Friday, March 12, 2010

Ashland, Je T'aime

Two weekends ago, my mom and I drove to Ashland and saw 4 plays: Hamlet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Pride and Prejudice, and Well.

Ashland is my idea of the perfect little town. It is like a masterfully edited novel after all the unnecessary words have been deleted. Ashland has everything I could ever want. It has a beautiful park, plays, restaurants that serve Stumptown coffee, music, good beer, tons of used bookstores, a candy store. And if I ever felt like running, or pretending I was an athlete, I could go to the running store and buy an outfit to look the part. Yes, I could definitely be content living in Ashland.

The Hamlet we saw was very good. It was not as breathtaking as the Hamlet I saw last month at the Coho Theater, but still, it was intriguing and suspenseful and utilized original ideas. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were lesbians! Never seen that before! King Hamlet was deaf and communicated through sign language and Hamlet's friends put on a rousing hip hop performance for King Claudius.

The actor who played Hamlet looked remarkably like Conan O'Brien. So much so, that I wanted to stand up and yell "I'm with Coco!" Luckily, I'm not that insane and I have some self control. I loved how Hamlet became noticeably more looney tunes as they play went on. He kept cutting off pieces of his clothes until they were all ragged and he donned a colorful, eccentric hat. His laughter also became more insane, which got some laughs from the audience, especially when Hamlet was dragging away Polonius' body and cackling in front of a horrified Gertrude.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was my favorite play in Ashland. The play was 3 hours long with 2 intermissions, but the characters were fascinating, with deep secrets and ulterior motives, so I was hooked the whole time. I believe the characters are what make this play brilliant. Brick and Maggie are the focal married couple and their union seems like an arranged marriage gone afoul. No love, no desire, just bickering and drinking and complaining about Brick's nieces and nephews, whom Maggie calls the "no neck monsters." Tennessee Williams is such a master at naming his characters that when the play ended with a possible pregnancy, I wanted it to keep going just so I could see what name Tennessee would give that little "no neck monster."

Pride and Prejudice was my least favorite play. It had no Mr. Darcy coming dripping wet out of a lake and nothing else to hold my attention. During this play, my eyes wandered and I spent most of the time spying on a woman in the audience. Her facial expressions were so animated, I am guessing watching that play was the thrill of her life. I'm glad someone enjoyed it.

The play that wrapped up the weekend was Well by Lisa Kron. This play had potential, but it failed in originality and clarity. The main character seemed like a spin off of Liz Lemon from Thirty Rock. She even looked like Tina Fey. Well is about a mother and daughter and their health concerns. Some scenes and minor characters were rollicking, like Joy the serious and highly irritable patient at the at the hospital. I just loved it that her name was Joy! I burst out laughing several times during this play, but I left the theater confused and angry. I have never left a play angry before. Lisa Kron forcibly restored my disbelief on one occasion after another as characters were revealed to be mere actors. Lisa Kron set out to tell a story. In my mind, she made a promise to keep the story convincing and she broke that promise. She probably thought she was adding funny twists, but I found her twists very annoying.