Sunday, October 13, 2019

two parts Shakespeare

B. and I have returned from our annual visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Last year we went in June and saw preview performances of the outdoors plays. This year we saw the closing performances of two plays. Altogether we saw six.

Two Shakespeare: despite obvious differences they curiously resembled each other. All's Well That Ends Well, which if I'd seen before I didn't remember, is about a woman who goes to elaborate and complicated lengths to trick a man into marrying her. Macbeth, which I remember very well, is about these three witches who go to elaborate and complicated lengths to trick a man into doing evil.

Royer Bockus, all geeky in a t-shirt reading "Misfit" and large glasses and frizzy hair, played Helen. Danforth Comins, all stocky mesomorph, played Macb. They and everybody else were good.

Two modern classics: B. loved Hairspray: The Broadway Musical. I found it overloud with crappy amplification, and the characters amazingly hard to relate to. However painful high school was whenever it was that I was there, I'm just glad it wasn't in 1962 when this is set. A circa 1930 (I couldn't find the exact date anywhere) adaptation of Alice in Wonderland - actually both books, one in each act - brilliantly captures the manic grotesquery of the originals, with some loopy characterizations by some very experienced actors, and a grumpy and exasperated Alice running through it. The adapters were Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus (yes, Dobie Gillis's mother).

Two new plays: How to Catch Creation by Christina Anderson, though soberly and realistically written, was in plot a tangle of interwoven melodrama about the lives and loves of six middle-class African Americans. Anderson says she wanted to depict their life without putting it in contrast against whites. She also wanted to subvert stereotypes: her characters include two men who want to be fathers, and several lesbians who are not "covetous [and] lecherous" (that's what it says here the stereotype is: don't look at me, I didn't write this). Good characterization, good acting.

The title of Between Two Knees refers to the two famous events at Wounded Knee, the 1890 massacre and the 1973 occupation. This is the second time OSF has imported intact some other troupe's production (this was written by a collective calling itself the 1491s), and like the other, a reworking of The Yeomen of the Guard, this was a complete disaster. Anything it might have had to say about the history and lives of Indians (I was taught not to call them that, but that's what they're called in the play) in the 20th century, the ostensible topic, is drowned in a load of overlong, crude, unfunny, and irrelevant neo-vaudeville schtick.

When we made our bookings a year ago (Ashland fills up fast), we snagged a room in the nearest hotel, the one a quick two-block walk from the theatres. That worked well last year, but unfortunately our mobility has decreased since then, and that walk looks a lot longer now. B. has acquired a knee scooter which she's successfully using to get around between buildings at work, but applied to the irregularly-paved sidewalks and steep hills of Ashland, she gave up after a day and reverted to the cane. Next year we'll stay further out in a more comfortable hotel and drive in to the parking garage right behind the theatres.

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