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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

 

Man Alone, and Whiny

Coriolanus at the New Theatre through Nov. 2

Coriolanus (Danforth Comins). Photo: Jenny Graham

Never let it be said that Shakespeare stinted on Big Themes. Man (and I do mean man) against the Common People. Man (and I do mean man)’s thirst for revenge versus man’s love for his mother. Man’s manly courage and manly stoicism and extremely manly anger at odds with man’s desire for power and love.

Add in a few dollops of betrayal, the political machinations of Rome’s various leaders and factions, a disturbing look at democracy and at leaders who exploit their subjects, their soldiers and their own beliefs, and you have a story that some OSF folks like to think of as a reflection of contemporary issues.

Director Laird Williamson, setting this massive mob-scene play in the intimate New Theatre with a flexible cast playing numerous roles, brings an immediacy to the slimy political interactions. But the play isn’t one of Shakespeare’s best, and the scenes of men shouting at, shooting at and wrestling with each other do drag on a bit, despite the best efforts of Danforth Comins as Coriolanus, Michael Elich as Aufidius and Richard Elmore as Menenius. 

The sleepy, uneven opening gains some power as Coriolanus fights Aufidius in a well-choreographed sequence, and the play hints at poignancy in Coriolanus’ exile, betrayal of his city and late change of mind. But this central character’s arrogance, lack of insight and continual fury means that the climactic scenes never quite succeed, save one bit of emotion when Coriolanus’ old friend Menenius tries to appeal to his better side. Deborah Dryden’s pitch-perfect contemporary costumes and Richard Hay’s dramatically useful set make the play visually interesting, and some audience members tear up at the conclusion, when the vengeful autocrat must pay for a moment of “weakness” — aka sanity. But worry not, Big Theme fans: Man triumphs even as he falls. — Suzi Steffen

 

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