juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Hamlet, Elizabethan Theatre, dir. Lisa Peterson

A fairly standard staging with a few exceptions, largest of which is the use of doom metal—the gravedigger stands atop the stage with a guitar, providing ambient audio; some soliloquies and sung lines are done with a mic. I buy this conceit in theory, but it failed to impress in practice. It muddies some lines ("To be or not to be" is so famous as to have become clich├ęd, so I understand choosing to mix it up via mic and audience participation—but what a flop) while adding little of substance besides ambiance.

But the casting is almost universally phenomenal, the characters so well-rounded. I took some issue with Claudius (maybe only an issue of costuming: the bulky crown on his bald head looks silly and exaggerated—exaggerated obsession with power, exaggerated evil) until 4.7 when he, with ruthless political acumen, invites Laertes to murder Hamlet. Ophelia's song's beautiful, and easily the best (and most natural) inclusion of music. Polonius! is phenomenal! this character needs to be the fool, comic relief with a grain of truth, and he needs to be lovable because his death must to be a loss big enough to mark a turning point within the play—this is that, most especially 1.3 "these few precepts" which is both officious and sincere. Horatio as a Black woman is brilliant, and she's the emotional strength and center, directing the audience's emotions through the loss of the cast. And: Hamlet. I have touched on this briefly elsewhere, but this is the Hamlet I dream of, a Hamlet large, who contains multitudes; a Hamlet of sincerity and performance, of flippancy and bereavement, consumed by a toxic self-knowing and yet so self-possessed. This script keeps both of my favorite soliloquies: 2.2's "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!" and 4.4's "How all occasions do inform against me," and they were all I could have wished for: a Hamlet obsessed with how others perform grief and action.

Twelfth Night, Angus Bowmer, dir. Christopher Liam Moore

This production has two interesting directorial choices: it's set in 1930s Hollywood, and Viola and Sebastian have the same actor. I was initially doubtful of the first and ridiculously excited about the second; they both work, often because of how they interact with one another. In the reunion scene, a single actor is able to play both Viola and Sebastian because a screen descends and a projected black and white film version of the actor portrays the non-speaking twin; even better, the actor then steps into the projection, the twins embrace, and the actor exists the film-within-the-play to portray both of the roles simultaneously. Twelfth Night generally resolves its own queerness* by ending with heteronormative pairings; this defies that, it keeps the fluid orientations and queer subtext alive until curtains. The 1930s conceit is successful because it helps pull that off; also because the social and sexual freedom of the era well suits the content of the play.

I was impressed by the handling of the B-plot. There was some clever staging—separating the left and right sides of the stage into the A and B plot, one side of the stage going dormant while the other had a scene, with Feste thematically and physically knitting the halves together. The B-plot is given as much depth as the A-plot, but the character depth and growth in Toby in particular is never not allowed to overshadow the unforgivably harm done Malvolio, who I have also discussed elsewhere: what a sympathetic, unforgiving depiction of his experience, his growth, his anger. I'm not fond of physical comedy, and this has a lot of it; beyond that, what a well-cast and well-considered production. Attending a talk by an actor (who was equally passionate about Malvolio and about queering the text!) only made it better.

* moreso now than then, when crossdressing Viola was originally played by a male actor

The Wiz, Elizabethan Theatre, dir. Robert O'Hara

I can't separate the experience of this production from the production itself, because there just was that much rain, But the energy of the cast defied the weather. This is engaging and lively and not all that deep. Allow me to quality that: this is valuable in historical context, and still valuable now, for the all-Black speaking roles and also for the body-type diversity in the ensemble. The playful, irreverent, flamboyant tone is is engaging and alive, and the costume design (what we saw under ponchos!) is phenomenal, especially in the backup dancers, especially the birds. But beyond celebrating a new ownership and audience, it doesn't provide much as a retelling of the source material—feel-good songs, no particular reinterpretations or depth.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
As a Christmas gift (which I picked up belatedly, since I skipped Christmas) my parents got me tickets for their Ashland trip to see Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and The Wiz. I used to make at least one yearly Shakespeare trip with my family, and miss it fiercely; it was particularly painful to see these plays on their calendar, because they're personal favorites and because we saw them together once when the Shakepeare trip was to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. So when they told me I was invited, I actually broke out in tears.

Of course, as the actual trip approached I remembers to be consumed by anxiety, because I'm not good at a lot of uninterrupted public time, especially without Devon with me, so I didn't know how I'd fare in three days company with my parents. But not only did I survive, it was a lovely and storied journey. I'm not going to write about the plays in detail here (that will be in the next post); this is a recap of itinerary, weather, and food.

