‘Up the Fall’: The lion, the witches and the wardrobe

PHAME’s first musical showcases hidden theater talent.


“The actor does not need to “become” the character. The phrase, in fact, has no meaning. There is no character. There are only lines upon a page. They are lines of dialogue meant to be said by the actor. When he or she says them simply, in an attempt to achieve an object more or less like that suggested by the author, the audience sees an illusion of a character upon the stage.” (True & False, by David Mamet, p. 112)

In PHAME Academy’s Up the Fall, Melissa Halstead’s acting is David Mamet-clean. Here is a natural. She opens her mouth and the phrasing is simple, perfect. Her Tortoise — a wise father figure of a seemingly doomed world — avoids histrionics, caresses and cajoles his children with believable endearments like “dear” (she’s too young to use “dear” so convincingly) and serenely commands the stage like Helen Mirren.

8816: Tortoise (Melissa Halstead) leads a bank of Birds on their fantastical journey in rehearsal for PHAME's "Up the Fall." Photo: Sarah Law Photography.

Tortoise (Melissa Halstead) leads a bank of Birds on their fantastical journey in rehearsal for PHAME’s “Up the Fall.” Photo: Sarah Law Photography.

Halstead’s breakout performance was my favorite part of UtF, a show performed PHAME-style, by actors with a broad range of disabilities. This production at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, which closes August 29, marked its first foray with an inclusive cast — those with and without developmental disabilities.

Also impressive were University of Portland student Jacob Orr’s frenetic Ratatoskr – the squirrel messenger (an adorable juxtaposition of the Ice Age acorn thieving varmint, Scratt, and Max Headroom) and Eliza Jensen’s Diana — a level-headed teenager in a wheelchair who constantly negotiates for freedom from her overprotective hovering mother, in the end accepting “there’s no place like home.” Jensen’s assertiveness, overdone with strident explosive retaliations at her mother, was tempered with wistful asides when she just wanted to be alone with her birds.

The story: Another Realm is a paradise kept in balance by a trio of folkloric characters, each in charge of the moon, the wind, the harp (of harmony). The blind daughters of Tortoise fight to wrest power and nearly succeed. Jealous because an earthling was adopted by their father, they passive-aggressively react instead of believing that daddy still has enough room to love all of them. Yet another earthling, Diana, enters the hermetically sealed Another Realm to help right the balance of power. A nice touch — birds die off in both realms, Diana’s Earth realm experiencing the disappearance of the birds as a consequence of poisoning in Another Realm.


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!