the process of rethinking The Zoo Story Albee anticipated the origins of Occupy and took it a step beyond. Sure, the movement’s about greed and hoarding and the abandonment of the middle and working classes and the fully down and out. But the country’s complex and sometimes angry reactions to it are also about caution and safety – about clinging to what we have, hoping to ride things out, for fear of what unleashing unpredictable forces might let loose. Better the devil we know inside ourselves than the one we might discover if things bust loose.

The tale of The Zoo Story is almost tribal in its stripped-down tempting of the fates. Peter, a comfortable sort of upper-middle-class Upper West Sider, is reading a book on his favorite Central Park bench when he’s interrupted by Jerry, an erratic, down-at-the-heels, story-spinning young man of suspect hygiene and apparel who demands Peter’s attention. What begins as an uncomfortable moment slips into an uneasy truce before exploding into a shocking violence which is nevertheless also an almost loving complicity. The one-act is short, compact, quizzical in that early-Pinter Birthday Party kind of way: an intense white heat, satisfying partly because its nerve endings are left jangling and unexplained.

Hardly a month goes by when The Zoo Story isn’t in production on some stage somewhere around the world. Yet as successful as it’s been, something about it kept eating at Albee. It bugged him that, while Jerry dominates the energy and action, Peter remained largely a question mark. Who was he? What did he think? Why didn’t he just get up from the bench and walk away?

There was another, fuller story, Albee felt, and so he turned his one-act into a full two-act play – or rather, a pair of linked one-acts, adding Homelife at the beginning and doing some minor tinkering with Zoo Story to create At Home at the Zoo. The fresh version debuted in 2004 at Hartford Stage under the title Peter and Jerry and then opened off-Broadway in 2007, under its new title, at Second Stage.

Home life, interrupted: Karla Mason and Don Alder. Photo: Jamie Bosworth

Profile’s swift and often funny production, under the direction of that smart and efficient master mechanic Pat Patton, digs into both the old and new with satisfying gusto. Peter (Don Alder), the  mild-mannered man on the park bench, becomes the link between Act 1, which takes place between Peter and his comfortable but not entirely satisfied wife Ann (Karla Mason), and, in Act 2, the aggressive and possibly loony Jerry (James Sharinghousen).

Both acts are fascinating and alternately funny and horrifying, and now that they’re together the tale almost screams for a concluding Act 3. There are gains – a deeper understanding of both Peter and the forces of violence that coalesced on the park bench; the wonderful character of Ann, who prods Peter in ways less confrontational but no less radically challenging than Jerry. And there are losses – primarily in the savage mysteriousness of the 1958 original, which seemed to rise from the muck like an unexplainable holy fragment of pure existence. (The Zoo Story has the rush of early Sam Shepard.) Lovers of mystery, the existentialists in the audience, may well prefer the original. Classicists, those who thrive on exploration and explanation, will be glad for the expansion. I’m happy that both versions now exist.

“Almost before I knew it, Homelife fell from my mind to the page … intact,” Albee wrote upon the New York debut of the expanded version. “There was the Peter I had always known – a full three-dimensional person and – wow! Here was Ann, his wife, whom I must have imagined deep down, 40-some years ago, but hadn’t brought to consciousness.”

At Profile, the byplay between Alder and Mason in Homelife is quite delicious. Mason is forthright and sophisticated, funny and affectionate, and surprisingly practical in revealing something that Ann’s husband doesn’t want to hear at all – that something’s missing, something necessarily beastly and savage, and it leaves her feeling that life is slipping by while she and Peter remain on the sidelines. Like Bill Pullman, who starred as Peter in New York, Alder has the gift of presenting a calmly controlled surface that gives way to little gusts of humor and small hints of disturbances roiling beneath.

Peter is a man whose strength is his ability to suppress his wilder instincts, to provide a rich and trouble-free and above all smooth life of civilized comfort and measured pleasure. He cut loose once, in the past, and it frightened him deeply. He’s determined not to let it happen again: Too much feeling disturbs the universe. Peter publishes boring but important textbooks, and his job has provided for him well: his salary is very good, and no doubt he’s invested prudently. He’s a man of gradual advances, not revolutions. He believes in order and progress, the rising tide that lifts all boats. When he discovers that this isn’t enough for Ann, it shakes him to his well-protected core. Is he, might he be, an empty man?

Then, in the park, there Jerry is: the savage, the avatar of impulse, Peter’s opposite and enemy, who might also be his undiscovered half or the son he doesn’t have. There’s always been something a little cartoonish about Jerry, who is both victim and victimizer, occupier and occupied. Sharinghousen roars and growls and leaps like a playful bear. But bears can bite.

In his versions of these paired plays Albee brings scope, intelligence, sadness and extraordinary wit to an often inchoate set of ideas that have been rumbling around America since its inception – ideas of equity and opportunity, sharing and hoarding, having and having not, communalism and independence, staying safe and hanging over the edge. This is the ether that the Occupy movement breathes. Albee, writing before the movement began, suggests that such matters are more than simply economic, and that in matters of emotion and belief and even action, the ratio isn’t only 99 to 1. It’s also 20 to 80, and 92 to 8, and 50 to 50, and 37 to 63, and 33 to 33 to 34, and one to one, and at some core level we’re all responsible, all in it together.

Share the park bench, anyone?

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Profile Theatre’s At Home at the Zoo continues through January 29 at the Theater! Theatre! Building, 3430 S.E. Belmont St., Portland. Ticket info here.

 
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