We left noonish on Tuesday, June 14. It's a ~3h drive. I requested no news coverage in the car, as this was two days after the Orlando shooting and I just could not deal; instead of a few uninterrupted hours of repetition and Islamophobia, my mum put on the Hamilton soundtrack. I was aware of Hamilton and had heard a song or two, but had never listened to the entire thing. It is such a productive, powerful way to spend that time.

We got a divided room at our favorite hotel, which meant one king bed and sofa bed, separated by privacy curtain. For both mental and physical reasons, I'm a troubled sleeper—but the accommodations plus the bedding and hotpad I travel with, and the hours we kept, worked beautifully; I was surprisingly comfortable there. We also kept a two meal/lunch and dinner schedule, which is what I prefer.

Hotel wifi was speedy and stable (!!!); I used VoIP to catch up with Devon every evening (because normal people have cell phones but my particular anxiety means I don't), and that worked beautifully.

Tuesday dinner was Standing Stone Brewing Company. I got nachos; greasy, sometimes chewy chips, which was unfortunate, but the rest was flavorful and had good texture. Huge serving portions. Mixed bag, but, like, upscale tasty nachos, I can't complain about that.

The ongoing problem with eating in Ashland wasn't finding vegetarian options, but finding vegetarian options that had at some point rubbed themselves against a form of protein. I eat significantly more protein than most people, so perhaps this only bothers me—but while vegetarian (and vegan, and gluten-free) options were often exhaustively labeled, the first two were "normal dish with meat removed." I forget how spoiled I am by meat alternatives in Portland and even Corvallis.

Tuesday evening was Hamlet, in the open-air Elizabethan. Rather than raising an American flag, they raised a pride flag to general cheering; it was striking against the gray sky of dusk, and a heartening public gesture. It sprinkled just enough to warrant rain jackets, and got cold enough to demand one more layer than I wore, but neither required modifications to the play. I would rather it be a little chilly than horrible and hot while I'm traveling, I thought! Oh, little did I know.

Wednesday and Thursday brunch was Morning Glory, which is twee (a bit like stepping into a Mary Engelbreit illustration) and crowded and overpriced, and doesn't accept substitutions which is hard for me as a vegetarian/picky eater. On Wednesday I had a fantastic open-faced egg sandwich, but on Thursday I tried an omelet which was overly full, too strongly flavored, and had an awful texture. Mixed bag.

Wednesday afternoon was Twelfth Night in the Angus Bowmer. Afterward, my father and I went to the Q&A with Ted Deasy, who played Malvolio—what a marvelous experience. The volunteer introduced him as one of their favorite actors in the company and said that, after this talk, he would be one of ours too; absolutely correct. He had active, informed insights to his role, the play (esp. how it handled gender), and acting, with some particularly thoughtful anecdotes about how playing two characters in a single season forces those roles to inform one another, often in unique ways. (The particular anecdote about an audience member from a previous Q&A like this one asking, "I saw you in X play and Y play this season; why do you perform both roles the same?" which prompted a season-long bout of self-doubt, do I play these roles the same? why? should I? that lead him to realize what similarities united the roles, and then to be increasingly aware of how the overlap was both strengthening and muddying his performance.) The occasional talk by an actor devolves into them advertising their independent projects, but most are equally as compelling as the plays—and this was one of those.

Wednesday dinner was Caldera. A tip: when possible, eat as early as possible and/or drive outside of downtown; no waiting for a table and less rush. The dishes weren't particularly strongly flavored, but were robust; and one appetizer was a baked avocado, which isn't even that different from a normal avocado except for being warm and with a somewhat deeper flavor, but was still somehow a revelation: I can love avocado even more than I already loved avocado. Desserts, by contrast, were bizarrely strong in flavor.

Wednesday evening was The Wiz in the Elizabethan. Learning from the night before, we had stocked up on extra layers and a blanket. This helped somewhat, but not an awful lot, because it rained. It rained almost torrentially until intermission, and then only sprinkled while growing increasingly cold, "I know I probably won't die of hypothermia in the two hours' traffic of our stage, but I'm a little worried" cold. About two thirds of the audience left, and we toughed it out in part because you don't go to Ashland to bail on a play and in part because the cast enthusiastically toughed it out, too. Half of them wore ponchos, I'm sure some choreography was modified, and the adlibbed responses to the weather were delightful. Certainly an experience! But, as we commiserated after the event, by the time they made it back to the Emerald City we were all three of us thinking, "click your heels, Dorothy, just click your fucking heels."

