Academic journal article The Upstart Crow

The 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Academic journal article The Upstart Crow

The 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Article excerpt

To observe the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch staged the two plays of the festival s inaugural season--Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice--plus 1 Henry IV and Hamlet. In all four plays, especially Bill Rauch's brilliant Hamlet, the generally excellent acting in major roles, inventive (if somewhat bizarre) sets, robust ensemble work, superb lighting and sound, and challenging interpretations not only created inspiring and memorable productions bur also set single season attendance and revenue records.

Director Darko Tresnjak, who came to the OSF from San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, ser Twelfth Night in the late Baroque 1700s. Tresnjak explains that this decision came from his love of directing Mozart's operas; he sees The Marriage of Figaro as almost a companion piece for Shakespeare's comedy of "romance and rudeness." (2) Tresnjak labels Twelfth Night Shakespeare's "most sensual play," and he equates it with the "sexiness of the Baroque period." (3) While the characters wore sumptuous, aristocratic attire, and early classical music often accompanied the performance, any connection between Tresnjak's production concept and the actual set was puzzling. Scenic designer David Zinn covered the stage in huge swaths of green artificial turf that one might see on an athletic field. Several pillars stage left and right looked like scratching posts for gigantic cats, while reaching from the bottom to nearly the top of the stage facade was a huge turf-covered rectangle with sloping sides that several characters slid down in childish joy. This shape slightly resembled a musical note and perhaps was meant to suggest a Mozartian score. Characters entered and exited through the large opening in this rectangle, and a smaller opening at the top of the structure became the box tree through which Toby et al. watched Malvolio discover Maria's forged letter. Perhaps the very artificiality of this material was its point: a setting for "romance and rudeness" in an illusory place at the edge of festivity where artificially enhanced and prolonged human emotions dominate the stage. Then, too, maybe a hardware store in Ashland had a big sale on Astro Turf, or a putt-putt golf course closed and sold its turf.

Tresnjak reversed the play's initial two scenes. As smoke billowed from the rectangle and crashing noises filled the theater, Viola stumbled through the opening in an elaborate blue cape and wet dress. She carried a large chest from which she delivered gold to the Captain. Overwhelmed by his own desires and convinced of his irresistible charm, Kenajuan Bentley as Duke Orsino gazed lovingly at Olivia's picture. Sir Toby, already disheveled from a night of boozing, entered holding an ice bag to his aching head that Maria's scolding worsened. Rex Young as Sir Andrew Aguecheek was as pathetic, hilarious, and sexually naive as he was tall and skinny. Robin Goodrin Nordli, a most attractive Maria, stuck his hand into her bosom, materializing the invitation to "bring your hand to the buttery-bar and let it drink." (4) Young froze before yanking his hand free. Later, Toby and Fabian, watching from above as Malvolio read aloud Marias letter, spelled out C-U-T to Aguecheek in pantomime, and when he finally understood, be slapped his forehead and fainted backwards. A doomed lover, Sir Andrew provided ample comic relief as the rogues' treatment of Malvolio darkened the play.

The vivid contrasts in costumes and mannerisms between Christopher Liam Moore as Malvolio and Michael Elich as Feste emphasized the wide spectrum of characters and attitudes in the play. Malvolio was dressed in the most formal of Batoque attire: black shoes, grey wool stockings, white shirt with flowery cuffs, elegant black coat and tails, pressed ruff about his neck, and hair pulled back severely and tied in a bun. He moved rigidly, as if deciding which bone to activate, and spoke with a pronounced formality. …

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