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Kedar K. Adour

OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL: Non-Shakespearean Plays 2013

By June 23, 2013June 25th, 2013No Comments

OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL (OSF) 2013, P.O. Box158, 15 South Pioneer Street, Ashland, Oregon 97520. 541-482-2111 or

OSF Part II: Non- Shakespearean Plays:

Three of the four non-Shakespearean plays are being given excellent productions with My Fair Lady and The Heart of Robin Hood leading the pack with Streetcar Named Desire a close third. The Unfortunates is appreciated by some audiences but not by this reviewer. To recap a paragraph from the introduction in Part I of these reviews: “The Unfortunates commissioned by OSF with book, music, lyrics by 3 Blind Mice (Jon Beavers, Ian Merrigan, RamizMonsef and Casey Hurt, with additional material by Kristoffer Diaz) is an unfortunate experience. It was put together by a committee and it looks it. It is dressed in grunge, the music fluctuates between Hip-Hop, blues, jazz and Gospel without rhyme or reason and the convoluted inanely excessive story line is difficult to follow.”

Rae (Kjerstine Rose Anderson), has been forced into prostitution at her father’s bar, but Big Joe (Ian Merrigan, center back) only has eyes for her. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Angus Bowmer Theatre:

Ensemble. Photo by Jenny Graham

MY FAIR LADY (2/17-11/3) Adapted from Book & Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Music by Frederick  Loewe. Director Amanda Dehnert. Choreographer   Jaclyn Miller.  Scenic   Design David Jenkins. Costume Design Devon Painter. Lighting  Design M.L. Geiger. Music/Sound Kai  Harada & Johanna Lynne Staub.

George Bernard Shaw would certainly not be thrilled with the original staging of My Fair Lady the musical based on his play Pygmalion even though much of his dialog is intact in text and lyrics. But he surely could not fault the total concept of Amanda Dehnert’s staging that is receiving raves reviews and will probably be sold out for its run scheduled for the entire season. He certainly would appreciate Jonathon Haugen’s performance as a bullying Professor Higgins who is challenged by his Pygmalion Elisa the once “squashed cabbage” whom he brought forth from her chrysalis to become a beautiful butterfly. Haugen’s solid portrayal of a ‘tough’ Professor Higgins is balanced by a fine comic timing in word and deed creating a memorable character infused with ambivalence. Shaw, the feminist, may want Eliza to ‘win the day’ but there will be no romance and Eliza don’t forget to bring the slippers.

The present production is absolutely cleverly unique and may be startling for those who have seen the show many times before but they will stand up cheering for the entire cast who hardly ever leave the stage. Hurricanes hardly ever happen in Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire but the certainly do on the Angus Bower stage.

The inventive Dehnert states in the program notes: “Life isn’t neat and theater isn’t clean,” Life is messy, so should theater be. You should see where the lights hang, see the clothes being put on and taken off, see how people transform through the power of imagination.”

To this declaration she has reduced the orchestra to two marvelous center-stage grand pianos played brilliantly by Matt Goodrich and Ron Ochs. They are occasionally accompanied by a solo violin especially for “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Yes the actors do change their costumes on stage and they ascend and descend from stairs where they sit surrounding the action. A huge neon sign dominates the back wall proclaiming for all to know that this is “MY FAIR LADY” like no other. Would you believe that during the staging of the “Ascot Gavotte” the hats descend from the rafters to perfectly fit on the dancers heads?

Jonathan Haugen’s unstinting chauvinistic Higgins (“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”) is matched word for word, song for song and body language by Rachel Warren’s scrappy Eliza. She has played the role many times across the U.S. and her stage presence matches her superb voice. Surprisingly Haugen, who is usually cast in a Shakespeare play, was brilliant as Brutus in Julius Caesar two years ago, has an excellent musical

Henry Higgins (Jonathan Haugen) explains the joys of the English language to Eliza (Rachael Warren).

comedy’s a voice to match.

No one upstages Anthony Heald and his show-stopping portrayal of Alfred P. Doolittle is proof of that. David Kelly does get his share of laughs as Colonel Pickering but Ken Robinson’s Freddy Eynsford-Hill singing “On the Street Where you Live” has the cast as well the audience cheering his performance.  Suggestion: Do Not Miss This Show.



A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (4/17-11/2) by Tennessee Williams. Director Christopher Liam Moore. Scenic Design Christopher Acebo. Costume Design Alex Jaeger. Lighting Design Robert Wierzel. Music/Sound Andre J. Pluess.