Anxiety is a strange monster. On one hand, it well prepares me for this sort of thing, because I know to bring my suitcase full of comfort objects and I know to always have a book to read so that I never have unwelcome idle time which is my surefire way to begin panicking (and there's a lot of downtime in car rides/waiting for tables/before plays and during intermission). On the other, it infallibly makes me assume things will be awful, while things are not infallibly awful. It turns out that, given a busy enough schedule that we are either completely occupied or crashing during all available downtime, even I can do things for three solid days without a nervous breakdown.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I made an unusually long visit to Corvallis, because I hadn't seen Devon for a while and because I was making a trip with my parents to go to Ashland and see some Shakespeare (!! !). I usually travel by train, but Devon and I drove back up today because he had to pick up a friend from the local airport.

This is the sort of thing that only I could do:

As we approached the airport, Devon called his friend to let him know we were running 20mins late on account of traffic. I was unsure if this was traffic-traffic or "traffic"-traffic, as we had stopped for dinner along the way and I legitimately did not remember any traffic congestion. It occurred to me that if it were white lie-traffic, I was complicit in a white lie! so I queried Devon. Devon recounted for me the three (3) episodes of stop and go traffic that resulted from some broken-down cars, which occurred approximately when I was talking in depth about 1) the abuse of Malvolio and its end-game resolution as appeared in this production of Twelfth Night,* 2) the way the B-plot was weighted against the A-plot in Twelfth Night, the ways they were knit together, the depth given to the B-plot, 3) the overlap of an actor in Twelfth Night and Hamlet, and as natural segue, 4) which was the more successful production of the two (spoiler: Twelfth Night), especially in conceit, but 5) that this was one of my very favorite Hamlets.**

Which makes these things the take-away:

My memory is so spotty that I can entirely forget not one, not two, but three separate repetitions of the same event.

I am so engrossed in media criticism that I can carry on a one-sided outpouring of Shakespeare Thoughts that lasts through at least 20-mins-late worth of traffic.

My compulsive honesty is so intense and deeply ingrained that even being adjacent to the possibility of a small lie will cause me anxiety and require immediate clarification/resolution.

* As a type-A fellow antisocial uptight often-socially-corrected personality, Malvolio is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters and I am incredibly sensitive to how productions depict his abuse and its aftermath—whether it's played for fun, whether the audience is complicit, whether his "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you" does or doesn't diffuse the anxiety of the realization that things have, indeed, gone too far. This one was handled so well! so explicit, so cruel, so unforgiven; he internalizes his enforced socialization, his "smile," but reclaims it, develops it into a tool to use against those that hurt him. It threatens to diffuse and then refuses to, so pointedly. It was all I ever wanted.

** I feel that too much Hamlet discussion and production is given to issues of is he mad or faking (& is he flippant or bereaved); in this production he was all, he was driven to an extremity of emotion and he was numb, impassioned but indecisive, feigning and sincere, sarcastic and authentic. He was complete. That is the Hamlet which makes the play endure, who engages our ambivalence and writes it vast yet sympathetic, and we see ourselves in him, and we fear him, and fear ourselves
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I went to Ashland and came back and barely said a word about it. The weekend was rocky and exhausting, and so I came home with little energy and enthusiasm to say much at all. There were, however, things worth saying. These are a few of them.

We were in Ashland on October 11th, National Coming Out Day, and so we were also there for a gay pride parade that went down Main Street and ended in a big gathering at the park. The parade was short—I think it began about the time we drove into downtown, and ended about the time we finally found a parking space. But even if we didn't see the big event, we did see men in dresses and fantastic towering high heels in the park, we saw dozens of rainbows on all sorts of people walking along Main later that day, and we saw same sex couples all day long, holding hands and wrapping arms around waists and going through downtown together.

Hardly the biggest, loudest, or most colorful parade you can imagine, gay pride or otherwise. But you must remember that I come from quiet little Corvallis, which is surprisingly liberal in its upper middle class way but also pretty damn subdued and I don't know if we've ever even had a parade. And, needless to say, I don't get out much. So this little day of rainbows and sparkles and glorious individuals was a delight.

And I'd be lying to say that half the joy wasn't watching what happened when my parents were confronted with a gay pride parade that shut down half of downtown. In part because it was amusing: they're the pretty damn subdued surprisingly liberal upper middle class types, and all they wanted was a parking space. In part because it was wonderful: Papa and I left Mum with the car, we went walking down Main and into the park, and he was interested—probably as nonplussed by the sparkly drag as you'd imagine, but interested and alert and looking at the displays, and not awkward, and not judgmental. Pretty damn subdued surprisingly liberal upper middle class is not as liberal or as educated as it should be, there's a lot that folks from Corvallis, my parents and doubtless even myself, haven't been exposed to and need to learn to accept, but my family doesn't bat an eye at a gay pride parade and you know, that gives me a bit of faith in the world.

