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6 shows to see this season - weekend audience has broad selection of plays

A little Shakespeare, a high school melodrama, a reader's theatre, a comedy, a Pulitzer-Prize winner, a Broadway musical ... Theater-goers will have plenty to choose from in the coming weeks. We've reviewed some and previewed others. So make y

'Don't Dress for Dinner' at Hillsboro Artists' Regional Theatre

I missed the pole in the old space. It was funky and so odd. But it was a race against the other theatre-goers to arrive fashionably early to stake out a place in line so when the lobby curtains opened, you could make a mad dash to find that ideal seat where the pole would not block your view of the stage.

Pity the late arrivals.

In the way these cosmic events happen, I suppose it was a blessing that Hillsboro Artists' Regional Theatre (H.A.R.T.) lost its lease. Of course, it meant their wandering around for nearly two years until their new home was completed. It was worth the wait.

The scaffolding narrowly removed; the paint barely dry; the set just finished; conditional occupancy permits in hand - H.A.R.T. was ready. On Friday, April 13 - talk about an auspicious beginning - their inaugural production, 'Don't Dress for Dinner,' opened to enthusiastic hoot and hollers. Let us hope their conditional permit becomes permanent as this is a play worth seeing, and remember to bring your handkerchiefs as you are going to be wiping tears of laughter that are guaranteed to be streaming down your face.

'Don't Dress for Dinner,' as written by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon, was a fiercely fast, double-speak and double-entendre comedy of four persons' eclectic notion of romantic love. Set in a French countryside, these four, forgoing any semblance of French accents by the way, have raging appetites, and I do not necessarily mean their longing for Brie and croissants.

Bernard (Harvey Brown) has arranged a romantic tryst with his mistress Suzanne (Beth Charles). He needs an alibi so he invites his best friend Robert (Chuck Weed) for the weekend. Unbeknownst to Bernard, Robert has amorous intentions toward Bernard's wife, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline is supposed to visit her mother, but once she found out that Robert was visiting, it was quite obvious that some flames were going to be ignited this weekend. Poor Bernard - his wife is staying home; his mistress is coming; and to top it off, a cook named Suzette just walked in the door.

Poor Robert - he is hoping for fervent frolics with Jacqueline but instead he needs to run interference for Bernard and he thinks Suzette is Suzanne. Still with me? Good, it becomes even more complicated. Let us not question why Bernard invites Robert for the weekend if he was planning a passionate tête-à-tête, but that is where the thinking with the head stopped and other thought processes kicked in instead. This improbable situation was punctuated with broad satire and slight ridiculousness at their state of affairs with broadly painted scenarios and lightly stroked passionate scenes.

Without talented actors to handle not only the challenge of the language but also the physical comedy, a play like this can fall with a resounding thud. Fortunately, this cast breathed energy and life into their characters, each on a collision course toward collusion, conspiracy and scheming duplicity. They liberated their lines as their words just rolled off their tongues with quick nimbleness. There were a few uncomfortable moments where an actor 'went up,' meaning lines were forgotten. But the actor recovered, the audience sighed relief and the action continued. Everyone executed their roles of aging Lotharios and desirable 'other women' with the delicate precision of a finely tuned orchestra.

H.A.R.T. has the propensity toward selecting plays that minimalize their need to change sets, and this works to their advantage, reducing the disruption to the action. There is also no backstage space for additional set pieces. Keeping with tradition, 'Don't Dress for Dinner' was designed and staged by Doug Sellers. It captured the flighty opulence of the slightly rich and spoiled.

The new theatre has only 99 seats, stadium-style. This afforded the audience the opportunity to become intimately engaged with the play's unfolding comedic revelations for it seems like you are a voyeur peaking through the windows shaking your head at their crazy antics.

I recommend you be that voyeur and take pleasure in good acting and excellent theatrical ambiance.

'Address Unknown' at Readers Theatre Repertory

The short story 'Address Unknown,' about two German friends and business partners, will be presented by Readers Theatre Repertory in Portland from Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 29, with a benefit performance on Friday, April 19 for the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center.

Author Katherine Kressmann Taylor wrote 'Address Unknown' as a short novel, written as a series of letters between a Jewish art dealer (Martin) living in San Francisco, and his business partner (Max), who returned to Germany in 1932 and gradually adopted the Nazi ideology.

