Friday, September 19, 2014

Comedy of Errors—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

The Rhythm of Life

This adaptation of Shakespeare’s lesser known comedy is directed by Kent Gash and will be playing at OSF’s Thomas Theatre in downtown Ashland through November 2nd.  For more information, go to their site as or call 800-219-8161.

I think most people know that Willy S.’s plots were all based on other material.  The basis for this is from the Greek play, Twin Menechme, among others.  But that is where the resemblance of this production to his play, or the Greek one, ends.  This story is set mostly in Harlem toward the end of the 1920’s and the beginning of the music Renaissance in Harlem.  The sweet tunes of Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and others permeate and ooze from the pores of this production.

But one thing you have to understand is that you might as well stop trying to figure out the plot of the story and just get caught up in the rhythm and energy of the show.  To be brief, it has to do with a father, Egeon (Jerome Preston Bates), who has had his fortune ruined by a storm in Louisiana and has also managed to lose his wife, Emilia (Franchelle Stewart Dorn) and his twin sons, Antipholus (Tobie Windham) and their twin servants, Dromio (Rodney Gardiner).

Migrating to Harlem without monies, he soon discovers from the Duke (R. J. Foster) that to be a vagrant in their fair city is a death sentence, so he must find family or someone who will support him.  Among those who may be one or the other are Adriana (Omoze Idehenre) and Luciana (Monique Robinson), who run a rooming house, a courtesan (Bakesta King), who runs a…well, another sort of house, and various swindlers who may be looking for an easy mark.

Like I said, don’t think too hard on this but, suffice to say, being a comedy, it all gets sorted out by the end…sort of.  The thing to concentrate on is the unbridled energy this show has to offer.  It resembles, in a way, the complications of plot but boundless energy of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (which just might be a show OSF should consider for a future production).

And the show’s director, Gash, must have had his hands full directing/choreographing (w/Bryron Easley) all the intricate movements, bit, gags…that seem endless in this fast-paced show.  And the set (designer, Jo Winiarski) is a Mecca in its simplicity, allowing the action to flow freely.  The costumes by Kara Harmon are also fun and colorful.

The entire cast seemed fully adept at this sort of physical comedy.  I especially liked Dorn in all of her many guises, who is also quite a singer.  And this is a show that allows even those in smaller roles to stretch.  Mark Murphey as the policeman/butler has some very funny bits.  As does the maid (Mildred Ruiz-Sapp).  Again, emphasizing the old adage, “there are no small parts…”

I would recommend this show for a fun-filled afternoon or evening.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you. 

For another perspective visit SW WA Stage & Theater Arts Review at

The Ashland Experience (part II)

Again, eating at The Black Sheep, 51 N. Main St. (look for the red door, which leads you upstairs), was a true delight.  It is a traditional English pub and has the food to prove it.  One of the friends that went with me was born and raised in England and gave their food high marks.  She had the Norfolk Fish Pie, and her husband, a Cornish pastry (which is a meal in itself).  I had the Chicken Cordon Bleu w/veggies and seasoned mashed potatoes and it was more than an ample meal, and all at reasonable prices.  Of course, we all washed this down with the local or imported micro-brews.

It should be noted that this is one of the few places that stays open late (even on weekday nights) to accommodate the late-night crowd after the OSF plays.  And, another inviting assent, is the friendly staff working there.  They actually seem to want to get to know you and try to remember your name and what you like to drink.  Greg was super, as our bartender, and you could sense he was a caring person.  Also, my personal favorite from my last visit in the Spring, was the lovely, Prairie Skye.  She is also a smart and talented lady (in music) and one can instantly sense her warmth for people.  Both true assets to this environment.

And you shouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that an English pub would fit very well into an atmosphere that featured a Shakespearean theatre.  Good for you, Susan, may you live long and prosper!  I highly recommend this place.  If you do go there, say Hi from me and know you are in the good hands of caring people.

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