Monday, September 24, 2012

Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella - Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon

"Three For One"

This show plays matinees at 1:30pm, and 8pm in the evenings (through November 3) at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, at the indoor Bowmer Theatre.  Best get there early, as parking can be a problem.


Weaving three full-length stories into one is an amazing feat by itself.  One question a person should ask themselves in this case is, Why.  According to the co-adapters and directors, it is not only because of the similarity of tales, but also because they represent the three main genres of theatre:  The Greek Tragedy, Shakespeare and the American Musical.

This can be argued, of course, but the thesis they purport is quite intriguing.  And, accept this premise you must, if you are to gain anything from this very complex tale(s).  It may make your brain swell from following these interwoven stories but it, ultimately, is worth the effort.

Media is the classic tale of a wronged woman and the extent she will go to in order to avenge herself.  Her husband, Jason (Lisa Wolpe), has decided that he tires of her and decides to marry another woman.  This, of course, does not sit well with Medea (Miriam A. Laube) and she extracts a horrible and painful revenge.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or the Scottish play, is the familiar story of how ambition can give way to greed, jealousy, and murder.  Macbeth (Jeffery King) is told by three witches that he will be king.  Only problem is that there are a few people in line before him.  The solution seems obvious to him and his wife, Lady Macbeth (Christopher Liam Moore):  Eliminate the competition in a most bloody fashion.

The third play, Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical, Cinderella, does seem a bit of a misfit by comparison.  Cinderella (Laura Griffith) is surrounded by misery because of her wicked siblings.  But a Fairy Godmother (K. T. Vogt) comes to the rescue and, via magic, transforms her into a princess for an evening, where she meets her Prince Charming (Jeremy Peter Johnson).

Now comes the tricky part.  How do you interweave these stories without driving an audience crazy, trying to keep things straight?  Answer—not easily.  Some will get lost along the way.  But for those who survive the journey, the trip will be worth it.  For the play is expertly presented by an outstanding cast and directors.

The most realized and best executed of the stories is Macbeth.  The cast is so good they could all easily be part of a full production of it.  It should be noted that the cast is mostly men (as it was in Shakespeare’s day).

Jeffery King is a magnificent Macbeth.  And, even better, is Christopher Liam Moore as his wife.  They are fully realized characters, as are the Witches (Daniel T. Parker, U. Jonathan Toppo & Eddie Lopez).  They all scheme and scream deviously to get their individual needs met.

Cinderella seems at odds with the rest of the mix.  True, it is also the story of a woman trying to succeed in a man’s world, but the fluffiness seems a bit out of place in this weaving of plots.  But the songs are well rendered, especially by the truly, lovely Laura Griffith in the title role.  She makes you believe in her and, thusly, in the world of magic and romance.

Medea is played by a mostly female cast.  Lisa Wolpe as Jason is very good as the wayward husband.  And Miriam A. Laube takes command of the stage as Medea.  You truly understand her anguish as she attempts to finds other means, without success, of dealing with the pain of losing the man she deeply loves.

Another added attraction is the Usher (Mark Bedard) who is the connecting tissue, narrator and oft-times, a character in the play.  He performs this complex duty very efficiently.  The music is well presented.  And the costumes by Deborah M. Dryden are exceptional, adding beautifully to this production.

Of course, Mr. Rauch (Artistic Director for OSF) and Tracy Young as the concocters of this complex stew must be duly congratulated for raising the bar a notch or two for playwriting and staging.  Bravo!

For tickets and membership information call 1-800-219-8161 and for more information on their shows contact their website at www.osfashland.org. Tell them Dennis sent you.