Walking down Main, we also saw a living statue—a pair of bronze women straddling the line between Victorian goth and steampunk. One carried a parasol, one sat on a leather trunk. They had a sign that (I think) read "Faerie Con or bust." When tipped they made bows in thanks, graceful bows but as perfectly choreographed and synchronized that they looked like beautiful automatons, but the rest of the time they stood so perfectly still, so perfectly posed, that my brain parsed them as statues. Not once, but almost every time—I walked past the same street corner just an hour later and didn't see them at first, we drove by them on our way to the plays the next day and I wasn't able to find them before they were out of sight. Here in Corvallis we have a couple of statues downtown, some wonderful, some ... lacking ([livejournal.com profile] century_eyes may remember the water phalli). One of the best is a bronze Labrador, sitting lovely and alert on a street corner. Papa says that some dogs get excited and bark at it from a distance, when they're too far away to notice that they can't smell another dog—it looks that much like a real dog.

These were women who looked that much like statues. It was breathtaking—such detail, such patience, incredible skill. I've watched living statues as far away as London, but these were the best by far that I've ever seen. I hope they make it to Faerie Con.

And not the only wonderful piece of performance art that we saw. At the right time of year, OSF has a free Green Show in the courtyard before the evening performance. When we were walking up to the square for the first play, I heard loud and beautiful music—and wandered ahead and found the Green Show underway with Pyrate Technics performing. The next day we came a bit earlier and I caught the whole Green Show, with Liquid Fire Mantra performing a rainbow-bedecked, New Age (and oh, what I would not give for representations of powerful goddesses that aren't rendered as sex objects), faux-belly dance and unimpressive fire-dancing performance which was rather a letdown with the exception of one performer—she was a hooper and a joy to watch, an enthusiastic and skilled performer who blossomed under the attention of a crowd and spun a flaming hoop into a beautiful ring of fire.

Pyrate Technics, on the other hand, was an unequivocal joy. They were pounding, compelling music to drive a powerful, compelling dance. They were poles and poi and fans, variety not for the sake of variety but because the performers knew and rocked their tools. I'd never seen fire fans before, but I would love, I'd love so much, to see them wielded that well again. They were dance, including belly dance, that was more than shimmied hips and cultural appropriation. They were spins and tosses, they were arcs and rings of fire in the night. They were beautiful, bare skin and flame, movement and light, dreadlocked and tattooed, such wonderful individuals. They were a performance of sight and sound and honestly, as I sit here trying, I know I can't describe them in words. Were they the best fire dancers the world has to offer? Probably not. Again I am small and sheltered and I don't get out much—I hardly have much to compare them to.

But in that night, that flame-lit night, they were breathtaking. Each dancer lit and extinguished their own blaze, and while the fires were lit they made such beautiful light.

My family comes to Ashland for the plays, but we've been coming a couple of times a year for longer than I've been alive. You get to see something of a city, in that time: the lovely galleries, the artsy fartsy tourist-entrapping stores, the wonderful restaurants (we went to Thai Pepper again while we were there, and my garlic tofu with broccoli will never not delight me), the beautiful park, old homes, greenery, college campus, quieter suburbs. We've seen wonderful art there and incredible performances—and many of those were the plays, but sometimes its the rest of it, the people, what goes on at street corners or in the courtyard at nightfall, that I love the most.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Entertainment I'm taking with me on a three day trip to Ashland: Gameboy Color with Pokémon Crystal; Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse; Ambrose Bierce short story collection; Zune and my shiny new headphones; two Moleskines and 8-pack of colored pens. This is ... pretty normal, actually.

Woke up early today and thought I'd stay up, do some mending to my favorite skirt so that I could take in on the trip, possibly even finish packing. What a perfect time to watch a Doctor Who episode for some diversion before I set off for a family weekend! Which would all be well and dandy if I didn't happen to be at Season 1, Episode 9: The Empty Child. I've mentioned before (but damn if I can find it now) that visual media scare me more than almost any other form—because I don't visualize, and so I rarely create scary images from anything that I, for example, read, and the scary images I see in film are all the more effective. I don't know if I've mentioned before that my biggest fear—which is less oft triggered but even stronger than my phobia of spiders and insects—is life where life should not be. If it's humanoid/living enough to have a face but mechanical enough that it shouldn't be alive, and moves or talks or blinks, gah, it makes my skin crawl. It's a sort of essential wrongness, in my head: a travesty of nature.

So now I'll watch a creepy episode about a creepy child that can possess electronics and machines like, oh god, creepy clapping monkey toys, and it's six in the morning and the sun's not up and everyone in the house save for me is asleep. This is such a wonderful idea.

Damn if the episode's not compelling, though. The atmosphere is so perfect for my mood these days—and since little else is (Dev and I went book shopping yesterday—or tried to, because Borders had a total of none of the books on my Halloween-ready atmospheric autumnal gothic TBR list. Man, how I wish I lived near Powell's. It seems only a city of books is large enough to contain the sort of novels—obscure and small print, or semi-obscure and classic—that I want to read) I shall not look this gift horse in the mouth, I am indeed glad to have received it, but oh god possessed clappy monkey toy don't do that.

