Friday, Jun 23, 2017

Cowslip’s Belle Bed & Breakfast

One of Ashland’s original B&Bs, run by the same innkeepers since 1985 Cowslip’s Belle is truly luxurious accommodations – but won’t break your budget.

Located just three blocks from OSF theaters, this 1913 Craftsman bungalow provides travelers with vintage furnishings and modern comforts. Their breakfasts were, hands down, the best I’ve enjoyed in all my years of visiting. Scrumptious and served with a lot of interesting conversation and no sense of rushing. Jon & Carmen Reinhardt have been innkeepers for a long time, and they clearly enjoy their work.

The rooms are comfortably furnished with luxurious beds, private baths, air conditioning, ceiling fans, wifi, and private entrances.

This is one of the best places I’ve stayed in all my years of visiting Ashland.

Highly recommended.


Country Willows Bed & Breakfast Inn

Most of the time I’ve stayed in Ashland, I’ve stuck to places within walking distance to the theaters. But there are a number of lovely options outside of the downtown core, one of which is Country Willows Inn.

Set on five acres of farmland with gorgeous views and beautifully landscaped gardens, the Inn is a delight for visitors to enjoy. Most of the rooms are in the elegantly restored 1896 farmhouse, with a sumptious private cottage and barn. There is a family of goats and geese adding to the atmosphere.

The Inn has incredibly good breakfasts, and wonderful hiking (or biking, borrowing one of the loaners from the Inn) trails to help burn it off. The rooms are very comfortable, with one of the best beds I’ve ever slept on.

Highly recommended.

Shrew’s House Bed and Breakfast

One of the loveliest aspects of Ashland are the beautifully maintained Craftsman-style houses; it’s even better when you can stay in one. Shrew’s House B&B is a lovingly restored 1914 cottage, located just five blocks from OSF theaters.

The house is gorgeous, with wonderful common areas inside and out. As a special bonus, the pool is wonderful (and highly recommended during the summer months). There is a lot of privacy, each room has an outdoor sitting area and many have fireplaces and whirlpool baths. All of the rooms have wifi, private entrances, air conditioning, cable TV, and kitchenettes with microwave ovens and small fridges. A full breakfast is included.

This is a wonderful place, one of the best B&Bs in town.

Highly recommended.

Anne Hathaway’s B&B and Garden Suites

Every once in a while I like to visit Ashland with a very special girl, my dog Sasha. Since she’s a muscular 60-lbs, not some purse pooch, there aren’t a lot of options for us when we travel. Fortunately, Anne Hathaway’s B&B has pooch-friendly and comfortable rooms for the discriminating traveler.

Just a bit over four blocks from the theater, all of the rooms are air conditioned with private baths, wifi , and a subtle ‘green’ sensibility that adds to the excellence of this accommodation. Of special note are the hearty, healthy, tasty, breakfasts and the ample tea served at 4pm. Most of the food served is sourced from organic and local providers.

The B&B has fresh flowers in every one of its seven rooms. The nine Garden Suites have kitchenettes, private entrances, and decks overlooking the garden. Travelers staying in the  suites have a continental breakfast and most of the suites have Jacuzzi tubs. (They can also pay a bit more and join the regular breakfast.) The B&B and Suites are two separate properties caddy-corner from one another. It began life as a boarding house, and has been run by the friendly and informative Deedie and David Runkel since 2002. (Check out their lively reviews of each season’s plays on their website!)

The innkeepers are making changes with an eye toward making the inn as green as possible. For example, they’ve installed hot water on demand heaters and new windows in the Garden Suites. The (100% cotton and scent free) sheets are dried outside.

The rooms are spacious and quiet. The beds are comfortable and the location is great.

Highly recommended.


Abbott’s Cottages

If you’re looking for an alternative to a hotel, a cozy B&B, or a room at an inn, you will definitely enjoy staying at Abbott’s Cottages. This collection of mostly 2 and 3 bedroom accommodations (there is a single studio option) offer visitors a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Ashland on their own schedule. Over the years I have stayed in each of the three  (the studio, 2 bedroom, and three bedroom). Each unit offers a nicely appointed space, comfortable bed, kitchen (full size in the three bedroom, smaller in the other units).

Located on the north end of town, just off the main thoroughfare and surrounding a lovely courtyard, each unit also has a vine-covered outdoor seating area where you can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. It is surprisingly quiet (and you may be visited by the local cat, a friendly boy who will graciously accept your skritchins and then catch lizards for fun). The three bedrooms even have upstairs balconies to enjoy.

