Thursday, June 27, 2019

Between Two Knees—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

        Humor as a Weapon

Between Two Knees—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR
This World Premiere is written by the 1491s and is directed by Eric Ting.  It is playing at the Thomas Theatre at OSF in Ashland, OR, through October 27th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 1-800-219-8161.

    It has been said that a good defense is a good offense.  In this case, if you pepper the “enemy” with humor, you might come out on top.  For example, Mel Brooks, a Jew, produced/directed both “The Producers” and “To Be or Not To Be,” and reduced the Nazis to blathering idiots and humiliated them (Chaplin did much the same thing with his powerful film, “The Great Dictator.”)  Brooks’ opinion was that the one thing Evil hates the most is to be laughed at.

    Not quite the same premise in this case of the “white man” vs. the Native Americans, but it does skirt this issue.  Many times us white folks in the Past, stole and lied to these native inhabitants:  They overwhelmed the population and took their lands; broke treaties; kidnapped Indian children and forced them into schools to educate them as to the customs and language of the “superior” white race; slaughtered them; forced them onto reservations; and humiliated them at every turn.  So, in this case, they retaliate with biting humor.

    The loose storyline, as such, traces two Native Americans, young Irma (Shyla Lefner) and young Isiah (Derek Garza) between the original Wounded Knee slaughter of the late 1800’s to the second Wounded Knee engagement of the mid-1900’s, older Irma (Sheila Tousey) and Isaiah (Wotko Long), and their offspring, their son, William (Shaun Taylor-Corbett) and grandson, Eddie (Garza, again).  During these years, they encounter many trials and tribulations and eventually the Viet-Nam War and aftermath.  This whole history is related by a narrator, Larry (Justin Gauthier).

    The idea for this tale is very clever and the actors and production values on this production are high (as they always are with OSF shows), but the actual story itself is unfocused; rambling; wanders down many rabbit holes, tarrying too long on these, only slightly related, incidents and characters; and lacks staying focused on a through-line, which should be the basis for the story.  There are many funny moments and some biting satire sprinkled throughout…my favorite bit, the Guru (performer not billed), who marries the couple, very funny moment but, again, has little connection to the whole.  So, in conclusion, this script needs to be condensed, streamlined to focus on a central theme and then not wander off from that.  Again, idea, actors and production values are high, but not the script, as it is currently.

    A final word on a serious subject:  We are what we breed, perhaps, but in order to evolve to a higher level, and not stagnate, we need to change/expand our viewpoints to embrace other possibilities.  Simply said, we need to walk in another person’s shoes for a while and look at the world the way they do!
Although this production has some real possibilities, I cannot recommend it.  But, please, don’t necessarily let me deter you from seeing it, as you can do so and make up your own mind as to its value.

The Ashland Experience

    And, as always, my friends (the Paull’s) and I stayed at the Ashland Springs Hotel, 212 Main St. (541-631-2010, ), next door to OSF (or at their sister resort, The Ashland Hills), for our stay.  They have a secured parking lot for their guests, as well as a complimentary excellent breakfast, not just sweet rolls and fruit, as others might, but a full buffet with muffins, eggs, cereal (hot and cold), fruits, juices, coffee and tea, et. al.  They also have some extras, like afternoon teas, as well as late-night snacks.  Rooms are very comfortable and they have a great staff.  All in all, a very satisfying experience which I highly recommend.  Tell them Dennis sent you if you do choose to stay there.

Neigh Saver

    A very worthwhile place we visited was this Sanctuary for hungry, neglected and abused horses and a tour you might want to take.  It’s only a few minutes from Ashland.  This organization does some great work with these animals.  They have about 35 acres altogether and they care for these valuable animals in a very humane and loving way.  The tour is free (our guide was the Board President, Ruth, a very knowledge individual) but you need to call for reservations for this hour-long tour from the Equamore Sanctuary, 4723 Hwy. 66 (541-482-5550).  For more information on this worthwhile cause, go to their site at 


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