Friday, June 6, 2008

Ashland Shakespeare Festival 2008


Ashland is a nice town with nice people and at least one nice latenight place to eat that is so much better than anything we have in Berkeley or Oakland that it makes me want to write a letter to the mayor.

Tonight I made a decision. At Standing Rock Brewery, I overheard many actors trash-talking other actors, which is fun and healthy, but putting things in print is different. So, I only want to say positive things about the 2008 Ashland Shakespeare festival when it comes to the shows and leave the bad stuff out. I know that everyone likes to read the scathing stuff, but I don’t want to write that right now. I must say, though, that Standing Rock Brewery was a pretty horrendous host for such a party as took place tonight. My dog could have organized and hosted a better party.*

Coriolanus
Coriolanus was in the New Theater. Laird Williamson and the crew obviously really cared about this production. They used every inch of the theater they possibly could, and then they went under the stage for more room. The play was bigger than the theater let it be, so they did it anyway. Danforth Commins was bad ass enough to play the bad ass Corilanus, and Michael Elich made Auphidius a character more complex than I read him and more threatening and ominous, too. Sarah Rutan stole scenes as Valeria and a member of the “people,” and I was excited to see that she was going to be Desdemona in Othello. I walked out of Coriolanus happy and excited to be in Ashland.

Othello
I hated everything about this play except Iago played by Dan Donohue. Every scene he shared with Rodrigo (Christopher Duval) and/or Cassio (Danforth Commins) was interesting and compelling. While I was watching it, I thought about how much better a Macbeth Donohue would make than Patrick Stewart. He really was a flawless Iago and seemed to carry the whole show. Director, Lisa Peterson, ended the play well; the last scene sticks with you for a while because Iago turns around with a face like, “I’m fucked” right before the lights abruptly go out.

The Clay Cart
I saw The Clay Cart on a whim. I was there, and I found a cheap ticket, so I went. I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the songs and the colors and the actors and the characters. I was charmed. Miriam A. Laube as Vasantasena and Cristofer Jean as Charudatta charmed everyone in the audience, I think. There was one character, Radanika played by Christine Albright, who was a scene stealer. People noticed her and fell in love, and she has that thing that certain brilliant stage actors have that captures your eye and keeps it. The stage of the Bowmer was used to perfection, and the whole thing was visually stunning. Bill Rauch and crew must have really loved this play. It was evident that The Clay Cart was someone’s baby. It is a very beautiful baby, and I am thoroughly pleased that I let the whim take me to see it.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the big thing this year. It is so good that I would recommend flying out to Oregon if it were the only play you could see. There are so many things that are good about this production, that I am going to write a whole extra review about it. I can’t believe how good it was, and I have never even heard of an audience freaking out the way it did here. What I will say is that I saw it twice, and the second time I noticed that Titania, the best Titania I have ever seen was played by Christine Albright, and I realized that I was becoming her fan. She was at the horrible party at Standing Rock tonight, but I didn’t meet her because I was afraid that she would be nasty or something. I mean to say that actors, especially the ones you like, have a way of completely letting you down in person. I have met many movie stars and many actors, and I have been let down quite a bit.

Comedy of Errors
I am not sure what to say about this except that it is one of those productions that makes you want to talk about whether something is really Shakespeare. It makes you want to talk about the boundaries and liberties a director can take or should adhere to. Comedy of Errors is one of my favorite plays to watch, and this one was fun, but I hate the kind of questions it asks, and I hate it when plays ask me questions about Shakespeare and Shakespeare productions. I kind of wish it was called something else, like Error Side Story or Cowboys of Errors or. Everyone was good in it. It was a pretty good play, but it’s more of a farce or a spoof or a cowboy musical based on Comedy of Errors than Comedy of Errors itself, and I hate this production for making me make those distinctions.

*I don't have a dog.