Five old friends sit on a park bench enjoying the sunshine. Vera (JoAnn Johnson) wears fishnet stockings; Lillian (Jane Bement Geesman) sports sparkly wedges; Ursula (Elizabeth Elias Huffman) is being a grouch; Mae (Brenda Phillips) just bailed Edna (Amalia Alarcon Morris) out of jail. Edna was arrested at Mr. Gross’s 80th birthday party.
In Paula Vogel‘s The Oldest Profession, Profile Theatre brings live performances back to Portland in a wistful, funny, and wise look at women and aging. These five not only are friends but also colleagues. As ladies of the night, they have worked together and shared their lives for fifty years. They have banded together for survival. And now, change is coming.
Among her wide-ranging feminist works, the play is a standout. The dialog is hilarious, and the jokes keep coming. But the play’s subject matter, as in Profile’s other recent productions of Vogel’s work including Hot ‘N’ Throbbing and The Baltimore Waltz, is weighty. How do marginalized people–particularly single women–survive as they age? Where do they go when they need help? Who is their support group, and what happens when its numbers decline?
As usual, Vogel packs a lot of thought-provoking material into a 95-minute play. The cast, directed by Jamie M. Rea, represents as fine an assembly of lifelong theatre professionals, all fine actors and singers, as you will find anywhere. Music director Eric Nordin is featured at the piano.
Wanda Walden designed costumes for The Oldest Profession. Lighting design is by Kelly Terry; sound design, Casi Maxwell Pacilio and Jana Crenshaw; properties design, Laura E. Chilton; choreography, Virginia Belt; stage manager, David S. Cohen; production associate, Hayley Ferrell.
Profile’s first venture back into live performances is staged in the Barge Building at the Zidell Yard, 3121 S. Moody Ave., Portland, 97239. The play runs through August 15 in open-air seating, with masks required. Tickets are available here.
Banner inset: Elizabeth Elias Huffman. David Kinder photo.