BWW Reviews: Commune with Your Inner Sailor at PETE's DROWNED HORSE TAVERN, Part of CoHo Productions' Summerfest
Sea shanties, tall tales, shipwrecks, mermaid sightings, a hold-your-breath contest -- in DROWNED HORSE TAVERN by Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble (PETE), you become a sailor for a night, so, as they say, batten down the hatches and prepare for a wet and wild ride.
DROWNED HORSE TAVERN is part of an 18-month PETE project called The Journey Play is the Whole Thing, which is a collection of work centered on Juli Crockett's play [OR, THE WHALE], inspired by Moby Dick. It's also the last show of CoHo Productions' five-weekend Summerfest theatre festival.
PETE describes the show as "[spinning] vaudeville, live music, and visceral performance into a raucous evening of salty cabaret." The show isn't so much a performance as a fully immersive experience. The CoHo Theatre has been transformed into a ship, with part of the audience sitting at tables on the messdeck (get there early -- these seats are the best). For one night, we are all travelers at sea, sharing tales, singing songs, drinking grog, and sometimes longing for home. Through music and stories, we experience both the thrill of adventure and the ache of loneliness associated with life on the high seas. In other words, be prepared to participate. If that idea fills you with trepidation, don't worry, there's free beer.
The show is wild and bawdy and fun. The performers -- Rebecca Lingafelter, Paige McKinney, Cristi Miles, Mark Valadez, and Amber Whitehall -- are fabulous, especially Lingafelter, who, as always, displays a phenomenal range of emotional intensity. (Just last month, she was awarded a Drammy for Outstanding Achievement in Solo Performance for her work in GROUNDED.)
Overall, I don't think any of us knew exactly what to expect as we made our way through the narrow sea-creature-filled tunnel that serves as the entrance to the theatre. And there was some uncertainty at the beginning as to what we were supposed to do -- Sit quietly? (No.) Sing along? (Sometimes!) But we soon got the hang of it, and when the show was over, I felt like I had spent the evening not just watching something, but doing something.
DROWNED HORSE TAVERN runs through July 12. For tickets, visit petensemble.org or cohoproductions.org. The next show in the Journey Play program, ALL'S WELL (A SIGHTLESS PLAY) will take place in late October and rumor has it the audience will be in hammocks (sign me up for that!).
Photo credit: Owen Carey