Diverse cast makes comedy accessible to all

Dimly Perceived Threats to the System
Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center
5340 N Interstate Ave.
May 25-June 9
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 & 8 p.m.
Group rates for six or more
Reservations (503) 823-4322

The Portland Accessible Theatre presents a humorous tale on family life in the new millennium. The aim of the company, under the artistic direction of Julie Osborn, is to present productions with an integrated cast of people with and without disabilities.

Judith Yeckel directs this unique cast in Jon Klein’s play, “Dimly Perceived Threats to the System.” The Washington Post called Klein’s play a “domestic comedy about a nuclear family approaching meltdown” and that certainly puts it into words.

Husband Josh works hard as a filmmaker. He is finishing a documentary on family values and is in the middle of what appears to be a mid-life crisis. Wife Marlys, a professional consultant, specializes in coping strategies but she too has trouble coping. Their 13-year-old daughter Christine is a threat to the family system with her teenage angst and colorful antics.

In the play, these characters are joined by three others: a school therapist, a doctor and Josh’s assistant/lover. These six individuals paint a vivid picture on the stage.

The play is also unique in its structure. Rather than a traditional linear form, Klein experiments with a layered structure of interwoven skits or segments.

In the beginning of the play, Marlys is making a business presentation, complete with lectern, microphone, and rear-projected PowerPoint computer slides. Before long the business jargon of her presentation has been transformed into the voice of her dysfunctional household.

The comparison between corporate and family life is one of the charming elements of the comedy. Another delightfully funny twist is that Josh, who is working on a film on family values, is having an affair with his assistant.

The Portland venue for Klein’s domestic tale of the American family couldn’t be more appropriate. The Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center was opened in 1982 in order to provide a place for artists that were not represented well here in Portland. Some of the first productions were by emerging African-American and Asian-American artists who didn’t have a venue to perform their work.

Since then, the organization has expanded to feature independent theater, dance and performing arts productions of all kinds. In addition, the beautifully restored 1910 brick firehouse provides a place for diverse visual artists to show their work in monthly exhibitions as well.

The Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC) is wheelchair accessible through the primary entrance. The parking lot is also accessible. Tri-met riders may use bus line #5.

The IFCC also sponsors: Origins Cultural Arts and Lecture Series, Neighborhood Youth Theatre Project, Oregon Stage Company, workshops, classes, student matinee series, new script readings, art exhibits, and rentals.

The nonprofit, community-based center’s productions and programs emphasize the unique situations, rich cultural heritage and the many ethnic traditions of Portland’s increasingly diverse population. The goal is to promote education about, and interaction among, Portland’s ethnic groups and the community-at-large.

Not only does the IFCC house a fully-equipped theater, but also two art galleries, a dance studio and administrative offices. In addition to art exhibitions and theater events, the cultural center hosts artist lectures, a discussion series and youth programs, while also making space available for rent to visiting arts groups.