My skirt looks much better with the holes patched up.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
It is, perhaps (after two play reviews just posted: She Loves Me and Well), obvious that I spent the weekend in Ashland with my family. The plays were not my heart-beating life-changing picks for the season but this was one of the better trips we've made. I could say much about it, but instead I give you a page I wrote in my Moleskine* on May 15th, written with a pen** making a swift journey towards death, concerning—largely—the weather:

Moleskine page written in Ashland, Oregon

We're at a different hotel this time, one further out of town. The rooms are much larger, with the bedroom and sitting room partitioned; Mum and Papa have one room, while Allie and I share a room far down the hall. And these change are a blessing—it is so much more comfortable here.

Lighting just flashed out the window. I sat down to write not of the rooms—though they do occasion mention—but of the weather. Early summer sun has given way to early summer storms, gusting wind and thick gray sky (still silver with the last of the afternoon's sun), splatterings of rain and now the first rumble of thunder, while wind buffets warm and thick.

Allie is out of the room, exploring with Papa. I've been reading a pair of books interchangeably. The bedsheets here are soft, I found the extra pillows, and I've been wearing my more comfortable PJs for a clothing break before dinner. All is silent but for the ghost of the storm and the sound of the fan, which mimics the wind outdoors.

I was not looking forward to this trip for many reasons—but in this moment, it is wholly worthwhile.

The hotel in question is The Village Suites at Ashland Hills, which I much recommend. Shortly after writing the above we went to dinner at the Thai Pepper, which only provides their vegetarian menu upon request, is a little small, needs a better seating arrangement, and is still my favorite restaurant in town because their Garlic Tofu with Broccoli is exquisite—buttery but not heavy, lots of garlic but slightly roasted by the butter to mellow out the flavor, fresh and plentiful and absolute delicious. Everyone had a great meal, actually. We saw She Loves Me on Saturday and Well on Sunday, matinées both which makes for a bit of hurry to get there but relaxes the pacing on the whole, especially in the evening. Both days were summer-tempestuous: sunny and warm but slightly overcast and muggy, refreshed periodically with warm rain. And so, on the whole, while I can make any vacation stressful for myself, despite unrelenting back pain, always in the midst of thinky-thoughts on my family, this was a lovely, beautiful, and peaceful visit.

* This is the reverse of my large ruled notebook. I have story drafts in the front and sundry notes, reviews, and scraps in the back. One day, they shall meet in the middle.

** The deep dregs of my Pilot V Razor Point Extra Fine pen in black. These are my pens of choice because they're liquid and felt-tip, which means they glide over the page and have a deep, wet, slightly feathery ink; when the pen is empty, though, it makes for a moment of fat wet lines followed by a fine gray scrawl—which I can't help but use anyway, because I don't toss a pen until it stops writing.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Well is not a play about the playwright and her mother. Well is "a multicharacter theatrical exploration of issues of health and illness both in the individual and in a community." Playwright Lisa Kron puts her chronically unwell mother on stage and hires four actors in order to revisit the desegregation of her childhood neighborhood and her own time spent in an Allergy Unit, but as the play begins to disintegrate around her she scrambles to pull together fragmented memories and repressed emotion in order to eke out meaningful themes on the issue of wellness. Performed at Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2010 season, Well is a performance of great intention and middling success. Split the play into approximate thirds, and it goes like this: a unique but initially ineffective concept, an unexpectedly successful evolution, and a hasty and disappointing conclusion. That middle third hides some wonderful gems, but the entire play is something of a disappointment.

Well is as much about the constructs of a play as it is about issues of family, wellness, and race, and so it opens with play-acting running concurrent to the living room "real world" where Lisa's mother sits. Significant time and energy go into establishing the unusual premise, which makes for an intriguing but unsatisfying beginning. The play within a play is exaggerated—brightly colored, over the top, and farcical—and you could call it "stylistic suck" because these rowdy, unrealistic scenes often tread the line of aggravating (and on a personal note the farcical humor left me cold, making these scenes all the worse). But when the constructs of the play first begin to crumble, Well reaches a golden period: it slips back and forth between "real" and "play," breaking character, interweaving stories, and throwing the audience into a thoughtful, meaningful tumult of confusion and concept. This is when it realizes it finest moments—which sometimes come too hard, fast, and clearly delineated, but still ring with meaning and truth. These moments address issues which are close to my heart, and so I found Well to be at times personally meaningful; viewers without this connection may find these moments well-realized but perhaps not as moving. Regardless, it is this middle period that shines. It excuses the lackluster beginning, but suffers in the play's troubled conclusion.

