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Out & About: 'Good People' opens season at Good Theater in Portland

Lifestyle

Out & About: 'Good People' opens season at Good Theater in Portland

Drama, music and dance are all represented in this week’s picks of the tix in southern Maine.

Under the rubric of drama there’s the New England premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” the season-opening show at Portland’s Good Theater. And “Good People” is way more than good; it’s great.

Two top-notch musical events are slated for this weekend. Laura Kargul, one of Maine’s favorite classical pianists, plays a recital of Romantic sonatas in Gorham on Friday. The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra opens its 2012-2013 season with a pair of concerts in Lewiston on Saturday and Topsham on Sunday.

And looking ahead to the end of the month, Portland Ballet will offer two performances of its annual “Halloween Spooktacular” in Westbrook on Oct. 27.

‘Good People’

Engineers tell us that the triangle is the most stable geometric form, employing terms such as “invariant under stress.” But writers and dramatists have long known that the romantic triangle is one of life’s most unstable forms, prone to messy collapse under stress.

The tensions caused by an unusual romantic triangle in extremely stressful economic and social circumstances is the driving dynamic behind David Lindsay-Abaire’s latest drama, “Good People.” Portland’s Good Theater, the city’s top-notch professional company, has mounted a fine production of this excellent script as the opening show in its 11th season.

The two contrasting settings reflect the social and economic tension: the gritty neighborhood of South Boston and posh suburban Chestnut Hill. The principal character is a single mom who has lived in Southie all her life, while her former high school lover has become a very successful doctor who now lives in a big house in the wealthy suburb. After a hiatus of nearly two decades, the two confront each other. Plus there’s a major complication: the doctor’s strained relationship with his elegant black wife, who hails from an equally posh background in Washington, D.C.

Emotional fireworks explode, ignited by fine performances by the three principals: Denise Poirier and James Noel Hoban, who both hail from southern Maine, and Noelle LuSane, a New York actress. Plus there’s excellent support from three others: Jesse Leighton, Suzanne Rankin and Amy Roche. Director Brian P. Allen, Good Theater’s co-founder and artistic director, helms this production admirably.

Good Theater presents “Good People” at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) in Portland through Nov. 4. For ticket info and full performing schedule, call 8835-5883 or visit goodtheater.com.

Laura Kargul

One of my personal red letter dates on Maine’s performing arts calendar is the almost-annual recital given by Laura Kargul, longtime professor of piano studies at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

Kargul is a virtuoso performer with wide experience in this country and Europe. Her 2012 recital will be part of the school’s Spotlight Series, scheduled for Oct. 19 in Gorham.

Kargul’s specialty is the Romantic Era, and for this Friday’s concert she’s picked two of the biggest and best-known masterpieces from that rich tradition: Franz Schubert’s Sonata in B-Flat Major and Frederic Chopin’s Sonata in B Minor.

“I have chosen these particular works because they so fully embody the mature styles of Schubert and Chopin, two composers with whom I feel an extremely strong connection,” Kargul explained. “These are their last sonatas, and they were written within only 16 years of each other. But Schubert and Chopin are so vastly different in character, culture and their use of musical language that these works seem worlds apart. What they do share is a profound metaphysical quality, manifested in meditative, highly expressive passages, contrasting with dramatic outbursts of great exuberance and fire.

“It’s always interesting to hear how post-Beethoven composers handled the sonata, that most classical of forms. Beethoven’s impossibly high standard cast a shadow far into the nineteenth century. Some composers were intimidated, but not Schubert and Chopin. They embraced their innate Romantic sensibilities and made the sonata truly new and fascinating, poetic, exciting and stunningly beautiful. Hearing these two monumental works back to back can be enlightening, inspiring, and, most of all, moving.”

Catch this concert at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 at Corthell Hall, on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

Midcoast Symphony Orchestra

The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra opens its 21st season this weekend with two performances of a program intriguingly titled “Arabian Nights and Parisian Afternoons.”

Music director Rohan Smith will be on the podium and guest artist George Lopez will be the piano soloist on the showcase number, which is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Lopez and Smith are frequent collaborators; the former is the artist in residence at Bowdoin College. Beethoven wrote the concerto for his own performance. Its trills and arpeggios remind us that he was a virtuoso performer as well as the greatest composer of his time.

Two pieces from the 19th century’s Romantic-Nationalistic tradition follow. Russian composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” is adapted from the “Tales of 1001 Arabian Nights,” and tells the story of a young princess who mesmerizes a sultan with her storytelling abilities. It also illustrates Rimsky-Korsakov’s amazing abilities at orchestration. French composer Claude Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun” is characterized by lush melodic sensuality.

Two performances are scheduled: Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s (corner of Chestnut and Oxford) in Lewiston, and Oct. 21 at 2:30 p.m. at the Orion Performing Arts Center at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham. Call the MSO at 846-5378.

Portland Ballet

Terpsichorean witchcraft and some “cadaverous costumes” are on the bill of fare when Portland Ballet presents its annual Halloween Spooktacular Oct. 27.

Six original dances are slated, all with Halloween or “creepy” themes. Five were created by Nell Shipman, associate artistic director of Portland Ballet, while one was choreographed by Andrea Tracy. All promise a humorous, offbeat and family-friendly view of Halloween traditions.

Selections include “Masquerade,” with music by Dmitri Shostakovich, and “In the Witches’ Classroom,” based on a composition by Modest Mussorgsky. Performers comprise students and faculty at Portland Ballet. Student dancers include some of the company top pre-professionals, members of the CORPS program.

Children are emphatically invited, and a scary costume parade is scheduled at intermission.

Portland Ballet presents “Halloween Spooktacular” at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center (at the new middle school), 471 Stroudwater St. in Westbrook. Call PortTix at 842-0800 or Portland Ballet at 772-9671.