Plays about reunions, be they family, alumni, or with old friends, are somewhat of a theater staple. You almost know what's coming without having read the scripted laughter, crying, anger and sentimentality. Theater in places besides a traditional theater or an off-Broadway black box isn't that new of an idea but, it's always refreshing. And refreshing aptly fits TWB Productions of Lamppost Reunion by Louis LaRusso running two times a week until July in the Father Luke's Room at McMenamins Old St. Francis School.
The plot concerns Sinatra-esque character, Fred Santora, who returns after twenty years, and following a big gig at Madison Square Garden, to see his old pals and Biggie, from his childhood singing group, The Hudson River Four.
Biggie has never forgiven Santora for leaving the Hudson River Four high and dry and becoming a megastar on his own. Even before Santora makes his entrance into the bar, Biggie is raging at customer Mac, the prototypical drunk Irish-American barroom pundit, and Tommy a small-time bookie and hustler, about how he hates Satora and all he stands for.
Once Santora and his frontman/manager Jobby, show up at the bar and the drinking begins, the play shifts into high gear and rages onward in a machine gun blast of crude language (don't take language-sensitive friends to this show) for the next hour and a half and three acts.
It's a fast-moving show and, like all reunion plays, is ideally suited for tight ensemble acting. Director Kelly Edwards has created that snug ensemble feeling with mostly even performances.
Jared Rasic is, as usual, poised on stage portraying Biggie's volcanic rage with such force that by act three you wonder if the man has any bile left in him. When Biggie does relent, it's only for a few moments. Bruce Moon as the sharp-tongued drunk with a Celtic flair for offbeat and mystical musings scattered among his sharp barbs is the show's scene-stealer and gets many well-deserved laughs.
Cameron Saunders makes up for being much younger than the other actors and for his uncanny Johnny Depp looks by being comfortably relaxed on stage and on the money with his timing. Jim Mortensen gives the role of Jobby, the big singer's gofer and general yes-man, a lift as one of the few characters in the play allowed to show some range of emotion.
Wayne Newcome, as Santora, has the hardest part in the play as he conveys the swagger yet the vulnerability of a star who is fading and whose life isn't what it's been cracked up to be. Newcome delivers an insightful performance.
Best of all about the evening was the atmosphere with the actors mingling with the audience before the show, the Father Luke room set has been built to leave you feeling like you were in a bar in Hoboken as people enjoy themselves with food and drink.
TWB Productions states that they are: "Currently geared toward cultivating a new audience for and by performing live theater in nightclubs, bars, pubs, taverns, parks, beer gardens, etc."
With this show, it seems they've taken the first step toward that goal.
Every Sunday and alternating Mondays and Thursdays through July. McMenamins Old St. Francis School, 700 NW Bond St. $12.50/adv at BendTicket.com or $15/door.