The Cottages are very clean and comfortable with air conditioning, wifi, cable, and barbeques. Julia and Mark Roupp have been the owners for many years now, and although they aren’t on site, they are just a phone call away.

No pets, no smoking, they don’t take credit cards, and a deposit is due with your reservation.


Highly recommended.

Larks Restaurant

My partner and I have eaten at Lark’s many times over the years, most recently we had lunch with a new friend, Jeff King (currently playing  XX in The Imaginary Invalid).

First off, I appreciate the fact that they offer non-Coke/Pepsi sodas, so you can actually have sugar instead of man-made chemicals in your drink. Then, they do an excellent job of providing a menu made from locally sourced and organic providers.

I had the house salad. This is a large plate of field greens (which vary by season) with goat cheese, candied hazelnuts, aged rosemary goat cheese and a marionberry balsamic vinaigrette. Served with a side of bread, this is a delicious salad that fills you up.

The boys had grilled cheese and soup. Half of a grilled Tillamook cheddar sandwich with tomato served alongside a cup of (that day) tomato-basil soup. The sandwich was golden on the outside and gooey on the inside and perfectly matched the sweet-sour tanginess of the tomato soup.

Service was a little odd; I think our server was in training. She did great, but the fact that her ‘work; was checked up on by another overly-inquisitive server was unsettling. Then again, it may be the fact that we were sitting with a celebrity. Three sodas and our meals came to less than $40 (not including our tip).

We often have a meal at Larks when we visit, and we think they are best at lunch and brunch. (Brunch is particularly fun as the menu changes based on what is available from local farmers, creameries, meat producers, and seafood providers.)

Greenleaf Restaurant

Greenleaf is a lot of fun, especially during the warmer months when you can sit outside along the river. We were there on a chilly fall morning, so we sat inside.

We had a fairly typical breakfast: French toast for me, a ‘full house’ for him (two eggs, meat, and a choice of toast, muffin, scone, or bagel). The orange juice was fresh squeezed, the apple juice top quality. I had the bacon as a side, and it was lovely to have that natural (no nitrates) taste alongside the sweetness of the syrup. All of the food was well-prepared and tasty.

Service was good – she came by enough so that our water glasses remained full and coffee (a friend sat with us) remained hot and plentiful. Our breakfast, including juice and sides, came to $31 (not including tip).

Serving breakfast until noon, Greenleaf is an excellent choice for a good meal and a good price.

Julius Caesar (2011)

I thought I knew this play, having played Portia in a school production as a child; and of course it’s deeply steeped in our culture in one way or another. But OSF revamped it, stuck to a nearly literal line reading, and transformed it into one of the top ten plays I’ve seen in more than 16 years at OSF.

The play begins outside the New theater – the first brilliant decision made was to hold this play in their most versatile and interactive space. They went for a completely stripped down set – a series of boxes create the occasionally needed stage, table, chair or bed. Many of the actors play multiple parts, and rest in the wings, rarely leaving the audience’s visual awareness. As you approach the New Theater, the walkway is lined with tall white banners which, in stark language, describe leaders from many ages and backgrounds . . . all of whom have been assassinated. The banners continue inside and upstairs, bringing you into history. I didn’t realize it the first time I saw the production (I saw it twice, and would see it again in a minute), but Cassisus (Gregory Linnington) was wandering the lobby, occasionally chatting with people in a delightfully friendly manner. As the time to begin draws near, all of the actors stand in front of one of the four seating areas,casually chatting with the people in the front row. Vilma Silvia strides out, dashing in boots and a military-style leather jacket.

“Good evening, everyone” she called out, “I’m Vilma Silvia and tonight I will be playing Julius Caesar.”  (Surprise and consternation and then a strong sense of anticipation works its way through the audience.) “I’m going to need your help tonight throughout the play. Whenever I make this motion –” and here she threw her arms up into a V over her head — “I’m going to need to you to yell and clap and shout.” Can you do that? Let’s try it.”


“That wasn’t really loud enough, can we do it again?”

*louder noise*

“Hmmm…  One more time.”

