The band of mechanicals (Jeffrey King, Josiah Phillips, Ray Porter and U. Jonathan Toppo) are assigned their roles for the play. Photo by David Cooper.

The band of mechanicals (Jeffrey King, Josiah Phillips, Ray Porter and U. Jonathan Toppo) are assigned their roles for the play. Photo by David Cooper.

“I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.” ~William Shakespeare

This past winter, the Travel Oregon staff had the opportunity to see four plays during opening weekend of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I have been to the festival two times before, and I have to say it gets better each year! This year, we saw “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Fences”, “The Clay Cart” and “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter”.

The snow was just starting to melt when we entered into Ashland, and the town had a very crisp, wintery feel about it. We even lucked out and had clear weather the entire trip, which made walking through downtown and Lithia Park even more enjoyable. And the food! I can’t even describe how delicious Ashland’s restaurants are- if you don’t go anywhere else, you at least have to try Pasta Piatti (it’s in an adorable red building- you can’t miss it). Try their squash ravioli- it has biscotti pieces and a brown-butter sage sauce on top. It literally melts in your mouth.

Titania (Christine Albright, left) wakes to find herself quite enamored of Bottom (Ray Porter). Photo by David Cooper.

Titania (Christine Albright, left) wakes to find herself quite enamored of Bottom (Ray Porter). Photo by David Cooper.

Before you plan your own trip to Ashland, be sure to read our staff reviews below. They’ll make you want to plan a trip immediately! And stay tuned for our fourth review on “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter” coming soon!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Reviewed by Ashley Moran
Director: Mark Rucker
Angus Bowmer Theater
February 15-November 2, 2008

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen, hands down. Set in modern times (1960’s-70’s), this play combined the perfect amount of humor, romance, and suspense. Hermia (played by Emily Sophia Knapp) and Lysander (played by Tasso Feldman) are two lovers who flee to the forest to get married. Little do they know, Oberon (played by Kevin Kenerly), king of the fairies, his queen Titania (played by Christine Albright) and messenger Puck (played by John Tufts) will be joining them. You will see what happens when Puck places the juice of a magic flower on Lysander’s eyelids while he sleeps. Be prepared for surprises, exquisite sets, and of course humor.

This play is not to be missed. It is full of disco dancing, singing, and even the appearance of a brightly-colored volkswagon bus. If you are ready to laugh, this play will have you doing so during its entirety. Not to mention the stylish, funky costumes. Let’s just say that ballerina tutus, army boots and mesh tops make one of the most fitting fashion statements (you’ll love them)!

Note: This play may not be appropriate for children under 10.

Troy Maxson (Charles Robinson) in a lighter moment. Photo by David Cooper.

Troy Maxson (Charles Robinson) in a lighter moment. Photo by David Cooper.

Fences
Reviewed by Ashley Moran
Directed by Leah C. Gardiner
February 16-July 6, 2008
Angus Bowmer Theater

Fences is an inspiring story that pulls on your heart strings as it touches such subjects as race, hard work, and infidelity. The play is filled with extraordinary actors, including Troy Maxson, played by Charles Robinson. He does an excellent job portraying the struggles of the working world, and finding a balance between his family and his past beliefs.

Troy has a love for the game of baseball, and can be seen happily swinging his bat in front of his house throughout the play. His son Cory (played by Cameron Knight) has a similar love for the game of football, but Troy would rather have his son focus on work rather than games. Troy also has a second son, Lyons (played by Kevin Kenerly) who constantly makes an appearance during the play to ask his father for money. Troy’s brother Gabriel brings a great amount of innocence and a lighthearted feeling to the play. He recently returned from World War II with a metal plate in his head, and can be seen wandering the streets selling fruit and ridding the area of “hell hounds” with his trumpet.

Rose (Shona Tucker, right) shares a laugh with Troy's brother Gabriel (G. Valmont Thomas). Photo by Jenny Graham.

Rose (Shona Tucker, right) shares a laugh with Troy

This play is very easy to relate to, as it focuses so closely on family values, and the struggles many people encounter in their every day lives. I would recommend this play to everyone traveling to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Note: This play may contain strong language.

The Clay Cart
Reviewed by Linea Carlson
Directed by Bill Rauch
February 17-November 2
Angus Bowmer Theater

Vasantasenā (Miriam A. Laube) paints a portrait of her lover, Chārudatta;(Cristofer Jean). Photo by David Cooper.

Vasantasenā (Miriam A. Laube) paints a portrait of her lover, Chārudatta;(Cristofer Jean). Photo by David Cooper.

On February 23, my boyfriend Troy and I sauntered through the quaint streets of Ashland to attend our second-ever Oregon Shakespeare Festival play, “The Clay Cart”. We had seen “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” the evening before and were very excited to see what the creative crew at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) had in store for us this evening.

I’ve always been fascinated with history and “The Clay Cart” is approximately 2,000 years old. As rapt as I am with the past, I was worried the play wouldn’t hold our attention. As I’m sure you know from attending school, history can be tedious at times, it all depends on the teacher, or in this case, the director and cast (caste?). OSF’s new artistic director, Bill Rauch made his splashing directorial debut with this play and, I must say, he’d be a great teacher. From props to scenes to costumes to cast, every facet had us spellbound. I was also worried about being able to relate to the play in any way. I mean times have changed, right? Wrong. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true–the more things change, the more they stay the same. This play was reminiscent of an ancient Sanskrit version of “Pretty Woman”. To boot, Rauch’s “Cart” was full of characters that reminded me of friends, foes and acquaintances in my own life.

“The Clay Cart” is a romantic comedy set amidst problematic political times. It’s a humorous depiction of money, relationships and political revolts that bring a commoner to the throne with an overall Shakespearean, “all’s well that ends well” conclusion.

Masseur (Jeffrey King) massages the hand of Vasantasenā (center, Miriam A. Laube), explaining his gambling woes, as Madaniḱā (Eileen DeSandre) attends. Photo by David Cooper.

Masseur (Jeffrey King) massages the hand of Vasantasenā (center, Miriam A. Laube), explaining his gambling woes, as Madaniḱā (Eileen DeSandre) attends. Photo by David Cooper.

Our hero, Cārudatta opens the play, lamenting his loss of money and thus, his friends. His one true friend, Maitreya, is by his side consoling his losses. Suddenly, the sounds of a woman in distress interrupts their male-bonding moment. Vasantasenā, our Julia Roberts of Sanskrit times, is running from the unwanted advances of the scoundrel Samsthānaka. She is saved by Cārudatta, Vasantasenā’s secret crush. She leaves her jewelry with him for “safe-keeping” and returns home, revealing to us her deep devotion to Cārudatta.
A series of comical events draw the two star-crossed lovers together, just as some bungled arrangements may force them apart forever. Will love prevail? Can friendships endure? In ancient Sanskrit, much as today, you’ll just have to see for yourself! If you’ve never been to OSF, you have to GO! If you have been, go to experience a piece of olden history in action. You’ll be surprised how much we have in common with our ancient predecessors.

For more information on planning your own trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, please visit our Theater & Performing Arts section. And have a blast!

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