Friday, Jun 23, 2017

Category: OSF 2012


Along with Tracy Young, Artistic Director Bill Rauch, M/M/C (as it is called by nearly everyone) combines three mythologically grounded works: Euripides’ “Medea,” Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version of “Cinderella.” One the face of it, a deeply weird combination, but Rauch and Young felt that all three tales share common themes of magic, love, murder, obsession, and the struggle between generations.

Troilus and Cressida

War is brutal and strange and Troilus & Cressida, one of Shakepeare’s later plays, is a triumph of layered drama. As with many of his so-called ‘problem plays’ there is a large amount of humor in the first acts, which makes for a dramatic contrast to the later ones in which there is nearly no humor at all.

Henry V

What would you do if you were an unruly prince who suddenly discovers that he wants to be king? We’ve enjoyed watching Shakespeare’s version of this tale in the two Henry IV plays, and it culminates in the ever-popular Henry V. A life of dissipation would not seem to prepare one to be king, but when John Tufts’ Henry turns his back on his barfly friends, it is a seminal moment of growing up.

Now, he is king. But France does not take him seriously. The Dauphin certainly does not, sending him a box of tennis balls to play with, abjuring him from ever coming to France. And so the tale is set and spun. We watch in joy as the young man grows in power, developing a canny political side, inspiring his troops in the face of seeming failure, and (in the end) softening to become an ardent wooer.

The White Snake (2012)

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing two of Mary Zimmerman’s productions in the past; both of which blew me away. (If you get a chance to see Metamorphosis or The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, go. Immediately. You’ll be glad you did.) So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I purchased tickets to her newest production, The White Snake.

Billed as a beloved Oriental legend, this is the tale of a 1,700-year-old snake demon who spends a day as a woman and falls in love with a simple pharmacist’s assistant. With the help of her maid, another snake demon, she marries her love and helps him become a great success. But true love must undergo trials, and snake demons more than others.

Let me tell you now that this production joins my top ten plays from the sixteen years I’ve been attending OSF. I urge you to move it to the top of your ‘to see’ list immediately. It’s only playing through early July, and tickets will sell out soon. (I’m strongly considering traveling back in early June just to see it again.)

Director/author Mary Zimmerman excels at taking ancient stories and re-visioning them into modern terms. At the Preface I learned that Ms. Zimmerman casts the production without having a script in hand. The script was developed on the first days of rehearsal, and tailored to the skills and abilities of the actors. A tremendous burden for both the author and actors, but one fraught with tremendous potential. And the actors live up to the potential, beautifully. OSF regulars Emily Sophia Knapp and Christof Jean are particularly wonderful in their varied roles (and Jean’s heartfelt closing words will rip the tears from your eyes, matching the ones in his). Newcomers Amy Kim Waschke and Tanya McBride are truly excellent as the White Snake and Green Snake, respectively. The production is elegantly simple and I must offer loud kudos to Scenic Designer Daniel Ostling for doing such a good job of realizing Ms. Zimmerman’s vision.

Can you fall in love at first sight? Have all true lovers met in previous lifetimes? Can love survive doubt and the machinations of outside forces? With some fairly clear references to current politics, Zimmerman offers up a perspective in which love transcends physical limitations, like being human and being a snake.

Bring a hankie, or two, and go watch one of the best plays OSF has ever produced.