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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: March 27, 2018

Would you prefer a dark thriller or a light comedy? Both are playing in Portland this weekend

Written by: Bob Keyes

Photos by Quinn Trott Photography courtesy of 60 Grit Theatre Company

Two Portland theater companies present two very different plays by two great contemporary playwrights.

60 Grit Theatre Company continues its run of “Bug,” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts, in the studio theater at Portland Stage Company through Sunday. It’s a dark psycho-thriller about love, paranoia and conspiracy by the writer of “August: Osage County” and “Killer Joe.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Good Theater’s “A Comedy of Tenors,” by Ken Ludwig. It’s a madcap comedy and sequel to Ludwig’s award-winning “Lend Me a Tenor.” It opens Wednesday and is on stage through April 29 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center.

“Bug” takes place in a hotel room in Oklahoma and involves a waitress hiding from her estranged ex-con husband. She is holed up in a motel, and things begin spiraling when a Gulf War veteran enters the picture.

“I am really interested in exploring psychological thrillers, because I think there are a lot of avenues for visual storytelling and getting to the human nature of exploring relationships,” said director and theater founder Lindsey Higgins. “I am attracted to the dark and gritty underbelly of storytelling.”

The cast includes Shannon Campbell, Khalil LeSaldo, Megan Tripaldi, Caleb Aaron Couthard and David L. Vincent. Agnes is a cocktail waitress with an addiction problem. Her lesbian friend introduces her to Peter, a drifter and Gulf War veteran. Their relationship takes a turn when the hotel room begins closing in.

“It’s an extremely understated play, and almost cinematic in the way Tracy Letts has cast it,” Higgins said. “He is so much more than a shock artist. Everything is tangible and rooted, and it is shaped by two complicated people who fall in love.”

Mad Horse presented a version of “Bug” several years ago.

On the other hand, Good Theater is presenting the Portland premiere of “A Comedy of Tenors,” the final show of its performance season. Assuming it loses no more shows to snow, Good Theater will have presented 171 performances over its eight-month season, which began in September.

The season-closer is Ludwig’s sequel to his very popular and successful “Lend Me a Tenor,” which won three Tony Awards. The sequel has a few of the same characters and shares the original’s fast-paced comedy, mistaken identities and slapstick antics.

” ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ has always been one of my favorites,” said director Brian P. Allen, who directed the original 26 years ago at Portland Players. “To come back to these characters at Good Theater seemed like a fun way to end the season.”

“A Comedy of Tenors” is set in Paris in 1936, as Henry Saunders presents the world’s three greatest tenors in concert at Olympic Stadium. Steve Underwood stars as the opera great Tito Merelli, Hannah Daly plays Tito’s daughter, Mimi, and Paul Haley is the producer, Henry Saunders. They are joined by Good Theater newcomers Grace Bauer, John Lanham and Jared Mongeau.

Good Theater’s “Comedy of Tenors”

WHERE: St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland
WHEN: Opens Wednesday, March 28. Through April 29; 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays.
HOW MUCH: $25 and $32
INFO: goodtheater.com, 835-0895

60 Grit Theatre Company’s “Bug”

WHERE: Portland Stage Studio Theater, 25A Congress St., Portland
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20, free 24 and younger; pay what you can on Thursday
INFO: 60grit.org

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