Saturday, June 30, 2018

Romeo and Juliet—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

William Thomas Hodgson and Emily Ota
Photo by Jenny Graham
The Death of Innocence

    This classic, romantic tragedy by Shakespeare, is directed by Dámaso Rodriguez (Artistic Director of Artists Rep in Portland, OR).  It is playing, in repertory, at the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre through October 12th.  For more information, go to their site at

    Our teen years are a tricky period.  We are unaware that we are not the center of the universe, nor do other people in our secluded realm have any importance, nor do we sense they believe differently than we do.  We do not connect, yet, older people with us at a later age.  We believe we are fearless and will live forever, this we surmise in our Youth.  Not yet aware of the shackles of adulthood, nor have we completely shed the feathers of our innocent childhoods.  We, as teens, are at a vulnerable and dangerous age.

    Such was the plight of Romeo (William Thomas Hodgson) and Juliet (Emily Ota), barely into their teens in Verona in the 1600’s.  Their two wealthy families, the Capulet’s and Montague’s, have been warring for many years, although neither can recall when it all got started, nor why.  Dad (Greg Watanabe) & Mom (Amy Newman) Capulet, keep a tether on their headstrong daughter, relying on her Nurse (Robin Goodrin Nordli), to keep a trained eye on her, as they have her promised to Paris (Armando McClain), a noble, as a future husband.

    Likewise, Dad (Richard Elmore) & Mom (Monique Holt) Montague have an equally rebellious son, as he runs around with a pretty rough crowd, mostly consisting of his cousin, Benvolio (Julian Remulla) and his best friend, Mercutio (Sara Bruner), who always seem to be getting in scrapes with Tybalt (Derek Garza), the mean-tempered cousin of Juliet, and his mates.  Not even the potent power of the Prince (Christiana Clark) of the region, nor the calming influence of Friar Laurence (Michael J. Hume), can sooth these savage beasts.
I doubt that there are more than two people left in the world that have not read or seen the story and outcome of this tale of “star-crossed lovers,” as it does not end happily.  The world is full of tales of stubborn parents and mis-guided youth, but this is probably the most pronounced, as the Bard is justly considered the greatest of playwrights because of the universal and timeless appeal of his tales.  From poetic prose, to rap, to ballet, to a full-blow, award-winning musical, proves the power of that statement. 

    And why is this incarnation, of this oft-produced play, special?  Rodriguez, of course, at the helm, who has proven himself a worthy director many times over at Artists Rep and has provided us with a more “traditional” view of this story, with a fuller script of the play, I believe, than often seen, and a keen eye for casting the best person for the role, regardless of gender or ethnicity, the much-preferred way of casting a play, as far as I’m concerned.  The costumes by Leah Piehl are quite amazing, too.

    Both Hume and Nordli, in two of the best characters roles of any of his plays, can wear proudly the mantel of doing these parts proud.  But the stunner of the evening is Bruner, unforgettable as Mercutio, as she owns the stage whenever she is on it!  Her bravado and swagger give us the view of a Youth, doomed almost from the beginning…a character out of place and step with her times.  A person thwarted before she has begun to show her metal.  Her Queen Mab speech is the best I’ve seen and her death scene is remarkable, as she fights to preserve her life’s blood from draining and yet has her wits about her to rail against the fading of the light.  Bravo!

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

Ashland Springs/Hills

    As always, we again stayed at one of these two places, this time the Ashland Hills, their resort location about three miles South of the downtown area.  It has a number of varieties of rooms and suites, as well as a swimming pool, hot tub, deli, et. al. amenities.  They also have a super buffet breakfast, including sausage patties, waffles, cereals (hot & cold), bagels, toast, juices, fresh fruit, coffee/tea, milk, etc., that is included in the price of the room.  The Springs, the downtown location, next to OSF, also has secured parking.  I highly recommend both of these places, both having reasonably prices, very comfortable rooms and a friendly staff.  For more information on both these locations, go to their sites at  

    If you do stay there, tell them Dennis sent you.


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