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Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2013 Season in Review – The Thomas Theater


Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2013 Season in Review – The Thomas Theater

By Jonathan Lake

The Thomas Theater

King Lear

Bill Rauch directed King Lear, the play that all fans of Shakespeare feel is neck and neck with Hamlet for best Shakespearean play. By that, meaning, the most tragic, lethal and the most like Opera. The plot is an old king divides his kingdom among his three daughters, but the youngest and favorite daughter refuses to be false and kiss up to daddy, and result is banishment and then the downward spiral of all. The play is gruesome with power struggles, lust, killing, eyeballs plucked out, cursing the womb, terrible weather, betrayal just for a few samples of the fun.

This play was well done in modern dress, tons of cast, seamless scene changes and a brilliant second act. Cleverly two intermissions were inserted, giving the audience time for their brains to digest what they had seen. The role of Lear is very demanding and older age is essential so two actors, Michael Winters  and Jack Willis, alternated the role which worked very well, both were tremendous. Remember OSF is a repertory company, all actors end up play in several different shows each week. Oh, yes …and they all understudy each other as well!  It should be noted this entire cast gave amazing performances, but local favorite Robin Goodrin Nordli as the psychopathic Regan was very chilling and exciting.

The Unfortunates

This is certainly an OSF success story. Actor Ramiz Monsef performed this piece with his four co-creators in the famous “Midnight Projects ” the OSF in-house program. So well loved it was programmed into the 2013 season, which is a first time for the company.

A death row dungeon of prisoners. A brothel of jazz, blues and hip hop. A man with giant hands in love with a woman with no arms. The plague. Sounds morbid but it could not be more upbeat, and more exuberant. The music is as necessary to these characters lives as any part of their survival. When a show uses music successfully it should feel natural and engage the audience, it is alive! This is exactly what The Unfortunates did and audiences loved it. Dark and poignantly whimsical. This show goes on to ACT San Francisco in 2015. Well done!

The Liquid Plane

The Liquid Plane refers to shifting water of the sea, calm one moment, and pitching with rage another moment…and it should rage with all the horrible things to slaves as human cargo crossing the Atlantic. The international slave trade and its impacts on all the souls involved is the topic of this play.

A world premiere play, by playwright Naomi Wallace with director Kwame Kwei-Arman. With a keen ear for language, tremendous theatricality a less-is-more esthetic, and a brilliant cast in the intimate Thomas Theatre, this is a story that is close to the audience and cannot be ignored. Though it was too much for some people and during it’s run a few audience members walked out. Hard to believe, this story was too riveting, but this is based on true events so it can be too real for some. Amazing performances by Kimberly Scott and Armando Duran. This play was not flawless however, it suffered from new play problems such as scenes in incorrect order. Suffering from some scenes in incorrect order, is would be well worth seeing how this show evolves through the years. I have no donut it will improve!