Friday, June 28, 2019

Alice in Wonderland—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

                                                                     A Wondrous State

    This fantasy classic by Lewis Carroll is adapted for the stage by Eva La Gallienne & Florida Friebus and directed by Sara Bruner.  It is playing at their outdoor Elizabethan Theatre through October 12th.  For more information, go to their site at

Childhood is a wondrous state
And a happy place to be.
But when all is done
In this land of sun
And we see the world of Man,
A sorrowful cast
Will blinds our eyes,
As down the face
The tears will run!
    Growing into adulthood is a difficult transition for a child, as they leave behind innocence, a safe haven called home and trade it for _____ (fill in the blanks for yourself).  Look for yourself at what lies ahead when the curtain has parted: “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh, my!”

    One’s dreams, in their jumbled state, try to mirror this land, so that we can cope with the big, bad world outside.  Fairy tales and fantasy stories from Carroll, Barrie, Bahm, Tolkien, Lewis, et. al. can ease the pain a bit but can never duplicate that assurance that, when all is said and done, we may live, at least, Hopefully, ever after!

    A film version of this famous tale was made by MGM in the 30’s with an all-star cast.  Disney then animated one in the 50’s, which was pretty good.  And Steve Allen wrote the music for another version of both the Wonderland and Looking Glass stories in the 60’s, with an all-star cast, too, which was very good and broadcast over two nights on television.

    And now we have the most precise version of his story, taken directly from his book.  All the familiar characters and incidents are here, such as, the Mad Hatter (Danforth Comins) and his balmy cohorts, the March Hare (Eddie Lopez) and the Dormouse (Cristofer Jean); the trippy Caterpillar (Brent Hinkley); the always grinning, Cheshire Cat (Lauren Modica); the contrary bros, Tweedledum (Daniel T. Parker) and Tweedledee (Kate Mulligan); the ineffectual King of Hearts (Anthony Heald) and his very, blood-thirsty wife, the Queen of Hearts (Amy Kim Waschke); the rotund, Humpty Dumpty (David Kelly); the bumbling, White Knight (Jean, again); the busy, White Rabbit (Shyla Lefner); and, of course, our new-age, tougher, Alice (Emily Ota)…plus many others.

    And all their individual stories are here, too, with the connecting tissue being Alice, as it is, of course, her dream/fantasy, as she is trying to merge the complex world of adulthood into her limited world of childhood (and vice versa).  This is a good play for children, as the colorful characters keep the story alive and moving.  This would be considered a low-tech production, as the ensemble creates much of the special effects themselves, which I loved.  They are the smoke rings of the caterpillar’s pipe; the many doors of Alice’s search for a way into Wonderland; and, especially, the balls (silver balloons) generated from the Queen’s lawn game, which spills out into the audience: and other little marvels of cleverness and inventiveness.

    There is also a very touching scene with the Knight and his song, as well as a very heated debate with Alice, with the Red Queen (Miriam A. Laube) and the White Queen (Robin Goodrin Nordli) on the merits/duties of Queendom.  The cast is marvelous!  The costumes are terrific (Helen Q. Huang), as well as Richard L. Hay’s set.  And Bruner, a fine actor herself, manages to fuse all this together into a very entertaining production!

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

The Ashland Experience

    As past readers of this blog will probably know, my favorite eatery in Ashland is, The Black Sheep (look for the red door on the Plaza, upstairs).  It’s not only a British-style pub, with authentic food, as well as libations, but also a place to house entertainment.  The food, as always, is exceptional.  My friend, Dave, has always bragged about their beef pasties (in fact, I think, he’s become addicted to them as, I believe, he was trying to convince them to send some to his home in Portland).  And so, in keeping abreast of things, I finally tried one and they are very good.  His wife, Christine, favors the fish, and is also a Brit, so she gives this place a thumbs-up, too.  And they make all their own desserts, which are rich and tasty. 

    My favorite barkeeps are Greg (not there this time) and Lorah.  She was a marvel one night when we were there…one patron described her as a “whirlwind” (true enough), as she not only serviced the bar, but was constantly checking on customers on the floor, as well as checking on orders in the kitchen!  And her elfin charm and smile is contagious.   I highly recommend this place.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you. 

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