Saturday, October 14, 2006

Portland Story Theater Season Opens

Anita Bryant said a day without orange juice was like a day without sunshine. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can do without either -- but don't ever get between us and our coffee.

Portland Story Theater opened its 2006-07 season last night with Who am I and Where is My Coffee?. The original stories, based on life events of the tellers, provide a memorable evening of gentle humor, adventure, and even moments of horror -- although not the kind you'd traditionally expect in October. While earlier productions have featured a quartet, the show's core trio of Lynne Duddy, Lawrence Howard and Rick Huddle tightly sustain the solid string of tales.

In a city overflowing with coffee shops, you wouldn't think finding a regular hangout would involve high drama in a grocery store aisle, but that's what Rick Huddle delivers in "The Fix." Part travelogue, part love story, not one false note, Huddle describes his search for an oasis of belonging -- one of those warm, grounded places where "a regular" can get "his usual." What he finds is both transitory and timeless.

Self-proclaimed "Drama Queen" Lynne Duddy is surprised by the powerful consequences of an 18-month-old cup of coffee she never got. Crater Lake was always a symbol of serenity for me. No more. It's a miracle there aren't two craters there now, after the scorched-earth reaction to a vacation gone terribly wrong. But Duddy also finds -- in the midst of identity theft -- that the world is conspiring to shower her with blessings.

Lawrence Howard's "Night Blues" may not convey the mystic power of John Masefield's lonely sea and the sky, but it rocks in a river dreaminess all its own. Boys on boats have a long and respected pedigree in storytelling, and Howard's contribution to the field speaks of adolescence, honor, and playfulness, and a job well done. "I Dream of Jeannie" also draws on on-the-job camaraderie, but also on isolation, and those situations when you wisely draw the line and walk away.

Who am I and Where is My Coffee? runs through October 28. Future performances are already scheduled for February and April (so far away!). Get season tickets. It's delicious work worth savoring.

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