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 clichéd, 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)
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: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I am where memes go to die. [livejournal.com profile] cerulean_chains tagged me for this over on Tumblr about a week ago, and I wrote my answers then but never posted them. I'm supposed to provide more questions and tag people to answer them, but I have the energy for neither—so I'll just leave these here because who doesn't like to share their opinion.

1. A past time period with the best fashion sense?
I find a number of historical fashions fascinating and appealing, but don't have true favorites among them. Victorian is a good go-to I guess, pretty and fancy stuff all around. The only real favoritism I can rouse is for breeches (why did they ever go out of style), and I idealize eras in which men's fashion was almost as froofy and ornate as women's.

2. Science fiction or fantasy?
Since discovering the distinction between high fantasy (which I hate) and the rest of fantasy: fantasy. It's a genre I left unexplored before making that distinction (I really hate high fantasy), it's full of delicious subgenres, and it tends to be the one most likely to interact with my favorite tropes and literary predecessors.

3. Contemporary straight plays or classics?
For reading: classics. For viewing: either, with a slight preference towards classics. Shakespeare is my big bias; putting him aside, I only have passing familiarity with the art form, and am only willing to put so much of my time/effort/money into it, so the tried and true of classics tend to be the better bet—but my bias towards them is far from absolute, and it's fair to say that the plays my family sees at OSF are a 50/50 split between the two.

4. Favorite score?
I can't answer this as anything but Cats (Original Broadway Cast Recording). It goes beyond favorite to something more: it defines who I am; it is essential to my being.

5. Cassettes or CDs?
They still make cassettes?

6. Favorite musical instrument?
Piano. I played it all through childhood and adolescence, and have been missing it something awful these last few months. My big birthday gift this year may be a weighted keyboard, which is a compromise between quality/playability and size (I have an inherited piano whenever I have space for it, but it's not feasible here), and as a bonus I'll be able to play with headphones for those crazy hours of the night and while I recover from shitty, rusty piano player back to halfway competent piano player.

7. Did you jump in water puddles as a child?
Not to my knowledge. Caveat: my memory is pretty awful. But I've loathed standing water for most of my life, so instinct says no. Furthermore, it rains here about nine months of the year; water puddles are not particularly novel things, and there're better ways to get wet.

8. Favorite type of shoe?
Oversized bulky square-toed black Oxford. Thus this. I ended up buying these and they're 90% perfect. I wear the hell out of them.

9. Favorite guilty pleasure?
Dance Central, I guess. I have little guilt about any of my pleasures, however embarrassing—I believe in embracing one's dorkiness and lack of dignity. (A good thing, too.) But Dance Central is pretty well unforgivable. I know I look like a fool. I know the vast majority of the music is awful. This is currently my favorite routine. But it burns calories—yeah, sure, pretend that's it: I just love it.

10. Favorite spoken language?
Elizabethan/Jacobean English; Shakespearean English. I admire a lot of foreign languages, and modern English is my darling, but my love and aptitude for Shakespeare's strange tongue is unrivaled. I'm actually pretty shite at learning language, but this comes to me as naturally as mine own, and I've learned not to take that for granted. Also fascinating where "spoken language" is concerned: Shakespeare in the original pronunciation .

11. Do you feel ‘in-touch’ with pop culture? Why or why not?
No. It's not something I keep up with, and that doesn't bother me—it's energy I don't want to expend, and given my personal taste nor would it be worth it. There's songs and celebrities I've never heard of or only know because of internet memes, and I like it that way. I'm cool being clueless about things which are essentially a waste of time, and will willingly waste my time on non-popular culture which does interest me.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
In those late-night conversations I have with Express, I find myself ending every third rambling soliloquy with "and then I realize that everything I say is incredibly depressing." This bout of back pain has been weighing on my thoughts, but it's more general than that. It's a ubiquitous slew of small details.

Amy ([livejournal.com profile] cerulean_chains) finally convinced me to watch (the Vienna 2005 production of) Elizabeth the musical on the basis of these characters and relationships are totally up my alley. And they are, but it's something I've had to watch in pieces—in part because I'm in flighty "play video games for three solid hours, concentrate on anything else for thirty scarce minutes" mode, in part because...

Discussion of suicidal ideation. )

Express looks at the rest of his life half in anticipation and half in fear: he has this great checklist of Life Goals but rails against the idea of longterm commitment. I think it'll work out for the best. He'll angst about choices forever, but his decisions will be good ones. He'll do pretty awesome things.

When I dropped out of college I stopped having goals. For a while, that was because I was unwell and recovering from being unwell. These days I rarely have to notice that I'm still sick—I'm safe, secure, and surrounded by love, I have no responsibilities and few stresses, etc. Life is good. But goals are my trade off. I'm well on a day to day basis because I only function on a day to day basis; looking beyond that could bring all the worst things crashing back, but more than that it just seems impossible. I feel like I couldn't, even if I tried.

