Monday, August 10, 2009

Crazy Enough

Portland Center Stage **Photo credit: Owen Carey**
March 31 - August 16, 2009 **Extended**

Review by peanutduck

JAW review applicable; addendums: Storm Large is a generous performer. Keen ear; when language flows into beat-poetics tinged with soft irony - simply wrenching. But full production accentuates self-consciousness as actor, girdled by text, which suffered “polishing,” forced into pointed narrative; perhaps better as episodic. Act break unnecessary; set inharmonious.


Anonymous said...


While I can't speak for the entire community, PCS has definitely lost any and all support from me.

Anonymous said...

Who is the guy in the picture supposed to be/represent?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I am done with PCS, too!

Anonymous said...

gotta say that what with THREE promo articles re: storm large in the O-gonian today AND the most recent PCS scandals, I am SICK of all the attention this decidedly mediocre "entertainer" and profoundly pedestrian theatre company reaps. It feels like I'm a baby bird someone is force feeding a piece of yarn instead of a nice juicy worm.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm wondering what the purpose of this blog is supposed to be! It has the essence of whiny, self-appointed nay-sayers and want-to-be elitists who can't find anything good -- but mostly with PCS. Grow up! Find a way to contribute something POSITIVE to the theatre community here -- if you're upset that YOUR particular theatrical venture is not receiving the attention that others are -- do something about it, and stop complaining about the perceived successes of others. Re-read your posts and see how insipid some of this banter is. Geez!

Anonymous said...

Oh I see. We all naysayers in this here blog huh?

Well, before I revisit my booster list of the shows and companies and performers I've commented on positvely here, I'd like to say that your pollyannic comment smacks of loser. This blog is a place to say WHATEVER YOU WANT. As long as what is said is said decently, we are free to be critical in WHATEVER WAY WE WANT.

For myself, I've been fortunate enough to have some measure of theatrical success here in PDX. More attention is always desirable of course but so far so good. My particular beef is that Coleman is squandering significant amounts of our patrons good will (not to mention various deparmental budgets) on his obsession with this one performer. She just not that good.

As to "the percieved successes of others" I kinda don't get what you're saying? Do you mean I'm kvetching because the current regime at PCS is a success? I don't think there's many folks on either side of the apron who'd grant you that.

Finally, your post reads to me like the popular kid in Jr. High who is scoffing at the nerd. That kid usually grows up into the drunk/abuser while from the nerd class is derived the Gates's and Asimovs and Giamattis and the Hoffmans, both Philip Seymor and Dustin, etc. etc. etc.

s kelsey said...

Sometimes the nerds grow up to be Ted Kazinski.

Anonymous said...

rush limbaugh - popular
steve colbert - nerd

billy ray cyrus - popular
willy nelson (lyle lovett) - nerd

bush - popular
obama - nerd

splattworks said...

This is completely off topic (though maybe not whilst we're talking about music), but Willie Nelson has never been and will never be a nerd (as loveable as nerds may be sometimes). Willie Nelson is straight up mescal, with lemon and salt.


jenr said...

The guy in the photo is James Beaton, Storm's piano player and long-time collaborator and friend. And an all-around nice guy and a great musician.

I'm guessing that in the photograph he probably represents himself?

Anonymous said...

i believe it is impossible not to fall in love with this show and impossible not to fall in love with the woman who performs it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I struck a nerve with my posting on your whining. I think, by the responses of a few of you, that I am correct, however -- great comebacks. I don't mean to be condescending -- but, your postings echo scratchings on the bathroom walls of a high school. Oh, well. And as for Storm -- she is talented, and you can't deny that. You may not appreciate what she delivers, and that's reasonable. BUT, kudos to Coleman for finding a performer who DRAWS AN AUDIENCE. He's a smart producer for finding a way to capitalize on what she gives on stage; to generate an audience which means ticket sales, which means taking care of the bottom line. And, forgive me for the generalization -- I'm sure some of you like SOMETHING...

Anonymous said...

Neither side of the "whining debate" is particularly interesting.
Can we talk about the show?

