BWW Review: Portland Center Stage Play at Home: Short Plays by Anya Pearson, E.M. Lewis, Josie Seid, and Sara Jean Accuardi
I can't tell you how excited I am to have something to review! After 3 months of canceled performances (and undoubtedly many more on the horizon), I am immensely grateful -- for the artists who continue to make art during this difficult time and for the theatres that are finding creative ways to make that art accessible. Thank you!
In case you missed the news, Portland Center Stage recently joined Play at Home, a national theatre project where playwrights write short plays for us non-actor folks to perform at home. The library of plays already available is huge and diverse -- I've already whiled away several hours reading scripts from playwrights both familiar and new.
PCS commissioned four plays from local playwrights as part of the project. The scripts can all be downloaded on the PCS website, and two of them have videos of actors reading the scripts.
Three Love Songs
By Anya Pearson
I've read this play -- what Pearson describes as "an ode, a dirge, a lament, an operatic examination of quarantine life" -- at least five times, usually quietly, sometimes out loud. It requires that attention, even while acknowledging that at the moment it's difficult to give sustained attention to anything.
Through her poetry, which somehow manages to be both empathetic and unsentimental, both soft and sharp, Pearson perfectly captures the challenging, conflicting, and sometimes contradictory feelings of living in our world right now -- feelings of isolation, of expectation, of being "A bug on its back / who cannot turn over / and get moving again," but also, ultimately, feelings of communion, community, and hope.
The Third Prisoner
By E.M. Lewis
E.M. Lewis's very short play opens with two prisoners in a dingy cell. One wants to interact -- talking, playing a game they've clearly played many times before; the other just wants to sleep. They've obviously been there a very long time and are at different stages of giving into the hopelessness of their situation. Then a third prisoner arrives, reminding them that they aren't just prisoners. They're people, with names and mothers and memories.
When I first read this play, it felt like a snapshot of the early days of this quarantine, as we struggled with how to fill our time. Now, with our country feeling somehow even more polarized and uncertain than it was just a few weeks ago, what strikes me most is how important it is -- and how little it takes -- to be reminded of our own humanity and the humanity of others. We are all just people, with names and things we love and people who love us. The only way we get out of this is together.
On a side note, E.M. Lewis kept an audio diary for American Theatre's Offscript podcast. It's a must-listen.
A Wing and a Prayer
By Josie Seid
Four women are preparing to go to a feminist lecture when one of them accidentally conjures a fairy godmother who, naturally, tries to dress them up for a ball. Of course, no one is living the life you think they are, and that includes fairies. By flipping the typical fairytale script, Seid shows that there's more than one way for dreams to come true.
Seid is the only playwright whose play doesn't feel like a direct response to current times. And what a lovely escape it is! Full of fairies, fashion, feminism, and fun.
Joy Frickin' Hates Her Dumb Stupid Room: A Trapped Little Play for Trapped Little Times
By Sara Jean Accuardi
We all have our own ideas of what hell might look like. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Hieronymus Bosch painted deeply disturbing hellscapes full of torture scenes, mutated animals, and disembodied limbs. And in the spring of 2020, 13-year-old Joy is forced to stay home while her friends, whose parents are less strict about social distancing, get to hang out.
Joy represents all of our inner teenagers who are just aching to throw a temper tantrum right now because life isn't fair. Also, Hieronymus Bosch is a hamster. With her characteristic humor and insight, Accuardi has created a funny, joyful little play for what are indeed "trapped little times."
From This Author Krista Garver
Krista runs a content marketing business in Portland, Oregon. She fell in love with musicals at age 5, when her parents took her to see
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