Frogz delights children of all ages

Imago Theatre
17 SE Eighth
Through May 27
Thurs.-Sat.7:30 p.m.
Sat-Sun. 1:30 p.m.
Sun. 5:30 p.m.
General $18
Seniors $14
Under 25 $14
Under12 $9

A comic cowboy, dancing penguins and a giant baby are a few of the characters who inhabit the stage at Imago. Slinkys playing with each other, frogs and lizards climbing across each other and a mysterious paper bag all capture the attention of young and old alike.

These creatures are just a part of Imago’s critically acclaimed signature piece, “Frogz.”

The production, formerly “Frogs, Lizards, Orbs & Slinkys,” has been touring throughout the country and abroad since 1986. Portland has the opportunity to experience this delightful comic show for three more weeks this season. After playing New York’s Broadway again last year, the show sold out here in Portland for almost four months.

Children of all ages will enjoy the show. The performers interact at times with the audience and add to the festive circus-like experience. However, if you or your companions are shy I recommend staying away from seats in the front or aisle rows.

The series of nine vingettes features the athletic acting abilities of Graydon Kouri, Catherine Egan and Michael Vertlieb. While the performance is predominately movement oriented, the performers wring emotion and humor out of the smallest detail with their precise timing and finely tuned movements.

Egan, who studied ballet and ballroom dance, is delightful to watch. Her petite frame contrasts with Kouri and Vertlieb and provides additional humor in segments such as “Penguins,” where the smallest penguin must hurry along with a hop and a jump or two to keep up with the others.

“Sloth Circus” is a sidesplitting performance. Egan’s padded behind and a cardboard box conspire to sweep her off her feet while the other two actors bump bellies. All three are dressed in red and white striped clown costumes and masks. They then proceed to do some creative work with boxes that will leave you laughing through the intermission.

Kouri, also the rehearsal director for the performance, has over 20 years experience in theater, television and film, including the performance of the difficult art of Japanese-style puppetry. Vertlief was recently seen on stage as Cleante in “The Imaginary Invalid” and behind it as the assistant director for Jerry Mouawad’s “Blood Wedding, Blood Wedding.”

Creators of “Frogz” and artistic directors at Imago Theatre, Carol Triffle and Mouawad, have both studied mask theater and the teachings of Jacques Lecoq. Triffle worked directly with Lecoq as his assistant in 1997 and is one of only 40 individuals authorized to teach his work. Triffle has written and directed “Oh Lost Weekend” and “No Can Do,” in addition to being the co-creator and director of “Frogz.” Mouawad’s credits include “Phoenicians in the House,” “Samuel’s Major Problems,” “Symphony of Rats,” “Half Light, Dead End Ed” and “House Taken Over.”

The cowboy scene features a score by Quarterflash keyboardist Daniel Brant, and illustrations by George Smith, Triffle’s father and syndicated cartoonist. The scene is wonderfully timed and the delightful expressions of the cowboy’s face linger.

The original score by Katie Griesar is available on CD. She has participated as composer of several Imago productions. This charming music is available at the theater.

Triffle and Mouawad founded Imago in 1979, just a few years before beginning to tour internationally in 1986. This last season included new takes on Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit,” complete with award-winning set design featuring a tilting stage.

With a season like this it is easy to see why patrons take advantage of Imago’s version of the season pass, the Punch card. For additional details about Imago, “Frogz” or the Punch card, call (503) 239-9581.