Our Guide to Portland Summer Theater

Your summer is packed and so is the theater schedule. Don't sweat it, Portland: We pick the shows we're most excited about this summer so you don't have to. Here's this season's playbill...

By Ramona DeNies and Fiona McCann June 16, 2015

Foss Curtis, Lauren Bloom and Leif Norby in In the Next Room, or the vibrator play at Profile Theatre running through June 28, 2015. Photo by David Kinder.

It’s sizzling summertime, and things are heating up in Portland’s theater scene with plays about female “paroxysms” (ooh!) and misunderstood witches (ah!) among the shows we’re most excited about this season.

In the Next Room, or the Vibrator play
At Profile Theatre, through June 28

Adriana Baer deftly directs Sarah Ruhl’s spin on Victorian sex therapy for “feminine hysteria” for Profile Theater. Tired? Nervous? Libido at a low ebb? If you’re a lady in the 1880s, you might require treatment from the good Dr. Givings. There are laughs aplenty in this tight period piece but Ruhl doesn’t shy away from some of the serious social concerns illuminated in this strangely mannered world. An able cast agilely steps from the comic to the tragic, the loneliness of a misogynistic, buttoned-up society offset by the fun of unbuttoning for Dr Givings’ vibrator.  FM

Lisa Datz and Sasha Roiz in 'Three Days of Rain' at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/

Three Days of Rain
At Portland Center Stage, through June 21
Last year, Grimm actor Sasha Roiz (Captain Renard) approached artistic director Chris Coleman to produce Richard Greenberg’s Three Days—a stage actor’s favorite in which siblings try to unravel the mystery of their architect parents, later playing the parents themselves, thirty years prior. In quite the buzz-worthy event for our star-hungry burg, Roiz next roped in castmate Silas Weir Mitchell to join him for their Portland stage debut. Together with the sizzling Lisa Datz, the Grimm stars certainly bring a new level of polish to the local scene, completely tearing up the first two acts in this Portland Center Stage production. And then, for Act III—uh, nope, all done! If I sat awhile blinking when the lights came on, it was because I wasn’t sure the show was over, so abrupt and inconclusive was Greenberg’s finale. (Okay, and also because I was staring two rows up, where actor Russell Hornsby—Grimm’s Detective Griffin—stood, handsomely tapping on his phone.)  RD

Scene from The Liar. Photo by Owen Carey.

The Liar   
At Artist Repertory Theatre, through June 21
In this take on Pierre Corneille’s 1643 tale of mistaken identity and falsehoods, David Ives spins a yarn so dazzling the Wall Street Journal asked if it was the funniest play ever written. The truth? It's hard not to be captivated by Ives’s 2010 translaptation (“translation with a heavy dose of adaptation”), which includes insanely fast-paced wordplay, witty repartee, and a plot to make your head spin. By the end of Act II, we’re witnessing a veritable Busby Berkeley blow-out, with multiple marriages, a shocking familial reveal, and a hazy feeling that you’ve already forgotten the plot. If you like your truth-tartare not so, um, raw, Artist Rep's The Liar’s got your dish.  Rachel Davidson

CoHo Summerfest
At CoHo Theater, through July 12

June 11–14    The Wildly Inappropriate Poetry of Arthur Greenleaf Holmes
Summerfest 2015 is off to a rollicking start with the robust recitations of Gordy Boudreau’s fictional 19th-century “libertine poet” (not for children or unplucked maids). Punctuated by winkingly feigned concern for his audience, the veteran Renn Faire performer holds forth with rhyming verse on undropped testicles, cheese, and “menstrual huts.” I would have fled the room red-cheeked (as Boudreau repeatedly invited the audience to do) had I not been incapacitated by laughter. RD
June 18–21    Butt Kapinski
Farceur Deanna Fleysher’s noirish private eye knows all about murder scenes. But when it comes to similes (and conventional gender identities), well, he gets a little lost.
June 25–28    Loon
Puppets, mimes, and masks: physical theater troupe the Wonderheads enliven the silence with a “most peculiar love story.”
July 2–5         The Peasant’s Bible
Shaking the Tree’s Samantha Van Der Merwe directs Michael Kerrigan in this five-monologue compendium from Nobel-winning Italian folklorist Dario Fo, master of “illegitimate” theater.
July 9–12       Drowned Horse Tavern (A Sea Shanty Cabaret)
What do you do with a drunken sailor? If your answer involves a rusty razor (or the captain’s daughter) then you’re on track for what Amber Whitehall, Christi Miles, and Rebecca Lingafelter have planned. Promised: salty dogs, vaudeville, leviathans.

Time, A Fair Hustler: Photograph by Alex Huebsch

Time, A Fair Hustler
At Artists Repertory Theatre, July 28–Aug 16
Where among today’s condos and food carts would we find the hustlers, thieves, and Rat Kings of Gus Van Sant’s 1991 cult classic My Own Private Idaho? Hand2Mouth’s mixed-media premiere reconvenes the characters of the original film to tackle questions of history, nostalgia, and survival. 

Taming of the Shrew                    
At Various Locations, July 11–Sept 7

Bust out your best picnic basket and blanket for the 46th season of free summertime Shakespeare in the Park. Over this nine-week run of the Bard’s classic farce, PAE’s troupe, directed by Patrick Walsh, performs in alfresco locations including the Concordia and Reed campuses, three wineries, and Laurelhurst Park. 

The Elixir of Love 
At Newmark Theatre, July 12

Snake oil, cowpokes, and echoes of Tristan and Isolde: this Wild West version of Gaetano Donizetti’s 1832 love story caps Portland Opera's golden anniversary season with a 10-gallon hat and plenty of bel canto from stars Matthew Grills and Katrina Galka.

Original Practice Shakespeare Festival            
At various locations, June 21_August 23
Out to prove that the Bard can’t be tamed, OPS returns for its seventh season of rollicking outdoor shows—some all-male, some all-female, and some definitely not suitable for the kiddies—of classics including The Comedie of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, and (new to OPS this year) Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

At the Keller Auditorium, Aug 5–23

Carrie St. Louis and Alyssa Fox in Wicked

This musical reimagining takes on two of the most famous characters in the Land of Oz: Glinda the Good, and the Wicked Witch of the West (known, in Winnie Holzman’s adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s novel, as Elphaba). Stephen Schwartz’s Grammy-winning score has helped keep this box-office blockbuster flying since its 2003 premiere.

Up the Fall  
At Artists Repertory Theatre, Aug 22–29

Beloved Portland singer-songwriter Laura Gibson’s first-ever musical score, written exclusively for this world premiere from Oregon playwright Debbie Lamedman, was destroyed this March in a fire at her New York City apartment building. The flames of Gibson’s creativity are not so easily squelched, however. The show—a myth-and-folktale mash-up starring local actors with and without disabilities produced by Phame—goes on!




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