Favorite Comedy — Tragedy: A Tragedy (Defunkt)
Staged economically yet elegantly in Defunkt’s sexy speakeasy-style space, Will Eno’s script has a laugh every few seconds—truly!—and every single line landed in both performances we saw. Flawlessly acted by a pitch-perfect cast, this show was great fun for anyone who has ever watched the news and worried about if tomorrow will ever come. A total delight.
“Be daughterly with me, Constance”
“I wish more than anything my mother were here with me now… but if she were here, I would ask her to leave”
Constance losing the thread & frantically cycling through accents
“This is Michael, on bended knee”
Favorite Drama — Wolf Play (Artists Rep)
Genuinely moving. This took a very specific story and made it universally about family, and emotionally resonant to anyone who has ever wanted to belong and be loved. Astonishing script by Hansol Jung which uses a puppet to play a child, illustrating the child’s disconnect as well as allowing a more nuanced actor to inhabit the part. Perfect.
Favorite Experimental — Our Ruined House (PETE)
From the faux Q and A start to the transformation of a suburban home into a Soviet submarine, Our Ruined House was The Shit. The extremely game cast sold every twist and turn, however absurd. The tensions in this marriage are literal characters wearing balaclavas; people crawl out of refrigerators; multiple scenes exude a palpable menace; there are laughs. We look to PETE for boundary pushing in both content and stagecraft, and they rarely disappoint. If nothing else (and there was a lot of “else”), this show was a technical marvel.
Favorite Nontraditional Staging — Undine (Speculative Drama)
Magical. Silent-movie-style storytelling with expressive musical score, highlighted by a touching and vulnerable performance by a force of nature in the Portland art scene, Megan Skye Hale. More please.
Favorite Theatre of 2019 — Defunkt
Defunkt was the theatre company to beat in 2019. All three of their shows were BRILLIANT. Any one of them would be a great introduction to locally produced theatre for that friend who somehow hasn’t been to an east side show. Tragedy: A Tragedy, Brilliant Traces, and Smokefall were all beautifully acted by sharp, ideal casts. Defunkt’s physical space located the back of Common Grounds Coffee Shop is a literal dream. Their shows always feel like they end on a positive note despite often exploring dark themes; their worldview feels encouraging and positive. They’re never afraid to look at the worst of us—the worst of family, the worst of our culture—but their good vibes and passion set them apart. Defunkt won’t send you out into the night feeling terrible, which heckin’ matters these days. Company members Elizabeth Jackson and Matthew Kern were glorious every moment they were onstage.
Favorite Snacks — Headwaters (popcorn!)
Favorite Lobby Experience — Milagro (room to move, talk, or find a little space)
Favorite Costumes — The Bakkhai, Elyse Grimaldi
Favorite Program — Bad Bad Bad / Calamus by Shaun Keylock Company
Favorite Dance Piece — Scrambled by Amelia Unsicker
Favorite Set — Our Ruined House by PETE
Favorite Original Script: The Killing Fields by Anya Pearson (Orphic) — laugh-out-loud funny and poignant
Breakout Theater Company 2019 — Rutabaga Story Co
What an outstanding year. From riotous readings of Danny Gray’s An Irish Exit to a massive-puppeted staging of Eve Johnstone’s Fire and Meat to a co-production of Stephanie Woods’ Trash Diggers, Rutabaga’s work represents passionate independent theater at its best—full of ideas, emotion, clever turns of phrase, humor, pathos, and PUPPETS. Never stop.
Favorite Ensemble, Drama — Jesus Hopped The A Train (Beirut Wedding/CoHo) — A super downer of a script acted passionately and impeccably by some of Portland’s very best performers. Riveting.
Favorite Ensemble, Comedy — Smokefall (Defunkt)
Favorite Ensemble, Experimental — Hamletmachine
A huge thank you to every single artist who made Portland a great place to go out and art this year.