Tonights Agenda: King Lear at Post Five Theatre, then
Lauralwood Public House and Brewery in Sellwood
I am the first to admit that I am no authority on Shakespeare. While Mark spent his childhood learning Shakespeare at the foothills of Ashland at the respected Shakespearian festival, I spent my childhood roaming the muddy banks of the Minnesota River and attending plays at the local high school. While my hometown of LeSueur may have been the “Green Giant” of peas and corn, it was not fertile land for theater enthusiasts, particularly the likes of Shakespeare. But over the years I have had the pleasure to experience a wide range of Shakespeare’s distinguished works.
Tonight’s performance reminded me of why Shakespeare continues to endure and resonate with its patrons. That said, Elizabethan prose has never been easy for me to understand. I have learned the key to truly understanding and embracing Shakespeare is to come prepared for a Shakespeare play by reviewing a summary of the play beforehand. A playwright whose works have endured and remained prominent in the theater world for centuries, deserves to be studied and I think that is why watching a Shakespeare play often feels like a bit of a triumph to me. He was a very clever fellow who demands the viewer’s rapt and focused attention if one is to genuinely understand Shakespeare’s greatness; his prose is not necessarily easy listening.
Legendary Portland actor, Tobias Andersen, at nearly 80 years of age seems destined to play the role of the title character. Not only because he is age-appropriate for the aging and declining King Lear, but Anderson’s interpretation and performance feels very authentic and true to the playwright’s original intension his character. I have to admit a preference towards the classical performances of Shakespeare productions over the more modern interpretations. This is a traditional King Lear and Anderson wears this character well. Todd Van Voris, as the Earl of Kent, was another notable performance tonite. I have seen him at the Post 5 before in Equivocation. I felt he did a standout performance at that production as well. Van Voris is an example of how to correctly execute Shakespearian-speak. His delivery of Shakespearian prose is masterful. If every actor could recite Shakespeare with Van Voris’s cadence, Shakespeare would share even more universal appeal.
The recently remodeled Post 5 Theater in Sellwood continues to evolve into respectable venue with increasing seating, and a humble beer, wine, and snack counter. The theater needs to use more lighted step markers since the all black interior makes it difficult to navigate safely and the temperature regulation could still use some tinkering.
After the theater, we retreated to the Sellwood Laurelwood Public House and Brewery . I think I liked this place more than Mark did. Its ample seating of wooden benches reminded me a little of hanging out at the Octoberfest. While we arrived about 15 minutes prior to last call and most people had gone to bed for the night, I could envision a joyful and robust crowd during peak eating and drinking hours. The menu is generous with eating options for even the pickiest diners and the pub offers wine, in addition to its many hops -related offerings.
This is a gentle reminder to clueless patrons who are prone to grand gesticulations while speaking before performances and during intermission: Try to reign yourself in or risk dumping red wine or drink onto the patron seated next to you. Smaller theaters do not provide much elbow room. There is not a lot of space for gross motor movements. As I sat dodging the arms of the man seated next to me while he was speaking to his friends, I felt certain he was trying to wack my glass of wine on me. He was seemingly totally oblivious to anyones presence, except his own. At the end of the evening as we exited the theater, I found him standing outside, still swinging his arms like a propellor while visiting with other patrons. At least he was able to sit still and be quiet during the performance.
Post5 Theater, in Sellwood, is one of our favorite places to see plays. Last year the founders left and the company is under new management. Judging from King Lear, they have not lost a step.
The theater is in an old church and if you have seen other plays there, be aware they have remodeled the inside so it is set up more like a classic theater. At least for King Lear the design was inspired by the HHGTHG:
It’s the weird colour scheme that freaks me. Every time you try to operate one of these weird black controls, which are labeled in black on a black background, a small black light lights up black to let you know you’ve done it.
The inside is all plywood painted black, just waiting for a patron trip and fall. Hopefully they will spend a little of the ticket money on some glow in the dark strips for the steps. That was my only winge about the show: the plywood set made every footfall almost as loud as the dialog.
When I was a kid we would go to Ashland every year and my father would give us a summary so we would know what was going to happen in the play. It occurred to me as we sat down what while I knew of King Lear, I had never read or seen the play before. I did not know what to expect from the play, either in plot or language.
Performing Shakespeare is difficult to do well, in large part as Elizabethan English is almost a foreign language. I have tried to learn french and I find when I listen to french I rarely hear single words. Each sentence is one long word. The same occurs with bad Shakespeare: the words blur together. Good Shakespearean actors manage to separate the words into distinct packets yet still speak without sounding stilted. It is a tough balance and for the most part the actors in King Lear pull it off.
King Lear is an interesting play and character. Shakespeare manages to write an early agitated dementia patient, Lear, perfectly, although Lear speaks a bit more eloquently than most people, demented or otherwise.
While Tobias Anderson has received well deserved kudos for playing Lear in his 80’s, a shout out to the supporting actors is warranted. It was a well acted played and a well produced play, as there were few times I could not follow the language of the actors.
That said, Shakespeare really was lousy at plotting. So many coincidences and characters seemingly deliberately blind (except Gloucester) to people and events. It should not be called a MacGuffin but a Shakespeare. When seeing Shakespeare, suspend reasonable thought and ignore all the plot devices. They are so stupid. Enjoy the words and actors and it will be a joy
Post5 will be doing Othello next, later in the season Richard III and other productions. We will likely see them all.
Laurelwood Public House
Unfortunately Kays Bar was packed and we didn’t want to wait for food and drinks, so we across the street to Laurelwood Public House.
Kerry has but one flaw, she is not a beer drinker, but I never pass up a chance for a brewpub.
This inside is nothing special: mass produced booths and tables, nary a surface that cannot be easily wiped down after a spill. No chance this place will ever take on the smell of sour beer, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But little personality, like an Applebees rather than the more idiosyncratic bars we visit. Bars just have more style than brew pubs.
We never seem to have bad service when we go out, and even though, or perhaps because, we were 35 minutes from closing, the food and beer came quickly. Fish and Chips, both beer battered, from the Hoppy Hour (yes. I know. Trying too hard) menu made for a nice after show meal. Who would have thought to beer batter fries? Extra crunchy and extra calories.
The nice thing about brew pubs is the sampler, 8 beers for 10 dollars, mostly delicious. I am not a stout fan, but the variation of the IPA’s were interesting and all enjoyable.
We are Francophiles. Both of our kids went to Portland French School (RIP) and we especially love French food. While we have lived in Happy Valley for 15 years, we rarely make it up Sunnyside since the area is growing is like a tumor and traffic usually sucks.
There is an excellent French bakery, Petite Patisserie, in Happy Valley. You know it is good when it worth suffering the traffic to get there. A perfect place to stop on the way to Mt. Hood or Sandy.
They know how to make pastries the right way. For example, the eclairs have vanilla cream instead of whipping cream. The apple strudel is flakey instead of soggy, both sweet and tart. So many of the pastries in Portland are on the dry side. Never at Petite Patisserie. My only nit to pick is the croissants. Not as buttery and sweet as mine, but I do make the best croissants outside of Paris.
Last weekend I tried the Eggs Benedict, made better with spinach , an almost pudding like sweet hollandaise sauce and a touch of balsamic. Well, since it was one oeuf rather than the usual pair, perhaps it was Egg Benedict. The only thing that will make it better will be summer, when we can sit beside the fountain while we enjoy the food and a large cup hot, black, bitter French roast. Not Paris, but as close as I can get in Happy Valley.