I am a sucker for a true story.
The fact that the person in question both lived this one and is rendering it is compelling to be sure.
Not many in town can sing like that.
Not many in town have come back from a full blown heroin addiction.
Put the two together, and you've got a gripping evening of theatre and song.
Coleman's role in all this, while easily labeled as star chasing and likely is just that,
cannot be curtly dismissed. It was his idea and he has molded it well (with the help of some not so ghostly ghost writers).

THE big flaw, if there is one, comes from the fact that this is not a Portland story.
The bulk of the formative material took place in Massachusetts and California.
There is but one albeit pivotal scene, on Hawthorne Blvd, and even in that case, the drama comes via a phone call from out of state.

PORTLAND, it seems, is an accidental bride in all this --- due solely to a liaison with a Portland musician, said liaison having taken place, once again, out of state.

THE big question is: can she maintain the freshness and passion thru the entire run?

Notably MIA from the script is Large's only fame to claim for her own, and that is her brief TV stint and subsequent #5 single. Were it not for those, she would not be on stage in town sharing her life story for $40. It is wisely left out, giving the effect that not only did we not hear it all yet, but that there is more to come --- "Still Crazy Enough" anyone?

THOUGH not in fotos, but surely on stage, the woman looks like Charlize Theron -- another fetching 6 foot blonde with narrow hips. Now put Whitney Huston's voice on her and you've got yourself one large storm.

THE best thing that could happen to this show is: It eventually moves to Broadway and makes history. Why? First, with Large out of the way, the rest of us mortals can get back to obsessing about why we don't get what we want; and thus free of Coleman, maybe PCS will hire a director who is not a serial murderer of the classics.
Chris seems to have found his niche, let him have it. Somewhere other than Portland.

Parting thought #1:
In 10 years Storm will be on the verge of 50. She physically cannot sing like she does forever. Catch her now. I wish her a great 10 yrs.

As I descended the stairs into the black box theatre space, I noticed some wear and tear on the Gerding that opened so recently, and noted that the lovely wooden stairs, not virginal like the day the space opened, are now scuffed and creaky.
Kinda like PCS itself.

THIS show will not save their bacon, but it is an astonishing achievement by some very troubled artists, and no one should wish them anything but well.
(Wherever they go from here)

Anonymous said...

It's been said before but bears repeating.
Portland is a fame whore.

The slightest hint of national fame brings Portlanders to their knees in worship.
The town has chronically low self-esteem and so get into a lather at the mere whiff of any validation.
And far be it for any local to be talented.

The very fact that you are still in pdx means that you are a sham and not worthy of adulation, let alone ticket sales.
This is due to the fact that anyone with a decent amount of talent leaves (witness wade mccullum etc etc)
So if you live here, you are a zero.
But if you move here, well then, you are a star --- particularly if you bring papers of pedigree.
A tacky reality show? Sure, come on in!

Sadly, anyone who leaves and gains real success, never comes back.
Witness shoshana bean --- who for 2 years played a Broadway lead (wicked).
She will not lower herself to tread the local stages.
(Even though she left the show and her solo recording career is a no-go)
Nor will any real TV or movie star return to the wet streets of Laredo -- uhm uh, h20 town.

And so we are saddled with demi-celebs stealing and hoarding all our limited lime light.
It makes it a sour thing for any hardworking (and oft times national grade) talent to endure.
Imago has a pretty good system in place. They go to NYC regularly, collect some cred and then return home and make the rent. They have been doing the same show, cyclically, for about 20 yrs now.

For the rest of us, it is a matter of watching the roles come and go while we wait in the bullpen.
A tragedy?
Just a matter of ego unstroked and pay checks uncollected.
Dreams deferred as it were.
Who in the audience gives a good crap about our little dreams?
Well folks, those years, when our ages match the roles we fit, those do not come around again.
Unless bill gates invents a time machine.
Which is about as likely as Portland theatre goers getting themselves into a dither over a local actor who is actually and truly worthy.

How are they to know? How can they risk admiration when we sport no out of state documentation of our acceptability?!
They will never "see it" and so they will never see it.
We are invisible, and until Portland grows a pair, shall remain so.

