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Ruined

May. 31st, 2010 | 10:25 am

Ashland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Ruined
written by Lynn Nottage
Ruined photo from OSF: Christian (Tyrone Wilson) holds back Sophie (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), who is enraged by the soldiers, as Mama Nadi (Kimberly Scott) looks on. Photo by Jenny GrahamThis horror story opens with the audience being dropped into the middle of the ongoing uncivil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Mama Nadi (Kimberly Scott) is the wheeling, dealing savior madame and bar owner who, in the opening scene, is convinced by a trader to take on two new girls. 

There are 10 girls who work for Mama (only three appear as characters). All have been victims of political gang rape by soldiers who know that their physical victims will then be cast out of their families because of their forced degradation.  It's true evil committed by young soldiers who are living in a land of war-induced cultural perversion.

The ugliness of humanity is fully, graphically, slowly, and rawly explored in the relentlessly uncomfortable script for which Nottage won last year's Pulitzer Prize.  Child-like brutal rebel soldiers switch off with young, clear-headed brutal government soldiers as customers in Mama's place.  Each man who wanders into the bar exposes his own profaneness, bravado-camouflaged damage, and desperation for a place to fit in.

Each character's psychological vulnerability is uncovered, exploited, and left unattended. In turn, nearly every actor on stage is exposed, hurt, and made a victim of the war which has ended civilization.

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The play won last year's Pulitzer and many other awards.  It deserves high praise.  However, for me it earns the accolades most for its quieter stories and exploration of the characters.  There are many of these vignettes. The real strength of the production is in these vignettes.  Those revelatory moments tell a more powerful story than the atrocity roll calls in the dialog.  Those felt lecturing and manipulating, and not in sync with the best moments of this powerful work of art.

Ozdachs Rating:  4.5 Syntaxes out of 5
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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

May. 31st, 2010 | 05:01 pm

Ashland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
written by Tennessee Williams
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof photo from OSF: Brick (Danforth Comins) rebuffs Maggie's (Stephanie Beatriz) attempts to draw him into conversation. Photo by David Cooper.Oregon Shakespeare Festival at its best strips Classic Plays of their Greatness, and allows the actors on stage to tell a simple story unburdened by the responsibility to live up to the Reputation of the Work of Art.  Their 2010 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  -- which closes too early on July 4 -- is an example of OSF at the top of its craft.

Director Christopher Moore has blended the original 1955 script with some of the 1974 revisions penned by Tennessee Williams to give audiences a language-rich, clear, complicated, and very human account of the Politt clan in crisis.

Moore adeptly focuses on the different truths of the different characters, letting the audience explore "Whose truth is the truth?" The more explicit language and un-toned-down homosexual references in the theatrical versions (both 1955 and 1974) make the motivations of Brick (Danforth Comins), the central character, and his family deeper, more complicated, and more understandable than in the hushed-up Hays Code Taylor-Redford film.

The acting is tense in a low-key, realistic, and devastating way.  Read more...Collapse )

Oregon Shakespeare Festival has taken the classic, complicated, ripe words of Tennessee Williams about a Southern, rich, and secretive family and transformed them.  They no longer belong to literary history safely behind the glass of time, region, and class.  OSF is offering a three-hour story about your family and mine, told simply and right on target.

Ozdachs Rating:  5 Syntaxes out of 5
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