With its prescient anticipation of the rise of fascism and its unrelenting examination of fascism's effect on the human soul, Address Unknown is a story of as much urgent importance today as when it was written as a novel in 1939.

The play is directed by Mary McDonald-Lewis and stars Tobias Andersen and Michael Mendelson.

The Oregon Holocaust Resource Center is located at Pacific University in Forest Grove. Its mission is 'to remember, to record, to teach' about the Holocaust. For more information on OHRC, visit www.pacificu.edu/ohrc.

OHRC's premiere reception and performance at the Brunish Hall Theatre is by invitation only. Tickets are $75. For more information call 503-352-2930.

'Merry Wives of Windsor' at Theatre in the Grove

Sir John Falstaff decides to seduce both Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, who are, of course, already married to other men. Falstaff writes identical love letters to both. The wives compare love letters and decide to teach Falstaff a lesson in Theatre in the Grove's latest attempt at Shakespeare.

Visit the News-Times Web site at www.forestgrovenewstimes.com to see what reviewer Lynda Irons thought of the opening weekend production.

Where: Theatre in the Grove, 2028 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove

When: 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays through April 22

Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors

Contact: Ice Cream Shoppe, 2001 Main St., Forest Grove, 503-357-8336.

'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' at Forest Grove High School

A cast of 45 teens, 40 children and eight adults are featured in this entertaining retelling of the biblical story of Joseph and his eleven brothers.

Lively dance numbers show off a community cast in a variety of song styles.

See page 14A for a story on alumni memories of the 1986 production of 'Joseph,' and stay tuned for a preview in next week's paper.

Where: Forest Grove High School, Ellen Stevens Auditorium, 1401 Nichols Lane

When: 8 p.m. on April 27, 28, May 3, 4, and 5 and 2 p.m. on April 29

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors

Contact: FGHS, 503-359-2432 x231

'The Pony Expresso' at Gaston High School

Whoa, Nellie! Ride into town and settle down for a nice cup o' Joe at 'The Pony Expresso or . . . the Villian Came to a Grinding Halt,' a melodrama extraordinaire by Rachel Davidson in Gaston Junior High School's Old Gym stage on Friday and Saturday nights from April 20 - 28 at 7:07 p.m.

This hot melodrama is boiling over with puns and jokes galore. The Pony Expresso, a friendly establishment run by Star Bright and Aunt Dee Caff, is struggling. Their customers are buying coffee at a lower price from the scheming Mo Cabana and Fifi Latte. But the citizens are falling ill to an unexplained fainting disease. It's strange ... they feel good 'til the last drop. Luckily, Buck Brawn, the handsome hero, bravely investigates the mysterious health dilemma.

Things come to a boil when Mo and Fifi hear that Star and Dee are destined to become rich - the railroad plans to make the Pony Expresso the new train station! When Mo and Fifi devise a plan that almost destroys them, the beans are spilled. Justice prevails as love brews between Star and Buck, who decide to marry and rename the Pony Expresso to honor their relationship: Buckstar Coffee.

This is an active participation melodrama. The audience should be prepared accordingly.

Where: Gaston High School's old gym

When: 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays from April 20-28

Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students. Active military is free

Contact: 503-985-7516

'And Baby Makes Seven' at Pacific University

'And Baby Makes Seven,' by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, will be Pacific's final production of the year. The play features three accomplished senior theatre majors in their final acting appearances before graduation.

Ellen Margolis, artistic director of Pacific's theatre program, calls 'And Baby Makes Seven' a 'sly, sexy, silly examination of stories we tell ourselves as we step into new roles, and the unorthodox ways in which family can be created.' Ruth and Anna (played by Jessica Portney and Lindsey Mullens) portray a longstanding couple who have decided to have a baby with their friend Peter (Matthew Sa).

The play begins as the pending challenges of parenthood begin to sink in for the trio, and they realize they need to start behaving more responsibly.

This means, among other things, killing off the three imaginary children who have been living with Anna and Ruth for years. Cecil, the child genius; Henri, a snooty French boy; and Orphan, a wild child raised by dogs, all have to go - and none of them are ready to leave without a fight, a tantrum, or at least a truly spectacular last hurrah.

Where: Pacific University's Teatro Barbara Theater

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 19-21, and Tuesday, April 24; and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 22

Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, students and alumni

Contact: University Box Office, 503-352-2918