Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The River Bride—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

Once Upon…Hopefully Ever After

This World Premiere is written by Marisela Treviño Orta and directed by Laurie Woolery.  It is playing at the Angus Bowmer Theatre, downtown Ashland, in repertory, through July 7th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 800-219-8161.

“The [River] Giveth and the [River] Taketh Away.”  This is a Fable…a Fairy Tale…a Dark Love Story…and it begins in the Cradle of Civilization, as some say, with Water.  Once Upon a Time…there lived two beautiful daughters, the eldest, Helena (Nancy Rodriguez), the practical one, and the youngest, Belmira (Jamie Ann Romero), the dreamer, of two very tolerant parents, Senhor Costa (Triney Sandoval) and Senhora Costa (Vilma Silva).  He was a dedicated fisherman for the twenty years of their marriage and she a devoted mother.  The Amazon was their life blood.

All was going as planned, as Belmira was to marry her childhood sweetheart in three days, Duarte (Carlo Albán), who promised to take her away to the “Big City.”  But their lives would forever be changed when they fished an injured, mysterious stranger from the waters, Moises (Armando McClain).  Family Dynamics, Alliances and Loves would forever be altered when an old legend would become real and which is closer to home than one imagines.  More I cannot tell you, except be careful what you wish for, as it just might come true!

The source of legends and myths is unknown.  Each culture seems to have them, some more than others.  There are urban legends for the city–folk; monsters for the rural folk, such as Nessie and the Yeti; and the Boto for the Amazon (on which this play is based).  Ancient civilizations needed to explain the unseeable and unknowable so they invented gods, such as Thor and Mars, et al. for Romans and Greeks, and those associated with tribes, such as Incans, et. al.  They were also used as threats, such as, be good or the Boogie Man will get you or, Santa brings presents to good little boys and girls, et. al.

We all seem to need these nebulous beings/powers, like we need dreams.  They seem to keep things in perspective…keep us whole.  But, perhaps the best explanation I’ve heard, for trying to explain the Unknown, is from the late, great Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer, Ray Bradbury who had said that when we can battle and overcome these demons of the dark, we feel better about ourselves, knowing that when we’ve done this, then the “real” world isn’t quite as scary.  Makes sense to me.

The performances are all first-rate (they always are at OSF).  Each one of the actors help create a very believable world, which gently, like the river’s flow, lures us into to a somnambulistic state in which anything is possible.  Woolery has fashioned a world seemly far removed from our own and yet so close you can almost touch it.

And the set by Mariana Sanchez is surreal.  The backdrop becomes alive in her capable hands along with her team of magic-makers:  Lighting, David Weiner; Video, Mark Holthusen; Music & Sound, Bruno Louchouarn; and costuming, Raquel Barreto), and, of course, the lovely script by Orta, bringing this legend to life.  Only small change I might suggest is that the confrontation between the two sisters near the end could be trimmed a tad.  It seemed a bit repetitious at times.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Ashland Experience (part III)

ASHLAND HILLS/SPRINGS:  The Springs location (212 E. Main St.) is in downtown Ashland, next to the OSF theatres.  They have secured parking, meaning that if you are there for OSF you don’t have to drive around to find parking spaces for the show--a huge benefit.  The rooms are comfortable, the staff very friendly and the complimentary breakfast is more than adequate to start the day.  My friends and I have also stayed at their other location at the Hills (2525 Ashland St.), a couple miles away, which includes a pool and hot tub and very spacious rooms.  For more information, go to their site at or call 541-482-8310.  I highly recommend either of these locations.  And, as always, if you do chose to stay there, please tell them Dennis sent you.

LITHIA PARK:  This is a must for any visitor to Ashland!  The path through it follows the creek into the hills, so it is a good jogging or hiking trail.  They have playgrounds, open spaces, picnic tables, loads of trees, bushes, and flowers and a creek that runs along side of it, winding past restaurants and shops through the town.  There is also the famous (or, infamous), Lithia water fountains which, I’m afraid to say, is awful-tasting, but judge for yourself.  And my favorite spot of all is the duck pond where you can sit and muse away the day if you wish.  There use to be swans that would light here but it’s been many a day since I’ve seen any.  All in all, a worthwhile experience.

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