After opening four plays in February, the Oregon
Shakespeare Festival is in full swing with a total of 10 plays slated through
late October in three theaters.
|Rich girl (Pilar) Esperanza America, left and poor girl Victoria (Ella Saldana North) meet, unaware of the family secret they share in "Destiny of Desire" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (Photo by Jenny Graham)|
Running in the indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre are “Destiny
of Desire,” “Othello,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Oklahoma!” “Snow in
Midsummer” by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig begins Aug. 2.
Also indoors in the Thomas Theatre are “Henry V” and
“Manahatta.” “The Way the Mountain Moved” by Idris Goodwin begins July 10.
The outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre features two
by Shakespeare – “Romeo and Juliet” and “Love’s Labor’s Lost’’ – along with
“The Book of Will” by Lauren Gunderson.
No matter which shows patrons choose, they can
depend on several givens.
One is outstanding design elements, including sets and
costumes. Another is a deep, versatile acting corps of longtime favorites and
talented newcomers who can play one type of character in one play and an
entirely different type in another.
Also good to know is that the shows start right on
time, unlike many other theaters.
The theaters are near restaurants, shops and
beautiful Lithia Park. Ample lodging choices are available.
Here’s a rundown of six plays, starting with the
four in the Bowmer:
“DESTINY OF DESIRE” – Playwright Karen Zacarías was inspired by the telenovela form so popular
in Latin America with an added dash of Shakespearean elements.
One such element propels the action when two girls
are switched at birth. A sickly one, born to rich parents, is exchanged with the
healthy one born to poor parents without their knowledge.
Eighteen years later, the girls’ fates are entwined
as numerous revelations show they’re more closely related than initially
Directed by José Luis Valenzuela, the all-Latin
American cast is uniformly excellent, but two standouts are Vilma Silva as the
unscrupulous rich mother and Catherine Castellanos as a nun who’s a nurse at
Romance, villainy and plot twists are enhanced by
singing and dancing. This is one of the best shows seen during a recent visit, but
it closes July 12.
|Laurey (Royer Bockus, left) delights in the imaginary surrey guided by Curly (Tatiana Wechsler, in white shirt) and created by Will Parker (Jordan Barbour, checked shirt, left), Ado Andy (Jonathan Luke Stevens, checked shirt, right) and the company of "Oklahoma!" (Photo by Jenny Graham)|
“OKLAHOMA!” – OSF artistic director Bill Rauch
directs this classic musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, but
gives it a new twist: same-sex couples.
Thus Laurey and Curly are played by two women, Royer
Bockus and Tatiana Wechsler, respectively, while Ado Annie, here called Ado
Andy (Jonathan Luke Stevens) is paired with Jordan Barbour as Will Parker.
Some other casting is gender-fluid, but it all works
because of the performers’ energy and talent.
Thus they do ample justice to the show’s memorable
songs, such as “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,”
the title song and many more.
Despite the unconventional casting, the show has
been a hit and is worth seeing.
“SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” – Kate Hamill bases this
play on the Jane Austen novel.
Left with limited means after their father’s death,
the three Dashwood sisters and their mother move into a cottage owned by a relative.
Efforts to find husbands for the two older
daughters, Elinor (Nancy Rodriguez) and Marianne (Emily Ota), run into
obstacles, but eventually they’re happily paired.
Although most of the actors are suitably restrained,
director Hana S. Sharif allows some to go over the top. The chief offender is
the usually reliable K.T. Vogt as mother-in-law to another relative.
Nevertheless, Jane Austen fans will find much to
Although Othello, the Moor, is the title character, this Shakespeare play could
more aptly be called “Iago” after the villain who plots Othello’s downfall.
In this production, also directed by Rauch, Danforth
Comins is a masterful, manipulative Iago. He leads Othello (Chris Butler) into
believing that his wife,
Desdemona (Alejandra Escalante), is unfaithful and
killing her. His machinations lead to other deaths, too.
While Comins’ Iago depends on artifice and subtlety,
Butler’s Othello too often lapses into bluster and rage, reaching emotional
peaks too soon.
|Tribal leader (Steven Flores, second from left) and Mother (Sheila Tousey) think they're signing an agreement for their tribe to trade with the Dutch indefinitely, but Jakob (Danforth Comins, left) and Peter Minuit (Jeffrey King) have other intentions. (Photo by Jenny Graham)|
“MANAHATTA” – Perhaps the most fascinating play of
the six seen is this world premiere by Mary Kathryn Nagle in the Thomas
Director Laurie Woolery and seven actors seamlessly
switch the action from Native American land called Manahatta in
the 17th century to today’s Manhattan and a small Oklahoma town.
The play shows how Dutch West India Company traders defrauded
the Indians of their land. It compares them with investment bankers who
foreclosed on homeowners with risky mortgages, causing the economic collapse in
The mortgage crisis becomes personal for Jane (Tanis
Parenteau), an Indian woman working for an investment company in Manhattan. Her
mother in Oklahoma has defaulted on her mortgage after the payments became too
high. Urged by a church official, she had taken it out without understanding
“HENRY V’ – Several actors from last year’s “Henry
IV” appear here. Chief among them is Daniel José Molina, who played Prince Hal
last year and now plays the recently crowned king of England.
Shedding his wayward ways, he has become a strong
leader who confronts traitors while leading his troops into battle against the
Molina generally does well with the challenging role.
He’s ably backed by 11 actors who play multiple roles.
However, director Rosa Joshi overdoes some of the
battle scenes and inexplicably has the actors opening the play by rotating the
central set piece of stacked boxes.