(Are other cities in the nation's top 25 cities like this? Sure, some -- but I'll wager not all. There are communities out there, prestigious places, where talent is honored by virtue of its talent, period. They trust their senses. They appreciate it and they aren't too shy to say so. They vote with their wallets. And by the way, the Portland press are part of the problem here. They don't trust themselves to be star builders. They are either without ambition to leave town for a better gig and so merely tread water, or they are so ambitious they believe they can only be taken seriously if they trash the local scene -- the implication of course being that they are "above" it--- the old trick of elevating yourself by putting down those around you)

Sad to say, as our city has grown and we now suffer the indignities of traffic and a high cost of living, we still don't love ourselves as other cities do.
I wonder if an entire city can get treatment for self loathing?
Maybe if we put prozac in the city water........

(As for those who care to label this essay "Whining", well go ahead, it is that. So now that I've beaten you to it, instead, strap on some brain cells, and add to the discussion rather than simply dismissing it. Afterall, we all want the same thing out of this buggy race: food, shelter and a little appreciation for what we do)

Anonymous said...

Well stated, re: "Portland Fame Whore." Well stated. And, it didn't sound like whining to me. You actually discourse in detail, with a point of view and it's not emotional. How refreshing!

Anonymous said...

PCS is over for me too

Ben Waterhouse said...

re: "Portland Fame Whore," you're absolutely correct. This town goes weirdly gaga for anyone with so much as a single Lifetime movie credit, and it's pretty pathetic. We cultivate local "celebrities" and bend ourselves over backwards to bask in the glow of a self-made pseudo-celeb like Marc Acito, Storm Large, Randy Leonard or Art Alexakis. But 'Crazy Enough' is actually a very strong show, well written and performed.

It's worth noting that the reason most Portland actors who find success elsewhere don't work in their hometown is that the pay is lousy. Only PCS can afford that kind of contract—and aren't we always complaining that they do too much out-of-town hiring? Those who do move back here because they actually like the city (Gretchen Corbett, Maureen Porter) find plenty of work, and are beloved. Should we in the press do more to promote individual actors? Maybe; but every time we do, another dozen will get furious for being passed over. Nothing I write is going to launch anybody to national stardom, and becoming a local celebrity is all about willpower. Make a lot of noise, and you'll get attention. Stay modestly quiet and you won't.

Anonymous said...

For the love of god Fame Whore, stop blaming everyone but yourself for your lack of work. That, or accept your fate gracefully and shut the fuck up. It's always been a crap shoot, didn't you know that when you got into the game?

It's embarrassing, this arrested adolescent tantrum, and a clear example of projection. Good GOD, man: are you telling me you'd turn down the work, should you become the Golden Boy for 15 minutes? Then why deny it to others? Get busy or get over it.


Average Joe
Nobody's Golden Boy But Working Hard Even When I'm Not Working, and Happy Every Day Happy Nevertheless

Anonymous said...

I have not seen Crazy Enough, but I am going to see it. I believe in supporting artists and try to see as much work as I can in Portland. I encourage anyone who wants to see a strong piece of theatre to go and see my show at the Miracle. Then leave your comment on the El Grito del Bronx blog, and we can actually discuss theatre.

Antonio Sonera

Anonymous said...

actually I find the argument that FAME WHORES is projecting and adolescent to be out of line. That was a concisely made argument that holds water. The fear and loathing expressed in the critique by HAPPY EVERY DAY is the kind of pathological rant that proves FAME WHORES point. If you're happy every day then you don't get it. Ten years from now the amateurs who dominate this town's cultural scene will be on the sidelines. Better heed the signs and start digging deeper PDX. Make up your mind that bad to mediocre don't fly in a real cultural marketplace.

Anonymous said...

right on.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Average Joe, there is a lot of anger there.
One might even say that your response was "adolescent"

To me theatre is adolescent in nature: Recreating emotions for money and the pleasure of others.

Politics is adolescent.
So is sports. What could be more childish than those?

Earning a living for your family is not adolescent. Defending your country not so much adolescent.

But singing and acting and dancing and that sort of thing.
Pretty much a child like pursuit.

Average Joe, if you condemn adolescent behavior, why are you a performer?

Anonymous said...

Average Joe, you wild and wacky guy!
(or maybe gal, to throw us off the scent)
I never said I did not get work.
(I turn down more that I accept)
I said I wasn't getting what I thought I should.
There is a difference.

Life is pretty much about the pursuit of things we think we want.
And about enjoying what we get.

