Friday, Jun 23, 2017

Category: OSF 2013

My Fair Lady (2013)

Ensemble. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Ensemble. Photo by Jenny Graham.

As many of you know, I’m not a fan of musicals. I don’t loathe them, but the ones I like are few and far between (Mamma Mia and Rock of Ages, both movies). I went into My Fair Lady with an open mind, knowing only the bare outlines of the plot, and hoped for the best.

The singing was wonderful — Rachel Warren plays Eliza Doolittle with strength and joy. Her singing is glorious, her timing impeccable, and her phrasing simply a joy to listen to. The rest of the cast is uplifted by her, many of them doing far better than I’ve heard them do in past performances. Jonathan Haugen is not known for his singing talents (although you know he’s been a long-time favorite of mine), nor is Anthony Heald (ditto), but each was wonderful, surprising and delighting me with their performances. I want to particularly call out Ken Robinson for his daftly perfect performance of Freddy Eynsford-Hill and David Kelly’s perfectly proper and quite self-centered Colonel Pickering was a perfect counterpoint to Henry Higgins’ rudeness. The cast was, simply put, just great — well done, all of you.

The Taming of the Shrew (2013)

Left waiting at the alter, Kate (Nell Geisslinger) is not a happy woman. Photo by Jenny Graham

Left waiting at the alter, Kate (Nell Geisslinger) is not a happy woman. Photo by Jenny Graham

The Taming of the Shrew is a difficult play for modern audiences. There are scenes where it is clear that Petruchio is literally torturing Kate to make her submit (sleep deprivation and starvation). He clearly says that this is necessary, he does it for love of her, and he will continue until she submit and agree to whatever he says, completely.
“Ay, and amid this hurly I intend
That all is done in reverend care of her;
…This is a way to kill a wife with kindness;
And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humour.”
Act IV, Scene 1

Kate is reviled and belittled, even by her father. She suffers not fools, and being intelligent and knowing how poor her lot in the world (being a woman), she has become — as they say — shrewish. Modern audiences are deeply in sympathy with her position. So it is a tricky play to try to ‘pull off’.

Cymbeline (2013)

Imogen (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) goes to sleep with thoughts of her banished husband, Posthumus.  Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Imogen (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) goes to sleep with thoughts of her banished husband, Posthumus.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Variously called a problem play, a romance, a tragedy and a comedy, Cymbeline is a rarely performed play from the end of Shakespeare’s career. And there are good reasons for that. The plot contains many of his favorite tropes and themes: a man’s noble character is clear, even when he is raised basely; a change of clothes makes a woman into a man and transforms one man into another; lost children are returned to their family; evil ambition is thwarted. As well, the supernatural — particularly a seeress and dead relatives — plays a role in tying all of the plot elements together. These are familiar themes for Shakespeare — what is unusual is how he changes your expectations.

The Heart of Robin Hood (2013)

Marion (Kate Hurster), disguised as Martin, finds life in the woods exhilarating. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

This play, which opened Saturday night at the Elizabethan, is a huge crowd-pleaser. Somewhat like a summer ‘tent-pole’ movie, it’s got a little bit of many things, calculated to delight the largest number of people. A revision of the old Robin Hood tale, which debuted at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon a few years ago, is stuffed full of Shakespearean memes which probably accounts for a great deal of the audience’s enjoyment.

Joel Sass directs this tale, centered on Marion (the talented Kate Hurster) a woman with no interest in following her guardian (Michael J. Hume)’s plan to marry her to the powerful, and power-mad, Prince John (Michael Elich, doing a fantastic job). Fleeing to the forest, she hopes to join Robin Hood (the ever-excellent John Tufts) and his band, only to discover that he is no shining example of nobility — he steals from the rich, yes but keeps it all for himself and his men. Moreover, he will allow no women in his band — they make men ‘messy’. Thwarted, she returns home, only to sneak out again, this time disguised as a youth — Martin of Sherwood — and with a plan to set herself up as the noble bandit. She steals from the rich, and gives it all away to the poor. She does it so well, that they come to her for help when Prince John threatens to hang a man and his family for not paying his taxes. Teaming up with Robin they fail to rescue the father, but save the children, creating a long involved sub-plot and a reason for the two bands to unite.