Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Spring 2016

Nina, Ahry and I just enjoyed a long weekend in Ashland where we saw four of the six plays currently being performed: “Twelfth Night,” “Great Expectations,” “The River Bride” and “Roe.” Here are our—or at least my—thoughts.

“Twelfth Night” is a slap-stick version set in 1930’s Hollywood, and of the four was our least favorite. The acting, music and costuming were a pleasure but the production felt frivolous overall. The remaining three are all world premieres.

“Great Expectations” was adapted from Charles Dickens by Penny Metropulos and Linda Alper. Again the costumes and the acting were great and the story well told. We enjoyed it a lot and might be more full of praise had we not seen the remaining two.

Written by Marisela Trevino Orta, “The River Bride,” is amazing. It is a simple story set in a small Brazilian village on the Amazon. Beautifully staged and acted, it is filled with vivid characters, mystery and folklore. As we sat in the middle of a full house I experienced something I don’t recall ever witnessing in a play before. A couple of times the entire audience seemed to moan with one voice when everyone suddenly realized that something both inevitable and unwanted was about to happen. This play runs only through early July while the others will continue until the end of October.

“Roe,” the final play tells the story of the people involved in Roe v. Wade from before the trial up to the present. That might sound a bit tedious, but fear not, this is a fast-paced, gripping story with complex characters that exposes all sides of a gut-wrenching issue that we as a society have struggled with for more than forty years. The playwright, Lisa Loomer, the director Bill Rauch and the cast have taken a vast amount of information and rendered it down to a stark drama. Ahry ranked it first among the four, Nina placed it in a tie with “The River Bride” while for me “The River Bride” won by a nose. The last two plays kept us talking for much of the four-hour drive home.

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