Can we talk about date night for a second? It’s hard enough to schedule your child’s next COVID booster, let alone do the dance of making all the stars align for a night out with your partner or a friend. But I promise you the ripple, the wave that carried me home — Portland Center Stage‘s latest production with Artists Repertory Theatre — is worth all the scheduling gymnastics required to make a night out happen.
This show, like many of the thoughtfully chosen and carefully cast productions at PCS, will change you. I don’t think I’ll ever swim in a public pool without thinking of this beautiful play, written by Tony-nominated playwright Christina Anderson. While a performance that covers segregation, racism and the complicated journey of activism may seem like it’s a bit too heavy for a fun night out, this show shines with hope, forgiveness, and — in the last scene especially — pure, unadulterated joy. You’ll leave happy, but different. I left the show a better ally and also a better daughter. Walking to my car I thought, “I should call my mom.”
The set and light design is the best I’ve seen, in any show, ever. Just wait until the dry pool that has been home, office and even car throughout the show, fills with water in the last scene.
Actor Lauren Steele’s ability to transition her character Janice subtly and seamlessly from child to adult without even the use of a prop to signify the change, was magnificent. There is even a clear distinction between eight-year-old and teenage Janice. If you can manage seats close enough to see her expressions, it’s worth the extra cost. My eyes wandered to her even when she stood in relative shadow, just to see her character experience the moment.
You’ll also love Chaves Ravine, whose comedic timing is spot on every single time. She brings joy to even the heaviest moments, and her presence commands the attention of the entire room whenever she steps onstage.
The actors’ vulnerability in this performance is breathtaking. And I don’t just mean in the hard moments (though it’s especially true then); it shines through in their laughter, their banter, their absolute freedom from inhibition when dancing with joy, all of it is a gift to the audience.
We didn’t bring our children, but after seeing the show, I would absolutely bring a mature teen. The age recommendation is 14+, due to adult situations and language, depictions of racism and references to sexual assault. The language is poetic in places and much of the action is described with words, light and music, so even if you feel your tween is mature enough for the content, older teens and adults are likely to have a more meaningful experience.
If you’d love to see the ripple, the wave that carried me home, but the cost of tickets ($25-$93) feels out of reach for your family (especially when you add the cost of a sitter), you’re in luck. Portland Center Stage has fabulous ticket specials, including “pay what you will” nights (October 20 for the ripple), $5 Arts for All tickets, free tickets through Multnomah County Library’s My Discovery Pass and more. The show will be audio described on October 23, sign interpreted on October 27, open captioned on October 29, and assistive listening devices and sensory kits are available for all performances.
Portland Center Stage is committed to inclusion at all levels. I always appreciate the note in the program that reads, “There is no one right way to engage with live theater, and we ask that you honor each person’s experience around you.” At this performance, patrons were very vocal; it reminded me somewhat of church service, which felt absolutely right. And no one was shushed.
If you are part of the BIPOC community, check out BIPOC Affinity Night on October 30, at 7:30 p.m. There will be a pre-show panel discussion with Black Swimming Initiative, and a post-show music performance featuring VNPRT, with complimentary beer provided by Deschutes Brewery.