Category Archives: Opinion

Stage Names: Portland Stage’s “Arsenic” poisons winter doldrums with infinite laughter

Mortimer Brewster (Ross Cowan) and his fiancé Elaine Harper (Leighton Bryan) in his aunt’s living room, in Portland Stage's production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," by Joseph Kesselring (photo by Aaron Flacke - please click to enlarge)

PORTLAND — When I was in college in upstate NY, the period immediately following Christmas break was affectionately known on campus as “the gray season.” January and February were cold and depressing. Fast forward to today. In northern New England, not much has changed during a time of year that still sees a peak of […]

Irony and cruelty: My father’s endless journey from Pearl Harbor

Flight Lt. Christos G. Halkias, RHAF, in the cockpit of a Hurricane, c. 1941. (click to enlarge - photo courtesy of author)

My father and Pearl Harbor have been inexorably linked through the irony of history, and the cruelty of coincidence. When America was attacked by Japan early on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Flight Lt. Christos George Halkias was a 21-year old fighter pilot making his way to North Africa by land after escaping a German prisoner of […]

Stage Names: At Portland Stage, “Later Life” urges us to live, and wonder.

Ruth (Rae C. Wright) and Austin (John Hadden) meet on the balcony of a cocktail party overlooking Boston Harbor in Later Life by A. R Gurney, playing at Portland Stage through Oct. 23. (Click to enlarge - photo by Aaron Flacke)

It may have taken legendary American playwright A.R. Gurney (a.k.a. “Pete”) into his fifties to overcome critical and audience bias against his so-called “WASP culture” characters and storylines, but it won’t take any audience member of “Later Life”—one of Gurney’s masterpieces now playing at Portland Stage Company— more than a few minutes to appreciate the inherent […]

Would you let partisan politics ruin your family?

  In my summer travels and writings, I recently had an opportunity to see the play “The City of Conversation,” by Anthony Giardina. The play is about family and politics, and how the latter could affect the former. In short, and without diving into the work itself too much, the play is about two strong women, […]

My Father’s Day

Dad holding me, Christmas 1960. (click to enlarge - photo courtesy of author)

On Pearl Harbor Day, 1996, I came home early from work, and within minutes of walking in the door, my sister called with news of our father’s death. After hanging up, the poet Robert Lowell came to mind. A New Englander who spent his life at odds with an old-school father, Lowell once wrote: I struck […]

Her eternal search for E.E. Cummings


  I‘ve made the pilgrimage before, even in the rain. Early one morning, under a misting sky, I drove down to Boston – specifically, to Jamaica Plain. My last visit had been years before, yet I followed the course by memory. Urban landscapes can change in 35 years, but finding Forest Hills Cemetery is never […]

Stage Names: Portland Stage finds more than just a Lost Boy

Gabriel (Tyrone Davis Jr) offers Christine (Mhari Sandoval) a sample of papaya, in Portland Stage Company's production of "Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods," by Tammy Ryan. (Click to Enlarge - Photo by Aaron Flacke)

Sitting in the shadows during a weekend performance of Portland Stage’s “Lost Boy in Whole Foods,” the poet E.E. Cummings haunted me: a man who had fallen among thieves lay by the roadside on his back dressed in fifteenthrate ideas wearing a round jeer for a hat   fate per a somewhat more than less emancipated evening had […]

Stage Names: Portland Stage unleashes raucous “Hound of the Baskervilles”

(L to R) Sir Henry Baskerville (Steven Strafford), Dr. Watson (Ryan Farley), and Sherlock (Dustin Tucker) hear the howl of the Hound in The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson. (click to enlarge-Photo by Aaron Flacke)

You knew right away — from the opening lines, in fact — that this version of Sherlock Holmes was going to produce a delightfully delicious evening. When the usual Portland Stage Company official did not come out to welcome the crowd and thank sponsors — leaving the task instead to the play’s three actors (who were already on stage) — […]

A hotel room for Christmas

The author's son Jason, with his season baseball trophy, late summer, 1993. (click to enlarge - photo courtesy of author)

  My best Christmas was spent in a hotel room, and I have the candy jar to prove it. Filled to capacity with old, inexpensive holiday ornaments, it sits at home on a bookshelf and collects dust, yet remains a treasured possession. In the early 1990s, I used to make monthly pilgrimages to Iowa to […]

Stage Names: What Martin Luther King, Jr. tells us from Portland Stage

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Harvy Blanks) lays out a new dream discuss while Camae
(Kim Staunton) listens on. (click to enlarge - Photo by Aaron Flacke)

PORTLAND – About halfway through Portland Stage’s current production,  “The Mountaintop,” a fictional, near-fantasy account by Katori Hall of the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life in a Memphis motel room, I heard the echo of Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) : “This is not a biography; is the confession of every man who struggles.” Those words, […]