February 24th, 2008

Red Galen

The Clay Cart

The Clay CartAshland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
opening performance, February 23, 2008

The Clay Cart by Sudraka (Translated by J.A.B. van Buitenen)

I've never seen a live-action Disney cartoon pageant before.  It was wonderful!

A rich, gorgeous stage filled with 40-some actors hosted this 2000-year-old play. The cast moved the story and the audience with their words, gestures, dance, and singing.  A funny, poignant, and biting social comedy, the evening was completely enjoyable and satisfying.  Its challenges, heroes,  problems, and villains were no lifeless abstract ancient stylizations -- we still fight the same evil kings and their rapacious cronies.

It's impossible to describe The Clay Cart without nodding to Shakespeare.  Sudraka may have lived 1500 years before and a continent away, but these two both knew how to comment on their times, give moral guidance, and make it a lot of fun.

The Clay Cart's tells of the love between Charudatta (Christopher Jean, pictured at right) and Vasatasena (Miriam A. Laube, pictured at left).  He is an honorable, generous man who gave away so much that he's now poor. She is a still-rich whore (called most often, delicately, a "courtesan") with a heart of gold. She is aggressively pursued by the immoral Samsthanaka (Brent Hinkley), brother-in-law to the evil king.  Eventually the good boy gets the girl as his second wife... the first wife and son are on stage, too. All loose ends are tied up, and every good guy is rewarded and every bad guy is brought down.

Getting to the happy ending is just so entertaining!
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I confess that when I signed up to see this ancient play by "India's Shakespeare" I was worried.  The production had the disquieting patina of being "good for you".  I walked out of the theater stunned about how it was so much fun for me.

Ozdachs Rating: Rating 5 out of 5


Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter

Welcome Home, Jenny SutterAshland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
world premiere - opening performance, February 24, 2008

Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter by Julie Marie Myatt

I cannot image a more calculated tugging of the audience's heart-strings.  Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter is  Love Story written to honor Iraq War veterans.  I feel manipulated, dirty.

"I noticed that you didn't give the play a standing ovation, little boy.  Most everyone else did.  Don't you honor our service men and women?"

All the playwright left out was little puppy dogs and cute bunnies.

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If I would have stood to applaud, it would have been for the production and not the play. 

Yet, I predict this play will be a smash.  OSF is offering active duty military, veterans, and reservists two free tickets to the play. Patriotic families will bring their kids.  This American show has more donor sponsors/producers/hangers-on listed in the playbill than any of the other productions. After Ashland the show is going to run in Kennedy Center in Washington. I wouldn't be surprised if President Bush attended and shed a tear at the appropriate moments.

Everyone loves a veteran. Isn't it awful what these soldiers have gone through. 

Of course it is.  But, this play is a cringe-inducing exploitation, not an honoring.

Ozdachs Rating: Rating 3 out of 5