For as it continues, Well's constricts continue to disintegrate and this golden period also crumbles. The fallacy of the play is destroyed one too many times, and the effect is ironically unbelievable. In part, this is because, while Well makes the laudable effort to avoid a simple, neat conclusion to its heavy, complex themes, it unfortunately settles on a trite, short conclusion which does its themes no service and undercuts the brilliant moments achieved in the play's middle period. As a whole, however, I expect that Well is different—and much better—when Lisa Kron stars as Lisa Kron (as was the case for many East Coast productions). In that case, when the play dissolves completely Lisa is there to stand—stripped to nothing but a woman in a bright light—as her authentic self. Such is not possible in this OSF production, so when the last foundations of the play crumble, no authenticity is revealed beneath: the protagonist remains an actor. Metatheatre is an unruly beast: it has great potential which it finds difficult to achieve, perhaps because—ironically—it gazes so hard at its own navel that even as it disregards the false trappings of theatre, it loses any sense of universality and timelessness. So it is with Well: Well takes on too much—play constructs, family issues, health, and race make for an overfull platter, and racial issues in particular go underaddressed; what is addressed sometimes displays a glimpse of something meaningful, but is often wrapped in a busy, messy, if well-intentioned setting which never quite convinces. I applaud it as a brave and complex effort, and appreciate some of its themes and messages, but I came away with troubles and a sour taste. Ultimately, Well is a failed effort, and I don't recommend it—but I will quote from it.

LISA: Hi, Kay.

KAY [an Allergy Unit patient]: Hello

LISA: Is your cousin coming to pick you up?

KAY: No. My sister.

LISA: That's good.

KAY: Yeah, I guess it's good.


(Kay slams something down on the bed.)

LISA: Do you think you're having a reaction?

KAY: I don't know. Maybe. I guess.

LISA: Do you want me to go get you some alkali salts?

KAY: No. Lisa ... it's not fair. I don't want to be sick. My sister is cleaning my house for me, getting my safe room ready. She is good to me, but I can't help it. I don't want her going through my things. Oh, I don't know, I don't know. I'm not reacting. I'm angry. I'm so angry, Lisa. I know she thinks if she were me she'd be better, but do you know what the problem is with being sick? It's that you're sick. People who are healthy think they know how you could get better, because when they imagine what your life is like they imagine having your sickness on top of their health. They imagine that sick people have all the resources they do and they're just not trying hard enough. But we don't. I don't. I know my sister is only trying to help me, but I can't help it. I think, You suffer for one day the way I do. I want you to feel like this for just one day. Then you tell me how to get better.

(Photo: Lisa introduces her play in the "play" section of the stage; in the background, her mother sits in the "real" section. By Jenny Graham, copyright OSF.)
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash, coworkers at a parfumerie, have a contentious work relationship—but they are also one another's secret pen pals who met through a lonely hearts newspaper ad. When the pen pals decide to meet, Georg discovers Amalia's identity and everything he thought he knew is thrown into turmoil. This familiar story is the fifth adaptation of Miklos Laszlo's play Parfumerie, and it's a musical. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2010 production of She Loves Me is, in a word, delightful. It's by no means flawless: The plot is slightly bloated by the romantic foibles of another parfumerie employee, whose quest for love is intended to function as a foil to the relationship between Georg and Amalia but instead feels underdeveloped and contributes the musical's worst numbers. The production, meanwhile, falters at the close of the first act, when the café meeting scene becomes a rancorous, physical comedy. She Loves Me is something of a subdued musical—not quiet precisely, but the characters are realistic and a little dorky, the romance is more private than grand, and so the loud comedy comes as a surprise and feels out of place in the otherwise understated production.

But these are small, forgivable distractions in view of the entire production, which is joyful, clever, and a pure pleasure to watch. It doesn't offer remarkable depth—it is, after all, a romantic comedy, and though the romance is enduringly unusual the story doesn't break much new ground and it comes to such a swift conclusion that it almost feels simplistic. But the musical offers brilliantly funny, catchy songs about topics as mundane as shopping and eating ice cream, the main characters are refreshing in their simple and adorably flawed humanity, and the production's clever set design, colorful costuming, and strong musical performances are a joy. OSF's new trend towards musicals has had a rocky start, but with She Loves Me they meet their usual standard of excellence. My entire party loved this play without reservation. A joy from the second song (the first is good, but the second is great and it's where things get rolling) to the ovation's refrain, this is not OSF's biggest, best, or most brilliant production—but it may be one of the most enjoyable to watch. I recommend it with enthusiasm.

