“Fabuloso,” the new play put on by Portland’s Dramatic Repertory Company, is a taut farce about middle age that explores the gray area between good intentions and bad behavior. It careens at breakneck speed as a chaotic comedy, then screeches to a standstill as the characters deal with the consequences of their decisions.
It opens Friday in the Studio Theater at Portland Stage and runs through March 17. Daniel Burson, who most recently directed “Ben Butler” on the main stage at Portland Stage, directs a cast of four. In a twist, the actors switch up roles, alternating the characters they portray night to night. It stars Peter Brown, Christopher Holt (who just finished up “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Portland Stage), Janice O’Rourke and Bess Welden.
O’Rourke and Welden handle the two female roles of Kate and Samantha, and Brown and Holt play their respective partners, Teddy and Arthur.
Teddy and Kate are what might be considered a typical middle-age couple, trapped in their lives and work, and moving forward or perhaps even stagnating in all the ordinary ways. Arthur and Samantha crash their party unexpectedly, throwing their lives into bedlam. Teddy and Arthur are old pals, but it’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other. When Teddy finds out Arthur is coming to visit, his first instinct is to lock the door. Arthur and his loopy fiancee arrive after 3 in the morning and instantly infuse the scene with insanity.
Written by John Kolvenbach, “Fabuloso” is not a door-slamming farce, but operates with that level of energy – until it crashes to catch its breath. “It’s a collision between any attempt to be sensible and the joy of letting it all go,” Burson said. “It’s run, run, run, run, run and then stop – and those moments when everything stops are not so fast. It’s funny and profound, and typical of the DRC aesthetic.”
The decision to alternate roles isn’t a gimmick or acting-class exercise, Burson said. It’s a way for the actors to explore different facets of each character’s personality and stretch the play and the experiences of the actors and audiences in different and unusual ways. All the actors have worked with DRC before and are familiar with each other, so there’s built-in comfort. They won’t trade roles across gender, and each pair of actors will stay together throughout the run, so the chemistry they develop won’t be interrupted. Brown and O’Rourke will always be a couple on stage, as will Holt and Welden. The idea of creating dual roles for each actor is not in the script, Burson said. He floated the idea because there were no clear-cut choices about who should play whom. And so the question was posed: Why not play both?
In a play where anything goes, the answered seemed obvious.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and March 12-17
WHERE: Studio Theater at Portland Stage, 25A Forest Ave., Portland
TICKETS: $10 to $25; 800-838-3006 or dramaticrep.org