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Sand in the City/Crazy Enough Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hundreds of Portlanders take in sand sculptures in Pioneer Courthouse Square July 19 during the 13th annual Sand in the City competition in downtown Portland. The event is a major fundraiser for Kids on the Block, which produces educational puppet shows for children.

I went down to Pioneer Courthouse Square Saturday afternoon to check out Sand in the City. Every year, they truck in hundreds of tons of sand—and water—for teams who create sculptures up to about six feet tall. Donations from event sponsors and visitors go to Kids on the Block, an organization that creates educational puppet shows for children.

"Pack'n the trunk" was one of about a dozen sand sculptures in the 13th annual Sand in the City event in downtown Portland.

The sculptures were pretty cool, but I think it would have been more interesting to go on Friday when the teams were still creating the sculptures.

After checking out the sculptures, I went over to the Armory where the JAW Festival was in progress. The two-week festival is mostly a workshop for playwrights, but they have a number of free shows that are open to the public. We were just in time to line up for the first public showing of an upcoming one-woman show by Storm Large called "Crazy Enough."

The show, basically an autobiography of the musician/performer, was—not surprisingly—rated NC-17. No nudity, but plenty of frank discussion about drugs, sex, and her crazy mother. It's still a work in progress, so it will probably undergo a couple of changes before it premieres. After Saturday's showing, they asked the audience for feedback. Surrounded by professional playwrights, I kept my mouth shut.

But now that we've all gone home, I'll say I mostly enjoyed the show. One of the feedback questions that they asked after the show was "Were there moments that you 'checked out,' and when?" Well, yes, there were two or three times that I wondered how long until we move on to the next part ... but how am I supposed to remember what parts those were: I had checked out!

Whether by design or not, the play is definitely very "A"-shaped: it starts off pretty quietly, builds to a high point around the middle, and then finishes pretty quietly.

It was at this high point that Storm seemed most comfortable. The musical numbers were longer and there was less talking. At its climax, she had the entire audience singing "My vagina is eight miles wide/Lots of room for everyone to come inside." Then, just the men.

In the feedback session, someone suggested that the play could have ended right there. Emotionally, perhaps it could have, but otherwise it would have been incomplete. The remainder of the play led to her mother's death, and her current life. That was a necessary continuation of the story.

Crazy Enough is at times funny, raw, intimate, and definitely vulnerable. For the most part it is entertaining. And I guess that segues into my biggest criticism of the play: apart from about 90 minutes of entertainment, I wonder what it offers the viewer. Sure, Storm's biography is unusual (I hope), and captivating in the way that a multi-vehicle accident is.

The problem is that several times while I was watching it, I wondered why I should care about her. Admittedly, I'm a guy, and had a pretty traditional upbringing, but I never really connected with the character and consequently the play seemed somewhat self-serving: after watching the play, I'm definitely impressed with how she's pulled her life together and her personal strengths and talents. But was that the point, to win our admiration? Storm, are you still searching for love?

Storm has a reputation as a good businesswoman, and I'm sure she recognizes the dollars in the tabloid market. I really hope, though, that she's going for more than a live depiction of Portland's own Britney Spears.

It could be a good story of redemption, but maybe Storm
feels that she didn't/doesn't need redemption, or hasn't achieved it yet. In that case, do you adjust the biography to make a better play? Or do you keep it real and hope that it's enough?

Or maybe I missed something important and the play is brilliant as-is. What do I know?