(Photo: Georg interrupts Amalia while she waits for her "dear friend." By Jenny Graham, copyright OSF.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
My family just spent two days visiting Ashland, Oregon to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We go every year (more than once a year), and it is one of my favorite places in the world. Saturday afternoon for a near-packed matinéee performance, we saw Shakespeare's Hamlet. (Pictured is Hamlet, to the right, deciding whether to slay Claudius, to the left. By Jenny Graham, copyright OSF.)

It's difficult for me to separate my love for the production from my undying love for the script. To be fair, the best script can be ruined by poor performance, and even OSF has done it. (I refer specifically to last year's production of Macbeth. Macbeth is my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, perhaps my favorite piece of literature, but the 2009 production was my worst experience with OSF. I never wrote a review, but this Oregon Live piece describes some of my issues: it was a frantic production, rushed and loud, which felt made for TV rather than theatre—all the way down to questionable special effects. It did a disservice to the script by adding in lines and chopping out others, gender-flopping without considering the impact of gender roles, and playing fast and lose with casting; it destroyed the tone by playing much of violence and madness with humor, which stripped away the play's gravity and its horror and without those—well, what's the point of Macbeth? But this review isn't about that production—it's about this year's Hamlet, which was much better.)

Such a strong, recognizable script as Hamlet gives a production an immediate step up, and as long as the production doesn't do that script a complete disservice then it probably won't be bad. But Hamlet isn't "not bad." It's amazing. It isn't perfect, but this is a strong, smart play with wonderful acting and some of the best interpretation of Shakespeare's most famous lines that I've ever had the privilege to see.

The star—and rightly so—is Hamlet himself, played by Dan Donohue. Prior to seeing the play I heard another theatre-goer describe it as Shakespeare's darkest comedy. I wouldn't always agree, but for for this production I do. Donohue draws out all of Hamlet's humor: the comedy of his madness, his personal insults, and the double-entendres of his language. It's clever humor rooted deep in the script and blossomed through stage direction, and it endears Hamlet to his audience swiftly and deeply. The humor and tragedy don't always find a perfect balance (and as a result, the last two acts of the play—the graveyard humor (5.1) followed by the tragedy of the swordfight (5.2)—rub a bit roughly against each other), but often they do, and even when tragedy is underexplored Hamlet's personal struggles never fail to shine. Shine indeed is the optimal word: brilliant spotlights highlight Hamlet during his soliloquies, all of which are wonderfully dissected, paced, and delivered; here Hamlet shows that the intelligence which gifts him with such sharp humor also curses him with constant complicating thought and introspection. Acting and directing carve out a very specific delivery, and they make the play's most famous, oft-quoted lines seem new again. I've never seen a more engaging Hamlet. He perfectly walks the line between independent and accessible: his struggles are personal and private, but—as is the play's greatest strength—every viewer can understand them.

Read more: Polonius, setting and stage, disappointments and concerns. )

These are small complaints, no less valid for being specific but still not major disappointments. OSF's 2010 production of Hamlet is undeniably strong. It's smart, it's careful, it's sensitive, and while not all its risks turn out to be successes, more often than not they do—and none of them overshadow the production's brilliant portrait of Hamlet's character, of his thoughts and doubts, of his attempted actions. What a wonderful start to the season, and even better that it's playing all year long. Go see this play (and I hope I'll have the chance to do so once more before the year is out).

I'm aware that this review is probably longer than most people will bother to read, but I had a delightful time and it's been too long since I talked Shakespeare (or reviewed a play!), so I just can't help myself. This is OSF's 75th year and they have a lot of great plays running and coming—we also saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and while I may not take the time to review it I loved it too. If you have the chance to get there this year, I urge you to go. I'm looking forward to our two more visits of the year.

Along the lines of writing and epic posts, I've lately been playing with IOGraph, which maps mouse movement and delights the hell out of me. Following is a picture of my mouse movement while writing this post (dots indicate mouse stops, lines indicate movements). Total recording and writing time: 3.5 hours. Click through to view notes (of what the graph indicates) and to view larger.

IOGraph of...
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Ironically with autumn finally here, I've been more introverted out in the real world of pumpkin spice lattes and red leaves—and thus have less energy for online stuff. If I seem to have suddenly disappeared, this is why. Rest assured I shall return—but not for a few more days because:

Tomorrow, I'm off with my parents to Ashland to see three plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Macbeth. Henry VII, and Bill Cain's Equivocation, which ties into the both. If you know me, you know that I am abubble with excitement and cannot wait to get there. Macbeth is the one that I'm most anxious to see, of course, as it is my favorite among favorites, my darling, my precious. This is my third OSF Macbeth production, and they've never disappointed me before. Plus, have you seen the poster art? It's incredible. And yes, I can quote all of the lines that appear in the castle. Anyhow, I shall probably review the plays when I return, as is tradition. And I shall eat well, and the weather is lovely, and plays!

