Opening Night at the Oregon Bach Festival: Pretty Music, Then A Half-Wild Yawp

The Oregon Bach Festival usually kicks off with a great deal of excitement and buzz, at least for aficionados: Helmuth Rilling is back! Look, there’s our favorite OBF oboist! And oh, what a superb chorus!

The Bach Festival this year started not with a bang, but with a soft ramp up, an easy path that became more varied and interesting as the evening went on. But if not for a post-intermission piece of rather surprising programming, the entire thing could have been a particularly decent night at a (top) city symphony.

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The Hills of Fake Iowa, And The Deadly Effects Of Marriage

Francie Ford (Robin Goodrin Nordli) and George Page (Ted Deasy) learn about their wives (Gina Daniels, Terri McMahon) schemes to have their revenge on Senator John Falstaff. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

At long last, and after much (internal, completely unnoticed by other humans) agonizing on my part, Part III:
Marriage

“I’ve never seen Christopher Liam Moore do anything – acting or directing – that I didn’t think was fantastic,” I said to my partner before we headed into the CLM-directed The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa. “Also, I’ve interviewed (Very Merry Wives writer) Alison Carey, and she’s brilliant, so I have hope for this play.”

Yeeeeeeaaaaaaaah.

I still think CLM usually kicks acting and directing butt (2010’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof should have won national awards), and I still believe Alison Carey is brilliant. Her ability to combine the script of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor with contemporary English should win her some kind of adaptation/reinvention prize, at least in terms of language. But dear god, this play? This farce gone overboard? This parody without end? No.

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Play On: Oregon Shakespeare Festival Summer Season, Part II

Archbishop of Canterbury (Richard Howard) assures Henry V (John Tufts) that there is no bar to his claim to France. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

So I started off yesterday (well, Wednesday) with the Greeks as a theme, but Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella segues perfectly into the next two themes:

Music and Marriage

That bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam

Right, that, but I want to start with the food of love: music.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director Bill Rauch has never hidden his love for musicals; 2009’s Music Man was one of his first smash hits as artistic director, and he’s had a surprising number of live musicians onstage for many plays since. But I have noticed an uptick in music within the plays that aren’t musicals since Rauch came on board permanently in 2008.

Shakespeare, as I was told by my high school “Shakespeare on Stage” teacher (Ms. Berit Lindboe, if you ever read this, this entire thing is your fault, and by “thing,” I mean my life as a Shakespeare addictnerd), liked to put songs in his comedies. Thank god our high school class never had to make up tunes to go along with the lyrics. But I digress: The point is that under Rauch, the festival has gone hog-wild with the music. Continue reading

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Plus The Greeks (Summer Reviews, Part I)

Touchstone (Peter Frechette) entertains Rosalind (Erica Sullivan) and Celia (Christine Albright). Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The short and sweet of my five days in Ashland during outdoor opening of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

  • Go to As You Like It no matter what else you see. “It’s the play you take someone from out of town to,” said someone on Twitter, and I agree. Gorgeously presented, capably (often better than that) acted, with lighting and set designs that should win someone some awards.
  • If you have a good tolerance for war plays, hit both Henry V (in a rather traditional staging, though not traditional costuming) and Troilus and Cressida.
  • If you have a flexible mind and patience for a rather messy first act, and/or you love any of the plays involved, do go to Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella.
  • If you know nothing about the Midwest, have no dear-to-you relatives or friends there, and/or enjoy constant punning and The Merry Wives of Windsor, go ahead and hit up The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa. Otherwise, you might want to stay away.

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