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The People's Republic of Portland

REBECCA JACOBSON
7:30 pm Tuesdays-Sundays, 2 pm Sundays and select Saturdays, noon Thursdays through June 30., Saturday June 22 | $34-$54.
Gerding Theater
128 NW 11th Ave.
 
It would be easy to carp about Lauren Weedman’s mispronunciation and misnaming of this newspaper (on opening night, she referred to it as “Will-uh-met Weekly”). But that would be too simple, and just a bit cheap. (And it was apparently a deliberate mispronunciation, the show’s dramaturg has informed me.) No, I applaud Weedman, a Los Angeles resident and former Daily Show correspondent, for picking up a copy of WW in her mission to understand our city, a quest she details in this solo show commissioned by Portland Center Stage. But Weedman—an affable monologist, gifted physical comedian and pretty decent dancer—may well have lost this one before she even started. Though her talents are on display, The People’s Republic of Portland winds up somewhere between Portlandia-style potshots and The New York Times’ lovey-dovey coos, with Weedman’s confessional bursts more genuine than those on The Real World but still not meaty enough to carry the performance. The 90-minute show, directed by Rose Riordan, has live-wire Weedman bouncing between humorous anecdotes, skillful character impersonations, hip-hop dance breaks and thoughts about her family. These personal considerations provide a loose framework, but they’re underdeveloped. Weedman’s observations about Portland, meanwhile, hit too many of the expected beats. The show has a bearded barista, a public transit proselytizer, a tattooed stripper, gaggles of Amelie look-alikes, geek trivia whizzes and a woman rhapsodizing about her vision quest at an ecstatic dance party. Weedman—who speaks without punctuation or pause, animated to the point of near-hysteria—presents herself as unguarded, but there’s a caginess to her. It’s one of the things that makes her so engaging: There’s a sense she’s withholding something from the audience, or even from herself. But this undercurrent of anxiety pairs uneasily with her jokes, which seem designed for PCS subscribers to chuckle knowingly about the quaint and quirky charms of our attention-loving city. Strangely, I left the show feeling bad, and almost embarrassed, for Weedman. She’s witty and dynamic, and it’s clear she’s taken with Portland. But Portland isn’t her wheelhouse, and People’s Republic feels unfinished.

Where: Gerding Theater
Phone: 445-3700
Address: 128 NW 11th Ave.
Website: http://www.pcs.org/republic/

 
 
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