Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Day 3: Hamlet

Sometimes it is fun to write a lot about an evening of theatre, and sometimes very little needs to be said. Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hamlet requires almost no additional explanation other than that it is fantastic and that you should see it if is at all within your means. For those still intrigued, I could write at length about this production’s many virtues, but as I am exhausted by my time at the festival, I will only say a few short words.

Widely regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest work, Hamlet is a play so ingrained in the body of the english-language theatre that new audiences might be surprised with just how much they know of the work. Perhaps that is why this production’s cast is operating at such a high level: the play already exists in their bones and it is merely their job to retell it.

Whatever the reason, the 22-person cast of this production is superb in every way. From Derrick Lee Weeden’s hilarious and compassionate Polonius to Robin Goodwin Nordli’s terrifyingly sympathetic Gertrude to Danforth Comins’s bold and bitter take on the title character, the production proves to be the most well-acted I’ve ever seen at OSF.

Director Lisa Peterson has directed the production with visual flair and a grungy and chaotic sensibility. Her “concept” for this production includes the use of electric guitars and a cast-iron set that gives the show a heavy-metal feel. While it’s not a particularly enlightening concept, it allows for some interesting incidental music and a highly interesting scenic design (by Laura Jellinek). What makes her direction so unique is the beautiful clarity with which she directs her actors and understands Hamlet‘s complex and austere rhythms. Anyone who has studied the play even in passing will be struck by how much thematic relevance Peterson has imbued in this production. Even those who are totally unfamiliar with the play will walk away with a unique clarity of what actually happens in the work, as her staging provides clear context of plot without being heavy-handed.

Hamlet is most likely the most frequently produced play of all time. One may wonder why they should bother going to see yet another production of the oft-seen work, but with this staging, Hamlet reaffirms itself as the centerpiece of western drama and proves to be a darkly thrilling and hugely entertaining night of theatre as well.

Hamlet runs through October 14. Information and tickets available here


Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Day 2: The Yeomen of the Guard and The Winter’s Tale

Today in Ashland I saw two productions. One, a classical and polished production of a Shakespearean romance, the other a rowdy and boisterous production of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Both were very high quality and absolutely worth seeing, continuing Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s excellent reputation for interesting and high-quality productions.

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Day 1: Timon of Athens

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in their effort to produce the entire Shakespeare canon every decade, occasionally has to dust off one of Shakespeare’s far lesser-known works and attempt to breathe some life into it for a modern audience. Timon of Athens is one such play, and while OSF’s production isn’t exactly riveting, it’s a highly interesting evening of theatre that proves that the show is more than just a curiosity.

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Review: “The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident” by Barry Eitel, presented by Faultline Theatre

Something wild and wonderful is happening in San Francisco right now. It goes by the name of The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident, and it’s an absolutely unmissable night of theatre. It’s impossible to say if you will actually like the play—it’s far too strange to be everyone’s cup of tea—but you owe it to yourself to see it with your own eyes. Love it or hate it, you certainly will not be able to forget it.

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Review: “City of Angels” at the San Francisco Playhouse

Few genres of movie went out of style as quickly as noir. Ushered in with the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rebecca and proving to be one of the most popular genres with audiences, the last recognizable entries in the genre were in 1959. Though it’s doubtful many modern audiences have watched a true film noir from start to finish, the imprint that these films left on the public consciousness can not be erased. City of Angels, a musical from 1989, was written specifically to parody and comment upon the generally vague concept of noir that audiences have. It’s not a wholly successful show, mostly because noir tropes just don’t translate to live performance, but it is unlikely that you will ever get to see a better production of the show than the one currently running at the San Francisco Playhouse, which continues the company’s legacy of extremely high quality live theatre in the best way. Continue reading “Review: “City of Angels” at the San Francisco Playhouse”

Review: “La Cage Aux Folles”, presented by Bay Area Musicals

La Cage aux Folles was as timely when it opened as shows like Hamilton are today. Despite the show’s old-fashioned sensibility and slightly drippy sentimentality, it celebrated being gay at a time when gay men were dying by the thousands due the AIDS epidemic, all while their own government refused to even acknowledge them. This was a panic-stricken time in New York’s history, and La Cage was so vital because it clung to a sense of desperate optimism at a time when many felt that it would be impossible to be optimistic ever again. Modernity has brought with it an acceptance of the gay-rights movement, so the show has lost its edge, but that does not mean that its boundless joyfulness can not still resonate with audiences. Thankfully, that spirit is still very much alive in Bay Area Musicals’s production of La Cage Aux Folles, which is highly entertaining, if rather pointedly imperfect.

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Thoughts On: Movie Musicals

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Wicked was officially coming to theaters in 2019, with Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) set to direct. For many fans of the show, this was exciting news, with the movie having been teased for years. The musical movie itself appears to be having a bit of a renaissance, with Into the Woods and Annie being recent examples and about a dozen more in the pipeline, including adaptations of Beauty and the Beast, Miss Saigon, In the Heights, and West Side Story (directed by Steven Spielberg with a new screenplay by Tony Kushner). All these new movies may be great news for the vitality of musical theatre, but I remain unconvinced that modern movie musicals ever actually work artistically. Continue reading “Thoughts On: Movie Musicals”

Read This: Hangmen by Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh is a master of the morbid farce. In his world, a slammed door can kill you, the vengeful lover is never ultimately harmless, and victims, er, characters don’t slip on banana peels so much as they do on blood and guts. But the audience is usually laughing all the way to the end, leaving the heavier moments of the play to stew in playgoers minds long after they go home. Which is why it is surprising to report that McDonagh’s new play Hangmen actually becomes rather heavy before it ends, but is no less finely wrought than his emotionally detached work that readers may be accustomed to. Continue reading “Read This: Hangmen by Martin McDonagh”

Thoughts On: Live-streamed theatre

On June 30th, BroadwayHD broadcast the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of the 1963 Bock and Harnick musical She Loves Me to anybody who had paid the $9.99 fee and had a working internet connection. This stream was the first of its kind and has been very well received by those who have seen it, but it raises some interesting questions about the relationship between theatre and the internet in the near future. Continue reading “Thoughts On: Live-streamed theatre”