Ashland Review

Jenny Graham / Oregon Shakespeare Festival

It’s been a smoky summer in the Pacific Northwest. Wildfires have communities from Eastern Washington to Northern California gasping through days and weeks of poor air quality.

In Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the “show-must-go-on” mantra of the theater has given way to continuous air quality checks and tough show-time decisions.

Photo Jenny Graham

The last play to open at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this season is one of the very best. “Sweat,” a deeply satisfying new work by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, was commissioned as part of the Festival’s United States History Cycle.

Photo Jenny Graham

“The Happiest Song Plays Last,” now at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Thomas Theatre, is part three of a trilogy by Quiara Alegria Hudes. Last year the Festival presented part two, “Water by the Spoonful,” directed, like this play, by Shishir Kurup.
The author, inspired by her cousin Elliot, the youngest Marine to be deployed to Iraq, has stitched his story to others, creating a colorful quilt of present-day issues.

photo Jenny Graham

Take two plays, one an ancient farce and the other a modern tale of lost love. Accidentally schedule them for a dress rehearsal on the same stage at the same time, and you have the starting point for “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

photo Jenny Graham

“Antony and Cleopatra,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is one of Shakespeare’s most confounding plays. Directors have a hard time deciding what it is. Battles, politics, lust, suicides, a little comedy, and a lot of short scenes alternating between Egypt and Rome.

photo Jenny Graham

“Long Day’s Journey into Night,” Eugene O’Neill’s gut-wrenching family drama, is playing in a superlative production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Thomas Theatre.
When O’Neill fashioned this play based on his miserable youth, he stipulated it could not be published until 25 years after his death, and never be performed. But after he died in 1953 his widow soon had it produced on Broadway, and it earned Pulitzer and Tony Awards.

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