This time, we thundered, trying to be as loud as possible and just as the noise peaked the actor’s ran onstage, shouting the opening lines, and we were transported to Rome, watching the triumphant entrance of Julius Caesar, another member of the vox populi. It was extraordinary, as was the production. Vilma Silvia was magnificent — hard as nails, casually owning her power as a leader, and content with her popularity. Jonathan Haugen’s Brutus is fair-minded, but falls a bit too easily into his brother Cassius’ plotting, all the while giving one of the best performances I’ve seen from him over the years. We see clearly how envy can bring a good man down. Linnington’s Cassius is certainly “lean and hungry” and he wears his ambition like a shield, elegantly and passionately decrying the rise of a monarch who will displace the republic.

Seeing a woman stabbed to death — brutally — brought an extra dimension to the horror of her assassination, another interesting plot twist created by a strong woman as Caesar. With a simple shift in gender Cassius’ diatribe against Caesar as he makes the case for overthrow comes across as a sexist rant. I found Caesar’s cold reasoning a clever counterpoint to the impetuous and often unrealistic political scenarios of the other characters. When Mark Anthony (performed superbly by Danforth Comins) grieves, it is all the more poignant.

The 2011 Julius Caesar is one of the best OSF has produced in the past two decades.

Measure for Measure (2011)

I had the privilege of seeing Measure for Measure at OSF in 1998 at the Black Swan. Many elements of that production blew me away. I remember being surprised when audience members stood up and joined the play (being actors, not watchers) and the essential moment when the ironically named Angelo lays out his awful choice to the Isabella, sleep with me or your beloved brother will die, literally shocked me.

So it was with anticipatory pleasure that I waited all year for the new production; I was intrigued by the idea of a 70s setting, and Bill Rauch always does good work. This is a difficult play for modern audiences – the choice between the chastity required by one’s religion and the life of a brother doesn’t seem like a difficult one; but I trusted OSF to make me feel it, once again.

Sadly, this production did not wow me.

It opens beautifully, with three women cleaning a board room, singing softly. When they pull out guitars from the refuse cart and transform into mariachis, I smiled with happiness and settled in for another fascinating take on Shakespeare’s timeless scenarios. A few things felt a bit gimmicky – elegant Cristofer Jean’s transvestite Mistress Overdone was just on the edge, but several audience members were completely fooled by his transformation. And I particularly did not like the scene when the friar (Anthony Heald) and Isabella smoke cigarettes together and plan for the “greater good”; I felt it diminished her purity, which perhaps was the point. While I’m talking about the things I didn’t like, Stephanie Beatriz’s performance was stiff and awkward. I felt like I was watching a new actress, a tween even, and she never found her rhythm.

However, Kenajuan Bentley’s Lucio was prime excellence, a jive-talking stud who *owned* his part. Ramiz Monsef’s Pompey was smoothly snarky, hitting the comedic notes like a jazz musician. Rene Milan’s Angelo is tightly-wrapped passion and oily evil. I loved the 70’s counterculture, urban vibe, and the set design by Clint Ramos was excellent.

All in all, I’m glad I saw this play, but it doesn’t come close to the power of the earlier version that lives within my memory.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry for Ashland Link

The Imaginary Invalid (2011)

The Imaginary Invalid has a hell of a pedigree to live up to. The play, originally by Moliere, has been adapted for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this year by Oded Gross and Tracy Young, the same pair that adpated Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters in 2009. Likewise the play is directed by Tracy Young, as in ’09. And as the director points out in the program notes, she has drawn heavily on her own expertise (once again) in commedia dell’arte to guide this production. With so many similarities, and with Servant being such a fond memory for this reviewer, the question becomes inescapable: is Invalid just as good?

To answer, I must crib from another ’09 production and “equivocate” just a bit (ha ha ho ho, I am a wit…): yes and no. Moliere’s original work has far more of a point to it than Goldoni’s does, and likewise this adaptation finds itself more grounded, perhaps more nuanced… which is a fine quality in and of itself but not exactly in sync with the farcical tone that permeates the show for most of its duration.

Ruined (2010)

Photo by Jenny Graham

Before I saw Ruined last week at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I was dreading it. I felt like a kid staring at a pile of vegetables – it’s supposed to be good for me, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Immediately after seeing it, mostly I was shell shocked. With a little bit of time to reflect, I have to modify my preconception before broadcasting it: Ruined is good for you, and you absolutely must see it. If you have older children, double that – it’s imperative that they see it. This isn’t because it’s so good that it outweighs the nasty feeling of swallowing it. No, Ruined goes down well, powerfully delivering its message while still leaving you with hope for the goodness of mankind.