August 18th, 2007

Galen 2013

The Tempest

Ashland, OR
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The Tempest at Oregon ShakespeareThe Tempest  by William Shakespeare

Note to self:  You do not like The Tempest.  You think it is pretty much a waste of time. In the first act one implausible thing happens after another, and the remainder of the play just doesn't have enough pleasurable fantasies or moralistic outcomes to redeem the show.

You sucker yourself into seeing this show because the storm and spirits sound frightening and fun.  They're not worth it.

Remember the 2007 Oregon Shakespeare Festival production?  It had Derrick Lee Weeden as Prospero and Dan Donohue as Caliban.  They did excellent jobs.  The rest of the cast (except for the sputtering Tony DeBruno understudying as Gonzaolo) were credible to wonderful.

Even  so, you thought the evening was flat. There just wasn't enough magic to transport you into the silly story. 

The make up and costumes of Ariel and her spirits were off-putting and odd, not ethereal and enchanted.  You normally like what Costume Designer Deb Dryden does, but the clothes in this Tempest went "Thud!"  The spirits looked like refugees from Azkaban, dressed in pajamas which themselves had badges of sullenly symbolic blue sky sewn on. Caliban's prison of ropes robe was intricate enough to stand on its own as Artwork -- not a good thing.  Only the rich robes for the final kiss-and-make-up scenes made sense and were noticeable in a positive way.

The Tempest 2007 was the last show you saw Libby Apple direct when she was also Artistic Director.  As redozdachs said, the show just proved that Libby needs her own Artistic Director to reign in her impulse toward too much grandeur and pomposity on stage.

Remember how at one point the spirits in the background did Circ De Soleil rope climbing?  Except that they looked awkward and tortured instead of nimble and fanciful.  Distracting and spirit-less, wasn't it?

So, self, don't let yourself get tempted into seing this play again.  The storm scene doesn't last long enough. There's neither enough realism or magic to satisfy.  You'll be disappointed. Again.

Ozdachs rating: Two Syntaxes Out of Five
Galen 2013


Ashland, OR
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Distracted at Oregon ShakespeareDistracted  by Lisa Loomer

The cacophony of cell phones, bad hip hop, and telemarketing calls is familiar. The witty commentary on our overstimulated life is satisfying and relaxing.  The faux concerned neighbors, teachers, and doctors are so recognizable that they're disarming.

The script is sufficiently pleasant and smugness-producing that it takes a while for the realization to develop that you're watching a Neil Simon commentary on ADHD, teenage self-mutilation, and some true terrors of parenthood.

The dialog nails the thoughts and conversations of today's educated middle-class.  The Ashland audience is watching itself on stage, and it's mesmerizing to see yourself treated so sympathetically and so skillfully.

In a world-class case of bad marketing and inaccurate labeling, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) says that the play is about a 9-year-old boy with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Their synopsis makes the play sound like something only a school guidance counselor would enjoy... and then only if they got continuing education credits. No surprise that the crowds for this new play are sparse, and the in-going audiences look like hardened play goers gearing up for a nasty two hours.

So, if you've read OSF's literature about Distracted, forget everything you've been told.  The play is about 2007 and its social mores. It's lively. You'll laugh. There's a message.  People change.  Who would have thought?Collapse )

Distracted amuses us and then tells us a few important things about our lives. That's a great evening of theater.

Ozdachs rating: 5 Syntaxes Out of 5.
Galen 2013

Tracy's Tiger

Ashland, OR
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Tracy's Tiger at Oregon ShakespeareTracy's Tiger 

Book and Lyrics by Linda Alper, Douglas Langworthy, and Penny Metropulos
Composer: Sterling Tinsley 

When I rail against musicals, I am denouncing the big stage, big production number shows that seem only incidentally interested in the erstwhile story.  I am frustrated beyond reason by those extravaganza's whose spoken words serve only as bridges for a street urchin, young lover, or wandering king to burst forth in rah-rah upbeat song. 

Go to a concert or a piano bar if you want that type of entertainment.  But, don't call it an evening of theater.

These Rogers and Sondheim blights are so common that I have adopted a "Just say 'No' to Musicals" stance.

My whining is brought up short when I run into a musical that has a light-hearted but trackable story, characters, movement that matches the plot, songs that match the plot, consistency, imagination run happily amok, and reasonable music.

Tracy's Tiger is a commissioned musical written and performed by a company that doesn't do musicals.  The result is a quality narrative (adapted from a William Saroyan novella and short story) which uses the songs, singing, and dance to help the spoken words tell the story.  Oh yeah.  It's also a lot of fun.Collapse )

Tracy's Tiger is a special treat for Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) junkies.  Discovering that the well-known talented actors can also sing or dance is a treat and adds to the respect for the company members' abilities.

As is common in Ashland, there are no dogs in this production.  Only cool cats.

Ozdachs rating: 5 Syntaxes Out of 5