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Our Town

Aug. 16th, 2008 | 03:53 pm

Ashland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Our Town at Oregon Shakespeare FestivalOur Town by Thornton Wilder

When you decide to present a well-known, quality chestnut, you're declaring that you either have a fresh vision or else you're going to new heights in production standards.  Hurtling above raised expectations is the stock in trade of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with its schedule of Shakespeare and other plays that everyone has seen from high school on.  OSF also shares new perspectives on tired war horses many times a season.

Unfortunately, this edition of Our Town is neither innovative nor Tony Award material.  It's a technically competent production without gaffs. 

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I am only perplexed about whether to blame the casting or the directing for creating this just-competent production.  I think I'll pick direction, because given the talent shown in other plays by many of the cast, director Yew must intentionally created an evening of blasé high school theater.

Ozdachs Rating:  Rating 3 out of 5 

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The Comedy of Errors

Aug. 16th, 2008 | 05:20 pm

Ashland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The Comedy of Errors at Oregon Shakespeare FestivalThe Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Adapted and Directed by Penny Metropulos
Music  by Sterling Tinsley
Lyrics by Penny Metropulos and Sterling Tinsley. Additional lyrics by Linda Alper.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival has a affinity for breakthrough productions of Comedy.  In 2004 Bill Rauch set the play in Las Vegas with one set of twins sporting New Jersey accents and the other sounding Texan. Strip cocktail waitresses swirled through the audience at intermission.  This year, OSF upped the creative ante and not only moved the set to the mythical wild west, they also adapted the play and made it a musical.

It works.

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Metropulos and crew brought to life a surprisingly consistent, coherent new take on Comedy. Something I never saw before.  Something I didn't expect.  A production to cheer.

Ozdachs Rating:  Rating 4.5 out of 5 

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Othello

Aug. 16th, 2008 | 05:20 pm

Ashland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Othello at Oregon Shakespeare FestivalOthello by William Shakespeare

Words, words, words!  Othello (Peter Macon, pictured left) and Iago (Dan Donohue, pictured right) made me feel like they each had too many of those damn multisyllabic chores to get through before they were allowed to go offstage and do something else.

There was one wordy speech after another.   You know the kind: they're loaded with big rhyming Shakespeare words.  Good-for-you and opaque.

Othello starts off on full-tilt loud ranting pitch which Macon maintains for nearly every scene and utterance.  Donohue is quieter, more controlled, and clearer. But, he is also always talking through a mouth full of dusty Elizabethan words. Additionally, Donohue's voice quavers annoyingly when he's trying to communicate intensity.  Dan, retire the vibrato!

At two hours fifty minutes Othello was more of an endurance trial for both actors and audience.  They spoke, we listened and tried to give meaning to the syllables.  The powerful story of jealousy, betrayal, and tragic love appeared repeatedly, but only briefly. 
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So when the actors, the set designer, the costume designer, and the music guy all go off and do their own disjointed thing, what do we fault?  Another disappointing job by another director who had not previously worked in Ashland.  Artistic Director Bill Rauch simply needs to work more closely with the younger talents he selects or else hire directors who are already skilled in regional repertory theater. 

Ozdachs Rating:  Rating 3 out of 5 

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