Meanwhile, I finally spent the birthday money that I got from my parents and grandparents. And well-spent it certainly was. [livejournal.com profile] sihaya09's Ambre Vert awaits me at my parent's house when I meet them before the Ashland trip—amber and peridot are my favorite stones, and so green amber thrills me to my core. This looks to be stunning, and I shall wear it often. I also bought a metric shitton of BPAL (as so judged by someone who rarely has money and spends it even less often), for once spending without reservation. My order is:

5mls of:

THREE GORGONS (SALON) Egyptian amber, mandarin, tangerine, black pepper, tobacco, and vetiver.
I've wanted to try a Salon blend for a while, so finally splurged on one (they're somewhat more expensive and un-easily-impable). I am somewhat wary of the tobacco, but the combination of notes looks lovely and Klimt is one of my favorite artists—if the scent at all resembles the art that it's designed to, I expect this shall be lovely.

HAUNTED (GC) Soft golden amber darkened with a touch of murky black musk.
A few days ago I reopened my imp of Haunted and fell in love again, hard. This was one of my first favorite BPAL scents because it perfectly resembles the amber resin that [livejournal.com profile] sisterite sent me so long ago and which inspired my obsession with smellies in the first place. Sadly, that imp cracked and was lost, so a long time I was Haunted-deprived. When someone ([livejournal.com profile] sisterite again, yeah?) sent me a fresh vial a few months back I was underwhelmed by it, but with a bit of aging and some better weather the scent is, once again, perfect: soft, powedery, golden amber resin that I want to bathe in. I can let this bottle sit and age to perfection while I rush through the imp, and then bathe I can indeed.

TRICK OR TREAT 2009 (HALLOWEENIE) The sticky sweet scent of candy corn! Even cornier for 2009! - cuz corny is how we roll at BPAL.
As considered before. I'm still wary of a just-sugar scent, but reviews convinced me that it may be so like candy corn that the sugar shall not be a drawback but rather the point.

PUMPKIN PATCH I (HALLOWEENIE) Pumpkin, almond, brown musk, and honey.
As considered before. Reviews seem to line up so well with my highest hopes for this blend. I've also been craving almond and wearing a lot of honey, so this was a shoe-in. I'm already anxious for it to arrive.

PUMPKIN PATCH V (HALLOWEENIE) Pumpkin, chocolate, coffee bean, vanilla bean, and hazelnut.
As considered before. The return of pumpkin spice lattes isn't the only reason I bought this one, but it definitely made the decision easy. The reviews look stellar, again perfectly matching my highest expectations. I only wish that the turnaround time were shorter, because I want to wear this one right now.

And an imp pack:

SCHEREZADE Saffron and Middle Eastern spices swirled through sensual red musk.
THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM Teakwood, oak, black vanilla, and tobacco. (Tobacco scares me, but I've been curious about this one forever, so I am being brave.)
BIEN LOIN D'ICI Red musk, benzoin, caramel accord, golden honey, and spiced Moroccan unguents.
LUST Uncontrollable passion and insatiable sexual desire: red musk, patchouli, ylang ylang and myrrh.
SHADOW WITCH ORCHID This perfume is a dusky orchid, subdued and ethereal.
VIXEN The innocence of orange blossom tainted by the beguiling scents of ginger and patchouli. (Supposed to be similar to the Heaven and Earth Essentials scent Black Cat, which I enjoy.)

All of this partially shared for record-keeping purposes—this is the easiest way for me to remember what I bought when. Anyhow, see you all on the flip side!
juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
The second play that we saw in this short trip to Ashland was one that I knew nothing about but the author before seeing it: The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler. The playwright, Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), is a cousin of a family friend. In all else the play was foreign to me. OSF is only the second theatre to show this play, and it is largely undiscovered. We saw a matinée on a Friday with a much quieter crowd—and I loved it. The premise is meta-tastic and somewhat absurd: after committing suicide at the end of her play, heroine Hedda Gabler awakes to find herself trapped in the fictional character's afterlife, condemned to repeat the life of her play until her story dies, and she sets out find herself a new ending.

(Picture at right is by Kim Budd and copyright the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It features Medea "doing it again", Hedda in the middle, and at right slave Mammy.)

The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler by Jeff Whitty. )
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
On our recent trip to Ashland, my mother, father, and I saw two plays. First, and an evening performance, was Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a Thursday night, and there were many visiting high schools (and some younger) come to see the performance. Of course Shakespeare is my true love, and so I was most excited to see this play. However, this was Midsummer with a twist: set not in Elizabethan England or Athens, the play takes place instead in the American 1950s-1970s.

(Picture at right is by Jenny Graham and copyright the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It features Fairy Queen Titania and Fairy King Oberon.)

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. )


juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)

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