As the Oregon Shakespeare Festival opens the curtain on preview week, we’re reminded that interpretations of live theater — even plays written centuries ago — can speak to the state of our current society.
OSF long has been at the forefront of this approach, perhaps never more so than in its 2019 slate ... as a cursory glance of the season reveals a parade of productions that presents a potent political polemic on the POTUS.
Wait ... what?
It’s understandable. Mister Orange Hair has each day given us our daily bread in this cultural circus. We tried to fake it, we don’t mind saying; but we just can’t make it through the day without some artistic comment about the presidency.
Now, perhaps you haven’t thought of the 11 titles about to hit Ashland’s three OSF stages in this way. Perhaps no one in her or his right mind has thought of it in this way.
But I have.
And so, without much ado, here’s a capsule look at the 2019 season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival ... in relationship to the man who has a hard time meeting anyone in the middle.
‘As You Like It’
Frankly, would this presidency provide as many laughs if it were to play out any other way? Of course we like it, particularly those moments when the supporting characters turn out to be something other than the protagonist believes them to be. All the world’s his stage, and all his men and women have their exits and their entrances ... but mostly exits.
Who among us hasn’t wanted to wash that straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered and confettied, bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied hair right out of that man? His response, during his State of the Union speech, is to call for unity: “Comb together, right now, over me.”
Adapted from the classic “The Sour Grapes Of Wrath,” this drama delves into the lives of migrant farmers and the administration’s attempt to ferret out those who might illegally be earning pennies a day. He’ll be around in the dark. He’ll be everywhere, anywhere you look — but particularly in the way guys yell when they’re mad.
A one-man show of his greatest hits, dynamic enough to grab you by the short hairs. Questioning the intelligence of African Americans? Check. Judging women by their appearance? Check. Mimicking the movements of the disabled? Check. Claiming those devastated by natural disasters have brought their troubles on themselves? Check. There’s a Yiddish word for this ... well, actually, there’s more than one.
‘Cambodian Rock Band’
A cast of 280 characters performs dramatic readings of the social media rantings of the Twitterer In Chief — leading to the moment when someone mumbles “Baksey Cham Krong” ... and the cast decides that it either sounds like a Cambodian rock band, or that the thumb-tapper is suffering from Dengue fever.
‘Between Two Knees’
Yes, this is the one about Stormy Daniels.
‘How To Catch Creation’
The OSF program describes the central figure in this play as “a black, queer, feminist writer” — which makes her the perfect target for the protagonist’s quest to develop a time machine as part of his Space Force, travel back to the dawn of humanity and prevent the creation of blacks, queers, feminists and writers.
‘La Comedia Of Errors’
A bilingual farce that brings together all of the conspiracy theories and fake news espoused through the years by the man who would be king. Relive the heady days of when he believed his predecessor was born in a foreign country (which turned out to be Hawaii, so ... maybe?), all the way up to a musical production number called “How to Succeed in Getting Mexico to Pay for the Wall, Without Really Trying.”
‘The Scottish Play’
As the title implies, this is a metaphorical journey about climate change set on a golf course. Our hero, an insecure ruler consumed by ambition and the need to prove that his way to play is the only path to victory, sets out on a course filled with trees that aren’t being razed, ominous deserts encroaching on the greenery and rising water hazards lapping at his heels. The only voice he trusts is that of his faithful caddy, Iago ... portrayed by Stephen Miller.
‘Alice In Wonderland’
An interactive theatrical experience wherein you, the audience, are transported through the looking glass to experience life through the eyes of a curious, confused child who becomes the guest of honor at a Tea Party and proceeds to trap her followers down a rabbit hole from which there seems no escape. In the gender-bending tradition of “Julius Caesar” and “Oklahoma!,” the role of the young Alice will be played by an aging man.
‘All’s Well That Ends Well’
A plot description was not made available at press time. My best guess is that the title will reveal itself to be one of ironic tragedy, or perhaps science fiction.
Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin, firstname.lastname@example.org, played Bud Frump in his senior class play.