It is also about wishing.

And I wish for a better theatre scene in my town.

"Better" to me means more good shows by good people.

And nothing galls so much as bland theatre which gets big kudos.
(and it's not so much about the lost paycheck -- usually to someone imported at great expense --which ups ticket prices -- but about the lost YEARS -- there is no redemption for that Joe)

When theatre that is lacking gets big play in the press, it feels like the audience is being cheated of their time and money.
Likewise, when theatre that is deserving gets little or perfunctory mention in the press, it feels like (due to the writer's lack of confidence in themselves and/or in us)
the audience loses again.

But back to the subject at hand: Crazy Enough is a good show. Well worth seeing.

splattworks said...

When I first read the ‘Fame Whores’ critique, I thought it was a bit depressing but basically true. After a couple days’ reflection, however, it strikes me as a little too easy. Having lived in towns as big as New York and as small as Cave Junction (then, approx. 1,000), I’ve found almost every community has a tendency to make certain members into local heroes, graduated mirrors of the overall culture’s psychology of worshipping then tearing down celebrities. Portland celebrities actually tend of have a kind of quirky, David Lynchian charm about them. This is also a town where some very distinguished artists can live relatively low-profile lives. The night I saw “Crazy Enough,” Gus Van Sant was quietly sitting by himself without apparently being hassled.

Also, the unfortunate phenomenon of you can’t be any good until you’ve left and come back is not restricted to Portland and seems endemic to many cultures, including the Big Apple (where everybody is expected to be from somewhere else). In fact, the only town I’ve lived in that I think really reveres its local artists is New Orleans, where, if you pay a month’s rent then write a great novel 15 years later, you’re claimed as a “former New Orleanian.”

It’s to Ms. Large’s credit that “Crazy Enough” is very entertaining because Ms. Large is very entertaining and talented, and it’s fun to spend time with her…which is also why she snagged the reality show gig that so many know her from. There may be better writers, actors, and singers in town, but Ms. Large stands out because in “Crazy Enough,” she does all three well while being very charismatic. It’s a successful combination.

It is a drag that some superbly gifted artists, particularly in the performing arts, have to leave Portland to win recognition or make a living with their craft. We can work harder to rectify both deficiencies.

MattyZ said...

Those of us in the JAW company last summer found out that not only is Storm Large a remarkable talent - but is remarkably generous and humble. She attends tons of theatre in town, supports her colleagues, and doesn't give off even a hint of "diva".

Beyond mass press attention, I think the reason this show is selling so well has a lot to do with the "down to earth quality" she exudes. You sense it in the audience. You sense that this is not an ego trip - but a simple, honest telling of her story. Watching many a skeptical audience member as I watched the show, I could see and feel people being won over. Lots of tears. Lots of laughter. The ovation in the end had nothing to do with being into "fame". The show works. Her performance is effective and resonates deeply with many people. It is also a very cool example of genre fusion. And all that aside, its just fucking entertaining as hell!

I say BRAVO! It deserves its success. And I'd love to see the show tour or transfer...and live on.


Battlestar said...


If we're going to go local fame whoring, why doesn't someone get Katee Sackhoff back here to do a show?

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious.
There seems to be a constant backlash on this blog where people say "don't blame 'whoever' because you are not getting more work". The suggestion is that a lot of the vitriol on this blog comes from jealous, disgruntled actors who can't find acting jobs.
My question is, "Who are these actors?"
PATA says there are over 300 theater companys in Portland right now. Most of the auditions I attend don't have enough people auditioning to fill the roles in the show if everyone is cast.
Even horrible actors with no experience, training or talent seem to find their way into local plays. Are there really actors out there who can't find jobs?
Maybe they can't find "paying" work but as Ben Waterhouse affirms there are almost no theaters in this town that pay much of anything anyway. PCS and ART. Lake Oswego and Broadway Rose pay okay but you have to drive to the 'burbs. Some of the children's theater pay but you have to take time off work. I'm not sure really anyone else pays much of anything.
Certainly not enough to live on.
If we accept that Portland has an abundance of non-paying theater work and that's pretty much all it has, why are there actors sniping about who gets work and who doesn't? This may not be the place for this question but I've been holding onto that one for a while.
Anyone got a clue here?

