The Play’s The Thing…
So, you might have noticed that I dropped off the face of the earth last week. I didn’t, really. I just went off-road (off the writing road, anyway), heading out to Ashland, Oregon for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Mark and I met up with my college roommate and her family for five plays in three days (plus travel days on either end.) In between all that theater, we had long talks, ate ***amazing*** meals, and generally relaxed in the midst of perfect weather (the days got up to around 75, the nights down to around 60, with no hint of rain in the clear blue skies…)
The plays we saw were:
- Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella — While one of our group really liked this play, most of us agreed that it was the weakest of the bunch. It consisted of simultaneous productions of Medea, Macbeth, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Cinderella, with some actors going from one production to the other, and songs bursting out at otherwise inappropriate times. Um, yeah. (Alas, the song “Ten Minutes Ago” became the theme song for our weekend, as one of our group sang it non-stop — it’s going through my head even now, and I’ve never even seen the musical!)
- Romeo and Juliet — By a conservative estimate, I’ve seen a dozen versions of this play. This one was, hands down, the best I’ve ever seen — the lovers were played as teens, absolutely head-over-heels in infatuation with each other. The performances brought out a *lot* of comedy — the entire first act was really, really funny (right up until Mercutio dies.) The ending was emotionally moving. The setting was Alta California, in 1840, with the rivals as Mexican families. (Bits of Spanish were laced through Shakespeare’s dialog.) The setting actually provided motivation for a lot of the pride that drives the story.
- As You Like It — I’m a sucker for Rosalind, and this was a solid production in the outdoor Elizabethan theater. The sets and costumes were loosely modeled on Victorian illustrated children’s books, and they were gorgeous. Rosalind’s father was played by a deaf actor — a first for me in all my theater viewing. It was interesting to see how they worked in his role — he signed his lines, which were spoken by one of his Merry Men. I liked the inclusivity of the company including this actor, but it was an adjustment to seeing the role performed that way.
- Troilus and Cressida — Alas, one of Shakespeare’s weaker plays. The production was good — set in our current Iraq War (rather than the Trojan War that is the Shakespearean setting.) In fact, the modern setting worked almost *too* well — I found it distracting for all sorts of political reasons. This play is full of long speeches that seem to go nowhere, and the title characters get lost about 3/4 of the way through. Sigh. Also, this production was interrupted, about 40 minutes in, by a health emergency in the audience. The play was performed in a small black-box theater, with some audience members sitting right on the stage. I was annoyed when one got up in the middle of the action, but I quickly saw that she was a nurse, trying to assist a patron who had a seizure or blackout or something. The stage manager called the show, sending actors off-stage, then sending the audience out of the house. Emergency personnel responded, the patron was taken to the hospital, and we were all returned to our seats. It was a fascinating little glimpse of professionalism (and the patron *seemed* to be recovering as they took him out of the theater doors.)
- Henry V — This was also performed in the Elizabethan Theater, and it was a relatively traditional staging. The key to the production was the pacing — they’d edited out a *lot* of the play (the show ran 2.5 hours, with a 15 minute intermission.) The pacing was good, Henry was strong, the soldiers all did a *fine* job of showing the dirty and brutality of war, and I loved the Katherine scene at the end (one of my favorites, in any production), but ultimately there was something missing from the show — astonishing staging? I’m not sure.
We flew home without problems last night, and we played “divide and conquer” retrieving luggage and the car, but it was nearly 1:00 before we got home (and much later than that before we fell asleep.) Cats are needy today, and I’m pounding the caffeine. But it was a wonderful trip, and I’d love to do it again!
Mindy, still remembering the steak and ribs dinners, along with all the great shows!