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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 7.17.08

 

Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

Traditional Innovator A Q&A with OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch

Organized Insanity OSF’s costume shop

Last Man Standing Othello on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 10

It’s All Just a Case of Mistaken Identity A Comedy of Errors on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 12

Postmodern Angst, Zany Style The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at the Bowmer Theatre through Nov. 1

Man Alone, and Whiny Coriolanus at the New Theatre through Nov. 2

Bare Bones Our Town on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 11

People in Motion John Sipes moves, but not to the music

 

Postmodern Angst, Zany Style

The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at the Bowmer Theatre through Nov. 1

Mammy (Kimberly Scott) and Hedda (Robin Goodrin Nordli). Photo: Jenny Graham

In the cul-de-sac of tragic heroines live some of the greatest women of fiction and film. Forever.

In this play by Coos Bay native Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), characters only die when they are forgotten by the public. This is a problem for Henrik Ibsen’s 19th- century heroine Hedda Gabler, doomed to endless nights of suicide. Although neighbor Medea has found peace with her own endless cycle, Hedda and her maid Mammy (from Gone With the Wind) decide to set out to change themselves and thus their fate.

Whitty’s whimsy keeps the audience engaged, whether he leads his characters through a sojourn in the Verdant Glade of the Christs or to a midnight party aboard the African Queen with two wise-cracking, self-loathing homosexuals, reminiscent of 1970’s The Boys in the Band. Literary and theatrical references, possibly too many, abound. Acting is strong across the board, with notable performances by Robin Goodrin Nordli as Hedda and Gwendolyn Mulamba playing a variety of roles.

The central theme of “Can people change?” darkens to a question of “Should we change?” Does a self-actualized Hedda, ready to take control of her life, serve a literary purpose? What about Mammy? Can she escape servitude? Or are their plights essential to Western literary tradition?

Bill Rauch harnesses this fascinating play, keeping its best elements intact: extreme kitsch, deep thoughts, true authenticity and a hero’s journey for heroes who might not get to enjoy their destination. Hedda laments, “Is this how it feels to be real? To live your life dreaming of some deus ex machina that’s never going to come?” Even without that last-minute hand of God, you’ll still enjoy not being able to resolve your issues along with great literary characters in Whitty’s exceptional play. — Anna Grace

 

Traditional Innovator A Q&A with OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch

Organized Insanity OSF’s costume shop

Last Man Standing Othello on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 10

It’s All Just a Case of Mistaken Identity A Comedy of Errors on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 12

Postmodern Angst, Zany Style The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at the Bowmer Theatre through Nov. 1

Man Alone, and Whiny Coriolanus at the New Theatre through Nov. 2

Bare Bones Our Town on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 11

People in Motion John Sipes moves, but not to the music

More reviews can be found in our online archives