“Women in Jeopardy” is a laugh-out-loud comedy that opens the 2019-2020 season at the Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn. Courtesy

A music festival, a raucously funny comedy and a West African rock band are among the top choices available to those seeking an evening or two of entertainment this weekend.

Top billing goes to the Portland Early Music Festival, which runs Friday through Sunday in the Woodford’s Corner neighborhood. Curator Timothy Burris, an extraordinary performer on lute and theorbo, has lined up a three-day program comprising a trio of period specialties.

“Women in Jeopardy” is a wonderful stage comedy that opened the 2019-2020 season at the Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn this past weekend. Gales of laughter continue through Sunday.

Songhoy Blues is a West African rock band that’s wrapping up a North American tour, motoring into Portland this Saturday.

Portland Early Music Festival

Twenty-five years ago in this space, I sometimes lamented the fact that Maine lacked a vibrant early music scene, with the term “early music” understood to mean European classical music dating from the Renaissance to the mid-1700s.

Over the intervening quarter-century, Maine’s status has vastly improved, with numerous performers, venues and festivals leading the charge. Among the more recent of these is the Portland Early Music Festival, now in its eighth season, which takes place this weekend.


The founder-curator-organizer is Timothy Burris, who is noted for his performances on period lute, a precursor of the modern guitar, and theorbo, its almost comically oversized cousin. He is also a European-trained scholar of music history. Burris has assembled a three-concert program running Friday through Sunday. His general theme is “Music for the Salon,” which essentially means early chamber music – pieces composed for limited musical forces, intimate venues and small audiences.

On Friday, Maine native Jennifer Bates leads a program of Claudio Monteverdi’s vocal music, assisted by a number of fellow singers and instrumentalists.

Burris himself is at the center of Saturday’s concert, playing lute and theorbo with Colby College music professor Raffael Scheck on Baroque cello. The two men call their duo “Scheckmate.”

On Sunday the featured artist is Petra Polackova, a Czech-born classical guitarist who earned advanced music degrees from an Austrian conservatory.

All performances take place at the Portland Conservatory of Music at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Friday and Saturday concerts are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday’s is at 5 p.m. Call PCM at 775-3356.

‘Women in Jeopardy’

We’ve just flipped open the 2019-2020 theater calendar, and already I’ve picked a primo candidate for funniest show of the season: the Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn’s fully professional production of Wendy MacLeod’s “Women in Jeopardy,” where repeated gales of laughter begin in the first minute after opening curtain and continue through the denouement.


Penned by a noted feminist playwright, “Women in Jeopardy” explores and comically exploits common plights among recently divorced mothers in their mid-40s. But rather than focusing on bitter memories and midlife angst, MacLeod’s play looks forward to the future and the sometimes hilarious consequences of finding new love while dealing with the detritus of the old.

In classic dramatic fashion, the plot involves an outsider – in this case, a possible second husband for one of the three women – who makes big waves in a quiet millpond, then a host of comic complications ensue. Plus in the offstage background is the mysterious disappearance and brutal death of an unseen young female.

Director Chris Schario gets topnotch performances from the core trio of divorced women characters whose antics drive the plot: actresses Amanda Ryan Paige, Janet Mitchko and Heather Dilly. Great supporting performances are given by Torsten Hillhouse as a lusty middle-aged dentist with some very off-putting personal quirks, Tom Harney as a clueless millennial snowboarder and Nicole Fava as the stereotypical young dumb blonde with some very contemporary twists.

The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, presents “Women in Jeopardy” through Oct. 27 with 7:30 p.m. performances Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 782-3200.

Songhoy Blues

A rock band from Timbuktu is coming to Portland. Songhoy Blues is a guitar-driven ensemble of musicians from the capital of Mali in West Africa who are visiting the Port City on Saturday, thanks to Portland Ovations.

Their music is a fusion of old and new. The old is represented by the ancient rhythms of African drumming, while modern, high-amp electric guitars symbolize the new.

Also in the new department, Songhoy Blues attracted the attention of some very contemporary and influential rock producers, who have recorded a groundbreaking album that put Songhoy Blues on the world music map and resulted in the current North American tour.

Portland Ovations presents Songhoy Blues at 8 p.m. Saturday at Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St. Call PortTIX at 842-0800.

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