Autumn may mark the end of day trips, beach-basking, and camping, but Portlanders must not lament its arrival. The fall brings with it a line-up of theatrical productions that demonstrate escapism at its best. A variety of plays, from existential to thrilling to comedic, are ready to take audiences on an expedition of the mind.
Third Rail’s production of Middletown lightens the weight of the abstruse quest to uncover the purpose of life. Written by Will Eno, Middletown is a story marked by life and death but the subject matter is what occurs between. Utilizing the play medium allows the story to emphasize a familiar cast of characters seen in life—the cop, the doctor, the mechanic—in a setting that could be any town. Under the direction of Marcella Crowson, Eno’s quip-filled, yet poignant dialogue is metered with fast-paced execution to keep the audience from getting lost in its meta musings. Middletown plays now through Oct. 19 at the Winningstad Theater, 1111 SW Broadway. Performances occur Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $33 to $47.
Audiences seeking a more plot-driven story can be carried away to a sea of unfortunate circumstances and character conflict in Exiles. The third play by Cuban-American playwright Carlos Lacámara, Exiles draws from Lacámara’s cultural history to dramatize the exodus of many Cubans to the United States during the Mariel boatlift of 1980. In this production presented by Artist Repertory Theatre, director Dámaso Rodriguez has cast several Drammy winners, such as Andrés Alcalá and John San Nicolas, who bring a dynamic energy to the strife onboard a boat of perturbed passengers. This week, catch a preview for the special price of $25, from Tuesday, Sept. 30 through Friday, Oct. 3.Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Exiles opens Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Morrison Stage, and runs through Oct. 26. Performances occur Wednesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m; Sunday at 2 p.m; on the fourth week, Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $41 to $49.
In honor of Halloween and all that is spooky, The Reformers once again return to an actual house for a playhouse to create a spine-chilling space—this time for the tale of The Turn. Adapted by cast member Sean Doran from Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, the play uses a well-established foundation for thrillers. Among them, the theme of seclusion breeding insanity, notably weaving in elements from the similarly themed film, The Shining. The Turn opens Friday, Oct. 3 at 1126 SE 15th Ave. and runs through Oct. 25. Performances occur Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m; additional performances occur Monday, Oct. 13 and Wednesday, Oct. 22. Tickets are $18.
For a taste of the absurd, director Rose Riordan returns to the comedic work of playwright Adam Bock with a production of The Typographer’s Dream. In 2010, Portland Center Stage found success with Bock’s The Receptionist, also directed by Riordan, and starred Sharonlee McLean and Laura Faye Smith. These three are teaming up once again, now joined by actor Kelsey Tyler, to take the cliché of becoming one’s work literally. Previews run from Saturday, Oct. 4, through Thursday, Oct. 9. The Typographer’s Dream opens Oct. 10 in the Ellyn Bye Studio, and runs through Nov 16. Performances occur Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m; Saturday and Sunday at 2pm; Thursdays at noon. Tickets range from $40 to $55.
— Rachael Lesley
Above, a photograph of actors portraying Middletown.