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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Of Hipster Soap Operas

Posted on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 12:12 PM

Labeling Action/Adventure Theatre's Fall of The House a “hipster soap opera” seems wrong. Not because it isn’t one, but because that makes it sound terrible, and it's actually very good (again). If you haven’t already read one of the flattering write-ups here or here or elsewhere rest assured, people like it. Last weekend, I caught the opening episode of the sixth season and became one of them.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, Fall of the House is a loosely scripted, mostly improved, serialized play set in Southeast Portland (like Curb Your Enthusiasm, with enthusiasm). The sub-plots run through the trappings of this lifestyle* with a diligence that pokes fun at their own carefully orchestrated relatability. The funny cast strikes a perfect balance between caring a lot and not taking themselves seriously.

This is what happens when you dont relaese publicity photos
  • This is what happens when you don't release publicity photos

Although Fall of the House deals in the accessories and backdrops of Portland life, it isn't about them. They are secondary to capturing SE Portland’s general way of doing things (creatively, while wearing casual clothing, and alternating between excited and perplexed/stoned). This is conveyed as much through what they say as how they say it—the improvised "script," the way the tight-knit cast feeds off itself, and the fact that they're having as much fun playing the roles as the audience is watching them.

For this season, Action/Adventure added some stop-motion animation breaks (kind of like hipster commercials), although the best use of animation is a projection of a hand-written IM chat that starts the evening rolling. The band that started up last season also sings a song about a car that's also a horse.

You don’t have to like theater to like Fall of the House. Hipster soap opera though it may be, I swear it’s nothing like this.

Read on for a recap of episode one so you'll be all caught up for episode two this weekend at Theater!Theatre! (3430 SE Belmont). Each episode can stand alone, but you might as well know what it's standing on.

*coffee shop, laptop, band, writer, comic book, comic book writer, bong, pony references, the gays, glasses, facial hair, domesticity (including a pet), flannel, PBR, the Portland Mercury (but of course), and a couple of kids (not pictured).

Episode 1:

The scene opens on Julie earning her living as a writer (writing copy on tea boxes) in a coffee shop. Her waiter is also her roommate, Addison, the boyfriend of another roommate, Isaac, who is soon to get fired from his job. Addison brings home a pet snake for he and Isaac—suggesting a stable home life—but trouble seems to be brewing in their employed/unemployed divide. Isaac wants to go out in the evening and Addison wants to smoke pot and go to bed. Julie and boyfriend Paul are going strong since last season, except that Paul is also facing a career turning point and decides he wants to mobilize Julie's roommates' band as his next project. Chris, Paul's undependable, seemingly older roommate with two kids, brings home a much younger girl, Janie (she’s on team American Apparel leggings) and has sex with her. Twice. Andrew seems to have lingering feelings for Julie from last summer’s failed romance, but when Paul doesn’t approve of another professional collaboration between them, Andrew sets up a secret working arrangement through his friend Mead Worthington. (I think it was Worthington. If not, then something to that effect).

Am I forgetting anything? Feel free to leave it in the comments.

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