Anonymous said...

i love you, curious anon!

Brian said...

Wait a sec. Many of the theaters in this town pay. Maybe not a living wage at each theater, but if you work hard and work often, you can piece together a living.

You mentioned ART, PCS, Lakewood and Broadway Rose.

I've worked at PCS once, on a reading, and none of the others. Yet I make my living from theater work. (Not just acting, but also directing, the occasional commercial or film, and teaching/coaching acting and directing - diversity is good.) Some of those jobs have been from out of town, but most of them are local.

Other theaters in Portland that pay actors:

Profile. Quintessence. Portland Playhouse. Public Playhouse. Blue Monkey. NWCT. OCT. Tears of Joy. Mt. Hood Repertory. CoHo. Ops Fest. Bag and Baggage. Third Rail. Milagro. Tin Pan Alley. Imago.

There are many others I think probably pay, but am unsure about. RTR and Stumptown come to mind.

Some of those require daytime performances, but if you're making a living from this, you don't have to take time off of work to be there, this IS your work.

As to your point about the sniping and all that, I have no idea. Just wanted to point out that there are those of us who make a living at this beyond the four theaters you mentioned.

PS. Just curious, curious (ha!). What auditions are you going to that have more roles available than auditionees? Because that hasn't been my experience in Portland at all...

Anonymous said...

If you look at previous entries you will see this:
"I never said I did not get work.
(I turn down more that I accept)
I said I wasn't getting what I thought I should.
There is a difference."


"(and it's not so much about the lost paycheck -- usually to someone imported at great expense --which ups ticket prices -- but about the lost YEARS -- there is no redemption for that Joe)"

Does that help?

Seems the thread here is not bitterness borne of lack of work, but lack of work at certain venues due to folks being brought in to do work that could be done by locals and at the same time these imported ringers cause the ticket price to zoom upward.
If i were the average ticket buyer I would be livid at this realization.

If ever there were a time to stop this nonsensical pratice, now would be that time.

Anonymous said...

When the artist comes from out of town, some people say it's no good because we have talent here.

This is a show created by and starring local artists and - because of the particular local artists - some people are saying Portland is a "fame whore".

So, the only art that we feel good about is art which is created by certain local artists? I don't mean to impugn anyone's opinion... but sometimes it just seems like a "You can't please all the people..." kind of situation here.

Anonymous said...

It seems perhaps this is two different discussions.

1) PCS should/shouldn't hire more local artists.

2) Portland is a fame whore.

I'm not sure why Crazy Enough inspires the first conversation, as it does in fact seem to be a show with local artists. Or at least artists with local ties.

I mean, what defines a local artist?

David said...

Artists who are here, working, with no plans to leave, are local...even if they came here from somewhere else.

For artists who are good enough to work anywhere, though, if PDX doesn't pay enough to keep them here, they won't be local for long.

No one goes into the arts with an expectation (or even a hope) of getting rich; but artists need to be able to make a reasonable living, or we can expect them to either go somewhere else or give up art, both of which would be a big loss to PDX.

Anonymous said... is this a show worth seeing or not? I adore watching Storm Large sing, at Dantes and Wilfs, she was AMAZING. So when I bought my tickets for Caberet - I was so excited, only to leave the theater that evening not quite satisfied. (Although, to be fair, the stage malfuntioned and even Wade was not as awesome as i am used to seeing.) Somehow Storm's performance just didnt deliver to me the way it usually does on a different sort of stage.

As a singer, im constantly assessing myself as to whether Im up for whatever challenge I am offered. We all have our strengths and I left that night thinking that those who ROCK as singing performers dont necessarily ROCK at all things.

It makes me hesitant to shell out $40 if Im not sure the performance will give me what I missed when she was Sally Bowles.

Anyone who ACTUALLY saw the show wanna comment?

splattworks said...

Yes. It's worth seeing.

Anonymous said...

"It makes me hesitant to shell out $40 if Im not sure the performance will give me what I missed when she was Sally Bowles."

starting tonight at midnight all tix are $25, but you have to order in the next 24 hrs (midnight to midnight)
code is: DEAL

Anonymous said...

The show is absolutely worth seeing. Incredible, funny, vulnerable, and empowering. I would certainly not miss it.