Portland bands

Wild and Reckless drugs and dynamics

A fairly detailed look at Blitzen Trapper's first foray into musical theater.

A rock guitarist friend* once told me there are two ways to reach an audience: be a star, or be a black hole. A star emotes and explodes, releasing bursts of energy that can be seen and felt for miles, blasting the audience back against the walls. A black hole, in contrast, retreats so completely into itself that everything around it is pulled closer to its ever-deepening, ever-contracting center. A black hole sucks the air out of a room and draws the audience inside it.

Drugs offer a similar dichotomy: stimulants explode, opiates implode. Love, too, can push or pull. These are the dynamics the members of the band Blitzen Trapper has been playing with in their first musical Wild and Reckless—and the more masterfully they manipulate those polarities, the more electric it’s gonna get.

A new musical by a local band is an atypical risk for Portland Center Stage, but Blitzen Trapper had some unique selling points: They’re tight-knit, long-term creative collaborators who started out in Salem, making them especially appropriate for PCS’s Northwest Stories series. They’ve long since transcended the Portland music scene and maintained more widespread fame as a touring band, drummer Brian Koch has already been active in Portland theater, singer/songwriter Eric Earley has penned some novels, and the band had a well-connected friend, theater-creator-about-town Liam Kaas-Lentz, who helped plead their case to PCS and now co-directs their show with Rose Riordan.

Eric Earley as The Narrator and Leif Norby as The Dealer in “Wild and Reckless” at The Armory. Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

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Reborning: a strong debut for a new theater company

Beirut Wedding kicks into action with a funny and provocative drama, a CoHo cross-promotion, and music from Portland bands

Bobby Bermea and Jamie Rea’s new theater company, Beirut Wedding, makes some wise moves right out of the gate. Open the program, and a coupon falls out, recommending that if you like this show, Reborning, then you may enjoy CoHo Theatre’s concurrent play, The How and The Why. Indeed you may. Since both shows prominently feature the relationship between an older and a younger woman, and both confront the complexities of motherhood, it’s a natural pairing.

But what’s more: on trend with upcoming shows at Portland Center Stage and Artists Rep, they’ve scored their debut show entirely with local music, listed the bands in the program, and given them a shoutout in the curtain speech. (As a former PDX Pop Now volunteer, it warms my heart whenever creative groups source their music locally. With every genre, subgenre and non-genre well represented, there’s no good reason not to. Beirut Wedding has chosen roaring hard rock and smart, sardonic rap from Tiny Knives, Myke Bogan, Candace, A Volcano, and We the Wild.)

Murri Lazaroff-Babin and Tiffany Groben. Photo © Russell J Young

Murri Lazaroff-Babin and Tiffany Groben. Photo © Russell J Young

Such community partnerships extend the reach and deepen the creative context of a show. Every company that hasn’t, should try them.

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