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The halfway point of winter occurs this weekend, and a few hot choices for theater and music beckon.
At The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn, “Human Error” is a comedy that threads a delicate line between satire and think piece, between social commentary and goofball farce.
Voctave, an a cappella singing group from central Florida, is on a northern New England tour. The 11-member ensemble stops in the Port City on Saturday, part of Portland Ovations’ 2018-2019 season.
Lula Wiles comprises three women from Maine who are now firmly ensconced on Boston’s vibrant acoustic music scene. They often return home, and their next Portland appearance is Feb. 6.
In the quarter-century that I’ve been attending The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn, I’ve discovered a significant signature style of script selection that characterizes artistic director Christopher Schario.
Schario loves comedies that start out as wacky farces, then pivot to more serious issues and darker moods. Every year he picks at least one or two plays that fit this dichotomous mold.
An archetype is Schario’s midwinter choice, “Human Error,” by Eric Pfeffinger, a Midwestern journalist-turned-dramatist. This new play starts out on the wacky side, then turns to one of America’s most serious issues: the yawning cultural chasm that separates millions of us.
The opening situation is simple. A hopelessly incompetent fertility doctor (Dale Place) mistakenly implants an in vitro embryo from a hip liberal intellectual couple (Laura Baranik and Terrell Wheeler) into the womb of a very conservative church-going woman (Heather Dilly) who is married to an avid hunter and gun collector (Joe Gately).
The belly laughs erupt when the two couples meet and attempt to become friends for the sake of the baby. Conflict between lifestyles and values are often the driving force behind comedy – as in this case – but the grating friction is also emblematic of one of America’s deepest cultural divides. Pfeffinger’s play oscillates between the comic and serious sides., and I think he strikes a perfect balance.
Comic sparks fly, of course, but the tone darkens as each of the four individuals struggles to outgrow and escape their own stereotypes. And Pfeffinger has definitely drawn them as stereotypes. Plus there’s a surprise at the end that nobody anticipates.
Pfeffinger’s writing is witty throughout and the five professional actors give excellent performances under Schario’s deft direction.
Catch “Human Error” at The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, through Feb. 3 with performances Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. Call 782-3200.
It must take a measure of artistic devotion for a group of musicians from central Florida to make a tour of northern New England in January and February, but that’s the quick take on Voctave, an 11-voice a cappella ensemble that visits Merrill Auditorium this Saturday under the aegis of Portland Ovations.
Most members have performed at Disney World-Epcot Center, but Voctave is strictly an independent entity. From gospel music to musical theater, contemporary Christian to barbershop, pop to choral specialties, Voctave voices have covered it all. Members have performed all over the world and can be heard on countless recordings.
Voctave was formed in 2015 by Jamey Ray, a producer for Disney and a professor of music at Rollins College. He sings tenor and scores Voctave’s arrangements.
Voctave’s signature shtick involves Disney music, such as a medley of songs sung by princesses in films and Broadway musicals, while another bell-ringer is titled “Disney Showstoppers.”
Catch Voctave on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
Five years ago, a trio of women singer-songwriters from Maine who were living in Boston formed an Americana roots ensemble and began performing under the name Lula Wiles. Years earlier, Ellie Buckland, Isa Burke and Mali Obomsawin had attended the Maine Fiddle Camp in Montville, and as young adults they gravitated toward the famed Berklee College of Music in The Hub.
On Feb. 6 they’ll gravitate homeward for a CD release concert in Portland.
Lula Wiles’ vocal and instrumental style is rooted in American bluegrass: simple, straightforward and honest. Success in live performances spurred the recording of their eponymous debut album, which was released in 2016. I have attended several of their concerts and I’ve been highly impressed by Lula Wiles’ writing style and delivery.
Lula Wiles’ sophomore album was released this past week on the prestigious Smithsonian Folkways label. In keeping with the old-fashioned values expressed by the group, it’s available on vinyl – in addition to online or CD.
I’ve already reserved my tickets for this.
Catch Lula Wiles at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland, at 8 p.m. Feb. 6. Call 761-1757.
Voctave is an 11-voice a cappella singing ensemble that will visit Portland’s Merrill Auditorium this Saturday, hosted by Portland Ovations.