Monday, October 27, 2014

¡O Romeo!—Milagro Theatre—SE Portland

"We Are But Shadows…”



This play is conceived and directed by Olga Sanchez (Milagro’s Artistic Director) and is playing at their space, 525 SE Stark St., through November 9th.  For more information, please go to their site at www.milagro.org or call 503-236-7253.

This original tale of a dying Shakespeare trying to come to grips with the legacy he has left, has elements of Dickens’s, A Christmas Carol and, perhaps, Chekov/Simon’s, The Good Doctor, where a person is reflecting on Life and his contribution (or lack of) to its existence.  Is the world a better place because of their passing and will they be remembered and, if so, what for?

But this is also the story of an artist, a unique entity unto itself, and the world he has created, albeit imaginary, but a world in which he feels more akin to than the “real” one.  When he passes on, will his creations also die?  Ah, “thereby hangs a tale.”

In this imaginative telling of his last days, William Shakespeare (Anthony Green) is trying to finish one final opus before he passes into that sleep, wherein no man returns.  His faithful servant, Rifke (Sofia May-Cuxim), is trying frantically to help him finish it.  The story he’s working on is about a soldier who falls in love with an Aztec maiden, about to be sacrificed to the gods.  But, after her demise, he feels lost.   But True Love has yet one last card to play in this Dance of Death.

Meanwhile, back at his humble abode, Mr. S. is visited by some of the spirits from his many plays.  There is the tragic Hamlet (Heath Hyun Houghton) and the even more tragic Ophelia (Rebecca Ridenour).  Also, from the same play are Polonius (Arlena Barnes) and, strangely, a character who is only a skull in the play, the Jester, poor Yorick (Jake Weist).

And to see that things don’t get too out-of hand, there also appears the fairy queen, Titania (Tara Hershberger).  And let us not forget the vicious villains of his darker self, Richard III (Enrique E. Andrade) and Lady Macbeth (Danielle Chaves), who seem to want him to destroy his plays so that they can be free of their malicious mantles.  But one sad spirit remains and that is his son, Hamnet (Otniel Henig), who died at an early age of a disease.

Art is a cruel mistress and demands an artist’s full attention, so that the shadows in their life are not the creations of his mind but of his family and friends in the physical world.  That, too, is a sadness Shakespeare must face in his final hours.  And the conclusion to this fanciful but thoughtful tale?  That, my friends, is a truth for you to glean, but it is as simple and gentle as a snowflake and just as varied.

This play succeeds on many levels.  Not only is it an imaginative tale of Shakespeare’s possibly last thoughts but it is also a clever segue into honoring of the dead in the Latino culture.  They also believe that paying homage to their departed loved ones is a way of keeping them alive.  And so, like an author creating characters, who will be read for generations to come, they, too, will live forever.  A warm and humbling thought.

Ms. Sanchez has done an amazing job of offering us some insights into the world of a creative mind.  And she has presented us with a multi-talented group of people to expound on her vision.  Not only must they be able to act and handle Shakespearean speech but they need to be able to fence, sing, dance and play musical instruments.  They all handle their parts well.  Green is just fine as the Bard giving us a haunted but talented man.  And May-Cuxim has a lovely singing voice.  The set (Mark Haack) and lighting (Peter West) are very flexible but simple.

I recommend this play for the whole family, although it may be a bit above the heads of very young children.  Also you should visit the altars in the lobby areas that have been created for loved ones, they are really quite beautiful and all have their stories to tell.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.