The Angus Bowmer Theatre has no curtain for its proscenium arch and observing the delicate see-through two-story structure set off alarms for this reviewer. Not long into the 11 scene play, being staged in three acts with two intermissions, it became apparent that director Christopher Liam Moore was emphasizing the poetic aspect of Tennessee Williams’ seminal play. In doing so the casting of the very popular Danforth Comins as the rough hewn Polish Stanley Kowlaski may have been appropriate. Comins is no stranger to Williams’ plays having been cast two years ago as Biff in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof where he gave stunning performances.

Stanley, however, is a different breed than the sexually ambivalent Biff. He is a macho working class man whose rough sexual manners are integral to the Stella’s attraction and Blanche’s revulsion of him. One should not expect the guttural speech made famous by Marlon Brando on Broadway and in the film but Comins does not grasp the viciousness of Stanley’s personality and his shift in speech accents suggests that he has not fully invested himself in the role.

Stanley (Danforth Comins) insists to Stella (Nell Geisslinger) that what he’s heard about Blanche (Kate Mulligan) is true. Photo by Jenny Graham.

This is not the case with the other three major characters. Kate Mulligan initially portrays Blance Dubois on a one-dimensional note but early on her time upon the stage is quite brilliant and mesmerizing as she gradually descends into madness. Neil Giesslinger as Stella Kowalski nails the role as a stable sister to Blanche with an animal magnetism to Stanley. You will not recognize her as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew where she is so marvelously different in comedy. Jeffery King is perfect in the role as Harold Mitchell (Mitch) the lonely man saddled with a sick mother. His performance, though unique is reminiscent of Karl Malden.

There are other perceived casting errors including the poker game players who are non-distinctive and interchangeable in their acting or possibly as how they were directed. Daniel Jose Molina’s turn upon the boards as the young newspaper collection boy that Blanche attempts to seduce is a joy to watch. That scene is one you will remember but double casting the youngster as the doctor who takes Blanche away with her unforgettable line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” is a serious flaw.

If you are unfamiliar with the plot go to your computer browser and type in: “A Streetcar Named Desire” and select the web site of your choice. Suggestions: Well worth seeing despite this somewhat negative review.


Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion

THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD (6/5-10/12) by David Farr. U.S. PREMIERE. Director Joel Sass. Scenic Design Michael Ganio. Costume Design Sonya Berlovitz. Lighting Design M.L. Geiger. Composer Paul James Prendergast.

Time to set aside filmdom’s Douglas Fairbanks (1922) and Errol Flynn’s (1938) portrayal of Robin Hood and add John Tufts in tights to the list of actors trekking around Sherwood Forest in the role of “people’s choice” who robs from the rich and gives (shares?) with the poor. But did he, Robin, really do that? David Farr’s take on that legend suggests otherwise. In doing so he has created a hilarious script The Heart of Robin Hood that even includes a rival Martin of Sherwood.

It just happens that Martin starts out as Maid Marion (Kate Hurster) and Farr stealing a directorial conceit from Shakespeare puts her in men/boys clothing to compete with misogynistic and less than altruistic Robin and his Merry Men. Although the plot is complex in structure it is a breeze to follow. In doing so you will admire Director Joel Sass’s skill at creating humor even when heads roll and bodies litter the stage. His ‘shake-down’ of a crooked Friar (Jonathon Haugen) who physically looses his head brings gasps and laughter. Being able to do that indicates great directorial ability. There are a multitude of such brilliant staging effects that also include puppets, sword fights (of course), and fine comic acting by an expert cast giving the term ensemble performance a boost.

Prince John (Michael Elich) is the leader of the bad guys and true to form he is hot to marry Marion. He also is over-taxing the populous ostensibly to finance the Crusade against the “Muslim Terror” in the Near East where some of the good guys are. Off Marion goes to the magical forest ot become Martin of Sherwood. He/she is the true altruist by sharing his/her booty taken from the rich. Her sidekick Pierre (Daniel T. Parker) who against his better judgement tags along as Big Pete. Before all this happens we get to meet “Little John” (Howie Seago) who reluctantly joins the band when he learns that women are not allowed.

Most of the major characters are in place, conflict and strife arises, good guys get caught, good guys get rescued and love triumphs. Of course, what did you expect? After all the title is The Heart of Robin Hood. Plug the Dog (Tanya Thai McBride) has a ball hopping around the stage. Tufts and Hurster play off each other with perfect timing and display a charming charisma. Another member of the ensemble that deserves an accolade is Tasso Feldman who plays a valet, Priest, Lord “Tubbington”, the Green Man and a Wild Boar.

The staging, lighting, music and sound effects are spectacular and the forest uni-set mentioned in the introduction is perfect for this play. Running time a short 2 hours and 20 minutes including the 20 minute intermission.

SUGGESTION: An absolutely must see production.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Bay Area Reviewer for

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