I'm premenstrual, in one of those rare cycles where being emotional feels rewarding. Cathartic, maybe; indulgent. Almost relaxing. Today none of this is a bad thing, but it's still a realization of ... something. I have this pain and it isn't going away: this back pain, this depression. Even when I feel like I've forgotten about it, it defines who I am. I know that that's a bad thing, but it doesn't always feel like it. Sometimes it feels like just being me. Sometimes what it means to be me hits me out of the blue, and I notice again that every third thing I say is pretty darn depressing.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Spring's Awakening: Tragedy of Childhood
Author: Frank Wedekind
Translator and Editor: Eric Bentley
Published: New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2002 (1891)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 84
Total Page Count: 100,579
Text Number: 288
Read Because: interest in the original play having seen the musical adaptation, from my parents's library
Review: A controversial play published in 1891, not performed until 1906, and adpated into a musical in 2006, Spring's Awakening is the story of children facing the beginning of adolescence within the repressed culture of 1892 Germany. This edition, translated and edited by Bentley, contains a number of mini-essays by the editor on everything from the play's timeline to some of its key themes. This commentary is interesting if artless (and, combined with the sprinkling of typos, begs for an editor), providing an adequate introduction to the play and plentiful food for thought. To those that have seen the Broadway adaptation, the original play will be familiar—and that does no harm to either version. The musical updates (without losing) the play's historical setting and rounds out the rest of the cast (in particular its women), making it more approachable, broadening and highlighting its essential truths: it's a catchy, intense, relevant performance and, with a few exceptions, a successful adaptation. The original play, meanwhile, is deeply invested in its historical setting and the youth of its characters, and offers stronger protagonists foiled by a shallower, utilitarian supporting cast; despite being blatantly controversial it relies on understatement and implication, a combination to gives the reader pause and the story depth.

And where the ending of the musical falters, dissolving into a saccharine musical number that simply shoves aside the play's themes, the original final scene is brilliant: Melchior's conversation with Mortiz and the Man in the Mask is a somewhat more concrete, much more ambiguous, complex conclusion which develops the play's themes—its relationships, social and biological, between life, sexual awakening, and death—while refusing to tie them up in a neat, completed package. This difference may be the reason to prefer, or at least explore, the source material, but familiarity with the musical is hardly the only reason to pick up the play: Spring's Awakening is a swift read (although I'd love the chance to see it performed on stage), but it lingers on the mind. It has its weaknesses, as do Bentley's essays, but the birth of life bringing all its dangers of death, the moribundity of society and the indescribable beauty that arises despite it, approached with irony, humor, and palpable love make Spring's Awakening a success—and it doesn't even need to be a show-stopping musical. I recommend it.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
So I saw Wicked over the weekend.

I went in with reservations fostered by my experience with the book, which was promising but underwhelming and made me think that maybe there was just something here I wasn't getting. I worried that maybe this wasn't my story.

I needn't've. It is.

It's a fantastic adaptation, too—good adaptations are rare enough; superior ones are half a miracle. What makes it a success, I think, is that where the book is a constant combination of subtlety and stylization, one that makes for strong character and intense detail but also makes the story fragmented and, eventually, stylistically repetitive, the musical begins with overblown, comical generalization and then develops intense subtlety and ambiguity, a combination that finds the same depth but does so in a more cohesive, concise, more effective fashion. I also agree with you, [livejournal.com profile] tabular_rasa: the links between retelling and source material were a little bit more clever in this version.

So it was a delight to watch. It was also—though I'm hesitant to say—a little life-changing. I think it's telling that I know so many people that identify with this story; telling too that I'm hesitant to do so: alienation and reclamation are powerful things, and I don't want to co-opt them, to lessen them by equating them with my underwhelming life. My sister and mother and I were all in tears, and between us we cover a wide spectrum between normal and weird, good and wicked. But then I can't speak for all of them, and I don't know if it was emotion roused by a story well-told or by...

Oh, I don't know. I'm still recovering from being too social and I shouldn't try to tackle words. Even if I were doing awesometastic, I don't know how I would express this. I am not Elphaba, not in the good or the bad: she had it worse, she does more, I can't hold a candle to that.

But I collect women, girls—fictional females with whom I identify, or something close enough to that. The Evil Queen from The 10th Kingdom. Maria, from Umineko no Naku Koro ni. GLaDOS, from Portal (and Dev is playing Portal 2 right now, and it's a little life-changing too, for different reasons). ETA: Rip van Winkle, from Hellsing. And yes these character are cruel and fantastic and delightfully evil (even in name!) and what that says about me I don't know. Elphaba is one of them, now: women who I am, sorta; who I want to be, maybe; who I admire for doing what they do, because of, despite, who they are, who we are.

It's hard to talk about that sort of thing without equating yourself to some evil queen (and I'm many things, but not that) or trying to put yourself on the level of an immensely talented, criminally neglected little girl (and I have no pretensions of being either of these things). But fiction uses lies to tell the truth. I'm not green but I'm different; I'm not an incredible witch but I have my talents; I understand tragic ends and I'm still trying to wrap my head around a happy ending. I understand Animals losing the ability to speak. I understand "Of course does, she just pretends not to."

And I know that I'm not the only one. It's not alien to feel alienated. That's telling, too.
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.

LISA: No?

(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: 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. )

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