Saturday, May 25, 2013
By Bob Keyes email@example.com
Mad Horse company member Brent Askari plays President Charles Smith in David Mamet’s “November,” which previews Thursday and Friday, opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 28.
WHO: Mad Horse Theatre Company
WHERE: 24 Mosher St., South Portland
WHEN: Previews at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and continues at 2 p.m. Sunday. Through Oct. 28.
HOW MUCH: $20; $15 for students and seniors; pay-what-you-can each Thursday
INFO: 730-2389; madhorse.com
After moving from spot to spot season after season, the venerable theater company is in control of its own performance venue. Mad Horse will present its shows at its rehearsal space in the former Hutchins School on Mosher Street in South Portland. The company has converted the space into a black-box theater with about 50 seats.
It opens its 27th season this week with the David Mamet election comedy "November," centering on the fictional President Charles Smith in the days before his second election. It previews Thursday and Friday, and celebrates with an opening-night gala on Saturday.
For the past two seasons, Mad Horse presented its shows at Lucid Stage on Baxter Boulevard in Portland. Lucid was great, and audiences seemed to love going there, company members said.
But Lucid ceased operations, leaving Mad Horse and other theater companies without a home.
Mad Horse is accustomed to such a scenario. Since the closing of the Oak Street Theater more than a decade ago, the company has hopped from location to location. One season, it presented its shows in three different locations, including the living room of a Mad Horse member.
"Someone had referred to Mad Horse as a nomad theater company, simply because we've been around so long but had so many performance spaces," said board president David Jacobs.
"This space makes a lot of sense for us. We do all of our rehearsals here, our offices are here, and our costume shop is here. It feels right to do our shows here."
The only question is whether fans will find it.
Mad Horse has always been a Portland-based company. Now it moves across the bridge to the Ferry Village neighborhood in South Portland. But this community has a deep theater tradition. Lyric Music Theatre is right around the corner, and Portland Players isn't far away.
Jacobs and others associated with Mad Horse are counting on Portland theater-goers to make the trek across the water.
"I have to believe our core audience is going to follow us," said artistic director Christine Marshall-Dow. "They have for years, and there's a theater scene in South Portland already. I don't think it's too much of a stretch."
South Portland is making Mad Horse feel welcome. The City Council formally recognized Mad Horse with a proclamation welcoming the theater company to the city.
Marshall-Dow, who directs "November," said it's advantageous for Mad Horse to have its own venue. For one thing, it doesn't have to rent performance space. It already is paying rent to the city of South Portland for its five-year lease at the Hutchins School, so by doing shows there, it saves money by not having to rent additional performance space.
Just as enticing, it allows the theater to extend its run if audience demand warrants it. Mad Horse will fully control its schedule, and can adapt and adjust as needed. That was rarely possible at other rented spaces.
"As soon as the show was over, we had to break the set and get out. There was always someone else ready to come in," Marshall-Dow said.
Mad Horse learned of Lucid's plans over the summer. That allowed enough time to convert one large room of the Mosher Street school into a small theater.
"November" is set in the Oval Office, so for this show, audiences will be seated on either side of the president's desk. The room has been curtained off with large black drapes, and seats are placed on risers. Most of the performance will occur between both sets of risers.
The space also allows flexibility. If a show lends itself to a different configuration, Mad Horse can move things around accordingly. The only hindrance are support columns that divide the room.
The school also has a large playground area, and Mad Horse is contemplating doing some shows outside.
Given the election coming up in a few weeks, "November" seems an appropriate show to open the season. Company member Brent Askari stars as President Smith. The play also features company members James Herrera and Burke Brimmer.
Nathan Lane played the president on the Broadway version, which opened in 2008.
"This play gives people the opportunity to have a big laugh about politics," Marshall-Dow said. "It is so smartly written. I find the ending to be pure old-fashioned Americana. The ending is so deeply satisfying to me. It's not the grim black David Mamet of 'Glengarry Glen Ross.' It's so sharp and witty."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: