Friday, May 23, 2014

A Wrinkle In Time—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

Tick-Tock…

This Sci-Fi Fantasy is from an award-winning book by Madeleine L’Engle and adapted for the stage by Tracy Young, who also directed it.  It is running in repertory through November 1st in the Bowmer Theatre at OSF.  For more information, go to www.osfashland.org or call 541-482-4331.

This was made into a rather good film by Disney a few years ago and the play has been done a couple of times in Portland over the past several months.  What I like about this adaptation is that it is told in a narrative, story-telling style and incorporating sections directly from the book.  And, most of the actors play more than one part, including reading the narration, which is very creative.

The story is about three children who are transported to a different land.  Meg (Alejandra Escalante) and her younger brother, Charles Wallace (Sara Bruner) go in search of their father (Don Donohue), with their friend Calvin (Joe Wegner).  They are aided by three witches, headed by Mrs. Whatsit (Judith-Marie Bergan) and go through a type of Wormhole to find him.

What they find, instead, is a society where everybody is the same, like Orwell’s book, 1984.  So, since everyone is bent on conformity, then nobody stands out, certainly not a democratic way of running things.  Their father is, indeed, there but trapped.  And outwitting the “Brain” that runs this whole society is the only way to set him free and possibly, in turn, their whole world, as well.

So, Charles Wallace, the egghead of the family, takes on the challenge, to match wits with It.  I can’t tell you too much more of the story, or it would ruin your own discoveries.  But there is one thing that the Beast can’t comprehend and that is the magic that will set them all free.  Some of the story, as to the first person who crossed the barrier (which the movie covers) and who the “Brain” really is, is lost.  But, what is left is quite an amazing adventure.

What is absolutely wonderful about this production is the amazing set (Christopher Acebo).  It is like going to the movies with all those special effects.  It has all the bells and whistles necessary to transport young and old alike and it is fun.  It’s a complicated plot but it does move along at a pretty rapid clip, without an intermission.

All the actors are very adept at their parts.  I wonder, though, at the choice of adults to play the children’s parts.  Although the actors are very accomplished, I have seen two other live productions where Youth played the parts and were very good.  I’m sure it must have something to do with Union rules, long and late working hours and performing during school time.  Also acting can be a very stressful occupation for actors, Youth or Adult.

Young has done a wonderful job of storytelling and not letting us get bored.  Telling a story is becoming a lost art form with so much involved with CG effects in movies nowadays.  The purest form of storytelling, of course, is like when the parent or grand-parent is sitting on the bed with a child and opens a storybook with pictures.  The adult will play all the character voices and the narration and often there is a simple message or moral embedded in the story.  The child, enraptured, will soon fall asleep, with dreams of their own.

It is also common, in many native tribes around the world, to have an oral history of their people, where storytelling becomes a big part of it.  Everything considered, Young has done a terrific job of blending old-fashioned storytelling with the modern electronic age.  And new worlds always open up with the magic words, “Once Upon a Time….” 

I recommend this show.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.





The Ashland Experience (Part I)

Being a reviewer, the focus of my Ashland trips are, of course, the plays at OSF.  But, as fulfilling as they are, the journey is also made up of accommodations while there, food and libations, and good company.  And, since I saw four plays, this will be a mini, four-part series, a part after each play, of some aspects of my visit.

The Ashland Springs Hotel


My friend, Ryan, and I stayed at the historic Ashland Springs Hotel (for a few old-timers, the Mark Anthony).  It is centrally located to all the downtown shops and restaurants, the famous Lithia Park, and OSF is less than a block away.  It also has secured parking, so no more hassle with find a parking space for the plays.  The room was very comfortable and had all the usual amenities such as Wi-fi, cable TV, and a very substantial Continental breakfast.  (They also have their own restaurant called Larks.)

All the staff was very pleasant and helpful.  In fact Ryan mentioned that all the people in Ashland that we met seemed very friendly.  He’s right.  It’s a friendly town where “All the world’s a stage, and men and women, merely players….”  I would recommend staying here.  Karolina, the Sales & Marketing Director, was especially helpful in answering all my questions.  For more information, go to their site at www.ashlandspringshotel.com or call 1-888-795-4545.  As per usual, if you do stay there, tell them Dennis sent you.

And, to follow more stories of my experience in Ashland, and the other three shows I reviewed:

Tempest - http://dennissparksreviews.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-tempestoregon-shakespeare.html
The Sign In Sydney Brusteins - http://dennissparksreviews.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-sign-in-sidney-brusteins.html
Cocoanuts - http://dennissparksreviews.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-cocoanutsoregon-shakespeare.html