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Together, We Are Strong 

Three productions showcase Humboldt theater's range

click to enlarge Alejandro Torres as Francisco, Wendy Carranza as Ximena Jimenez and Victor Parra as Mateo in Dreamers: Aquí y Allá.

Courtesy of HSU Department of Theatre, Film and Dance

Alejandro Torres as Francisco, Wendy Carranza as Ximena Jimenez and Victor Parra as Mateo in Dreamers: Aquí y Allá.

Scout's Honor: The Whichever Scouts vs. The Energy Monster

This year's holiday show at the Arcata Playhouse, Scout's Honor: The Whichever Scouts vs. the Energy Monster, combines traditional English pantomime with topical humor and a wealth of local talent for an unbeatably fun time.

The Whichever Scouts are the most mismatched troop you are ever likely to meet: There's Mustache Mike (Ben Shaeffer), who's on parole doing community service; gangly Dexter (Sammy Quezada), who's afraid of almost everything; officious, rule-abiding Regs (Meridith Ann Baldwin); sensitive eco-activist Edison (Camille Borrowdale); a trio of accident-prone red-shirted brothers (Jeff Kelley); and canine companion Woofy (James Peck, clearly channeling Billy Connolly). This motley crew is embarking on a camping trip under the dubious leadership of Mama Scout (David Powell, resplendent in glitter, pompoms and turquoise eye shadow).

Elsewhere in the forest, evil is afoot. Power-hungry Jon Luc Bistard (Ben Clifton) is plotting to create the ultimate energy source, which will enable him to take over the world. Innocently assisting him is geeky but naive scientist Dr. Lillian Energy (Sarah Peters), who also happens to be Edison's mother. Protecting the enterprise are Bistard's intellectually challenged and slimily servile henchmen Not Now (Evan Grande), Now (Nick Borden) and When (Abby Maguire).

While most of the scouts are setting up camp, Edison goes against Regs to find the source of the water pollution that's already caused the demise of two red-shirted brothers. Unfortunately, he's taken captive by Bistard's henchmen, to be held hostage until his mother gives up the secret code to the energy source. But luckily the fateful encounter is witnessed by two feisty squirrels (Halla Kramer and Vela Citrine-Battle), who communicate what's happened to Woofy. (They learned to speak dog at "communutty college.")

Back at the lab, Dr. Energy is forced to throw the switch and activate the Energy Monster (a gloriously costumed Aaron Dury) as Regs and Woofy arrive to rescue Edison. Things don't go quite as planned and Regs ends up tied up with Edison, so Woofy heads off to find more help. Regs and Edison, meanwhile, discover feelings they never knew they had — and Dr. Energy remembers she has a secret weapon by the name of Jolene (an effusively Parton-esque Cate Hatfield) to defeat the energy monster.

This being panto, there's a wealth of wince-worthy dialogue, lots of audience participation and some pretty dramatic fights. But in the end, evil is defeated (although not before the Bayshore Mall is destroyed by the Energy Monster) and multiple people fall in love because, of course, the only real power is love.

And because this is Arcata Playhouse panto, there are also seasonal and spoofy musical interludes from the Blue Lake Community Choir, plus guest appearances from different local performers every night. Sound effects and sing-along support are masterfully provided by the house band, including Tim Randles, Marla Joy, Jeff Kelley (when he's not being a boy scout) and Charly Eitel. The fabulous costumes are by Yavanna Reynolds and Rebecca Zettler, set design is by Ella Villamor and the whole crazy circus is masterfully directed by Sarah Peters.

The Arcata Playhouse's Scout's Honor: The Whichever Scouts vs. The Energy Monster plays Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.arcataplayhouse.org or call 822-1575.

Dreamers: Aquí y Allá

Dreamers: Aquí y Allá, now on stage at Humboldt State University's Gist Hall Theatre, is challenging and uncomfortable to watch. But it delivers a powerful and important message about what it means to be a hyphenated American.

At its core, Dreamers charts the arc of young lives from the innocence of childhood to the discovery of what being undocumented means. No drivers' license, no social security number, no legitimate work opportunities, no college scholarships — the country these young people live in, that they call home, is telling them they have no value.

Then President Obama announces DACA. It seems like the ultimate dream come true but with dreams come risks. Openly declaring undocumented status makes other members of your family vulnerable. Your employer will have to acknowledge they broke the law in hiring you. Never mind that it costs $495 and you have to file a mountain of paperwork with the government. And if Congress never passes the legislation needed for permanent protection, that dream could die at any moment.

Watching these young people and their families struggle with these challenges, their identities, the memories that surface unpredictably and their first journeys (back) to their countries of origin is painful to watch. It only becomes more painful as the occupant of the White House changes and the fears they thought they had left behind return. But now they are a step closer to knowing who they are.

Dreamers was written by Andrea Caban in collaboration with student artists and is performed as an ensemble piece by HSU students. The cast does an outstanding job in multiple roles and credit goes to them all: Kas DeLeon, Christian Trujillo, Senna Kim, Xiola Cardoza, A.J. Hempstead, Ritz Garcia, Victor Parra, Savannah Baez, Wendy Carranza, Alejandro Torres and Gwynnevere Cristobal. Direction is by Amy Beltrán, Andrea Carrillo and Troy Lescher.

Dreamers: Aquí y Allá continues at Gist Hall Theatre Thursday, Dec. 12 through Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. Visit www2.humboldt.edu/theatre or call 826-3928.

Every Brilliant Thing

Regular Redwood Curtain productions are dark right now, so Creative Type Productions is taking the opportunity to stage Every Brilliant Thing, a solo piece staged in the round and directed by Roman Sanchez.

The Narrator, a confident and engaging William English III, begins his story with his mother's first suicide attempt. He's only a child and struggles to understand what his mother's actions mean. So, he decides to start making a list of everything brilliant in the world to give to his mother — all the reasons to want to live. As we in the audience help him build his list, we participate in his experience of working through how his mother's actions impact his life. We witness his interactions with the vet who euthanizes his dog, with his school counselor and her sock puppet, his anger at his mother's second suicide attempt, his college life, falling in love, getting married, his marriage falling apart and his admission that he doesn't know how to feel joy as an adult. After his mother's final, and successful, suicide attempt, he reviews the list and finally understands that it reflects his life but it did not save hers.

It helps the intimacy of the production for the audience to engage with the Narrator – both in creating the list and enacting key points in the Narrator's life. Every Brilliant Thing is a unique, thought-provoking theatrical experience — highly recommended.

Every Brilliant Thing plays Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. Visit www.redwoodcurtain.com or call 443-7688.

Pat Bitton is a freelance writer/editor based in Eureka who is theoretically retired but you know how that goes. She prefers she/her.

Continuing

Ferndale Repertory Theatre presents Matilda Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Dec. 22. Visit www.ferndalerep.org or call 786-5483.

Dell'Arte's annual holiday show Return to Oz tours the North Coast (including McKinleyville, Scotia, Orick, Eureka, Klamath, Trinidad and Arcata) before returning to Dell'Arte for five final shows through Dec. 22. Visit www.dellarte.com or call 668-5663.

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