Ashland, Oregon, April 1—TWO NEW PLAYS, seen last night and tonight, bring our spring visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to its close. Not a moment too soon: after three really first-rate productions, any of which I'd love to see again, these were disappointments.
(I suddenly realize I haven't written here about Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan's stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Sorry about that: we saw it yesterday afternoon, and I'll simply say we all thought it absolutely wonderful — fine directing, acting, costumes, dancing, set; intelligent adaptation; immortal book. See it.)
Last night we saw Lynn Nottage's play Ruined, again very effectively acted and directed. The play, though, let me down: a long first act plugs along, always promising tension and excitement but never quite delivering; the second act almost breaks through, but settles back into a sentimental close. Nottage's play is a take on Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, but lacks the sinew of his irony. I'll say no more; Bill Varble's review online says at much greater length virtually everything you need to know.
Then tonight we saw Well, a messy mashup of solo performance, group improvisation, and scripted "metatheater" by Lisa Kron. The acting, again, was outstanding; but here I think the direction let the playwright down — by failing to rescue her from her own ultimate collapse.
There are historical reasons that a play like this gets a Pulitzer Prize, but I'm not going into that here. It's too depressing. Instead, I'll send you to another review of Mr. Varble's: he's an intelligent critic, worth reading.
But, you know, three out of five ain't bad, and those first three plays — Cat, Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice — are really, really good.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bowmer Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Ashland, Oregon, in repertory to July 4. Hamlet, Bowmer Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Ashland, Oregon, in repertory to October 30. Pride and Prejudice, Bowmer Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Ashland, Oregon, in repertory to October 31. Ruined, New Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Ashland, Oregon, in repertory to October 31. Hamlet, New Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Ashland, Oregon, in repertory to June 18.