Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s vision grows through time, space and classics
|By Misha Berson, The Seattle Times|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The boutique-y little burg is one draw. But Shakespearean theater is integral to the town's appeal. And patrons often buy OSF tickets on blind faith, long before the season opens.
Such audience insurance has bred complacency at times for OSF, and aesthetic sluggishness. Not, however, since
Rauch's vision is still a work in progress. With OSF's resources, there should be more transcendent peaks. But in
I was impressed with the historical power of the new "
Here are my takes on five other OSF shows:
'Richard III' (Elizabethan)
The production is fairly conventional, but director
The estimable Donohue isn't the gloating, lip-smackingly vile Richard of
It's not an entirely successful approach. For one thing, Richard seems too detached a seducer to woo
More on point is Richard the toxic comedian, whose witty dissing of his victims to us is both a hoot and a creep-out.
Donohue's eloquently mopey air of casual cruelty leaves lots of oxygen on
Not only is the guy a murderous snake: He's the scraggly kid who flew under the radar, and no one anticipated his genius for bloody treachery.
'The Tempest' (
Donohue's naturalistic acting syncs with esteemed OSF veteran
Here he is an outcast stripped clean of all psychological and ceremonial trappings of his station, and civilization. He's entered a near-Zen state of calm, and takes only a mild, rueful satisfaction in shipwrecking and punishing his ex-foes. Even when his cherished daughter (
This fresh conceit is enhanced by
His punk-haired fairy
'Two Gentlemen of Verona' (Elizabethan)
Instead we get a straightforward, double-romance romp, with some very amusing antics and some loudly overbearing ones performed with more gusto than nuance.
As is standard at OSF these days, the cast is racially and ethnically diverse. And there's a reminder of how much is to be gained by that in the captivating performance by Clark, a black actor whose graceful swag, alto voice and ease with iambic pentameter make her one dashing Proteus.
'Family Album' (
In addition to
Concocted by composer-writer Stew, co-composer
Pretty generic questions, but in Act 1 they're addressed with satirical verve. The overextended Act 2 gets messy, really messy, and can't decide what it's saying and where to end. The saving grace overall is the smart, melodic and rollicking rock score, performed to the hilt by the multitalented cast. Wrap those dynamite songs around a tighter, less precious book, and magic may happen.
OSF has the budget, and theatrical wizardry, to conjure technical and scenic wonders few regional companies can match. Those assets are on full view in writer-director
Meg, an awkwardly precocious 14-year-old, unravels the mystery of her scientist father's disappearance with the help of a trio of supernatural neighbor ladies.
They whisk her, her brother and a pal to the dark planet of Camazotz, to break through the space-time continuum and outsmart meanies.
The action can get frenetic, and quantum-physics is easier to digest on the page. But the cast is winning, especially Escalante as intrepid Meg. And the stagecraft is otherworldly, conjuring alien creatures and starry galaxies, with smooth transitions from dimension to dimension. This is a spectacle to spark a young person's imagination -- and remind them how far you can travel with a book.
(c)2014 The Seattle Times
Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services