Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Study in Contrasts

Nice day today. A little cooler than yesterday (though still quite hot by my coastal standards). Yet another breakfast at Morning Glory, where I learned that gingerbread waffles are indeed as good as they sound on the menu!

Best news of the day is that my daughter's bee-stung foot is much, much better. Indeed, she's bouncing around as good as new. This makes for a much happier day for all!

Today was a two-play day for some of us, which is a lot of sitting in the theater, but the two plays couldn't be much more different, so that helped.

The afternoon play was "Macbeth." Macbeth and I go way back. I read it in high school English class, and have seen it produced a couple of times since, most memorably in the outdoor glade at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, back when I lived down that way. An outdoor, nighttime performance is a great setting for Macbeth, with all its witches and general mayhem.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's rendition of Macbeth is somewhat updated, at least in costuming. And I frankly had a little trouble following all they were trying to do with the costumes. But the power and intensity of the play really comes through. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were tremendous, and gave a depth and variety to their performances that was intriguing and kept one's interest focused.

I should add a note about the superstition surrounding Macbeth. I gather some in the theater believe the play to be jinxed, and refuse to say the name of it out loud, just calling it "The Scottish Play." I find this amusing. I learned about the superstition from some friends in conjunction with another, while sitting at a baseball game. I made an oblique reference to the fact that a pitcher had not allowed any hits by the other team (I think it was about the fifth or sixth inning by then), and was soundly admonished by a neighbor that I was not to refer to such things, as I would jinx it. Another neighbor, overhearing, suddenly burst out with "It's the Scottish play! It's the Scottish play!" Took me a while to get the full explanation, and I was surprised to learn of this supposed jinx.

For what it's worth, I have still never seen a no-hitter live, and I'm sure some will blame the fact that I am willing to talk about the possibility, even while the game is still under way. But I don't believe in jinxes. Sorry for anyone disappointed by that.

In between we went to dinner at the Standing Stone Brewing Company, which has very good beer and quick enough service that we were able to make it up to the show with time to spare. The burgers were OK, but nothing special. We liked the sweet potato fries, of course.

In the evening we all went to see "The Music Man," which is obviously much lighter and more fun. The actor playing Professor Harold Hill was quite good, with a strong voice and good stage presence. He makes a fine con man! His counterpart playing Marion Paroo has a lovely voice, though perhaps not as clearly articulated as I might want (though I know the songs well enough that I didn't lose much). I have to say she also seems just a bit...well...old for the part. She's meant to be 26, and I peg her for quite a few years more than that. As Jan put it, a bit old to be playing the ingenue.

But the play just works. I like the staging, despite being a relatively small stage (indeed, the exact same stage on which we saw Macbeth just hours earlier). They manage to fill it without making it seem crowded, so the small town of River City seems fairly realistic (within stage conventions, of course). I also really liked the way the started with the whole town and its people being entirely gray and drab, with little bits of color introduced as Hill and his scheme take hold in town. By the end, the whole town is a gay festival, and the contrast is quite striking.

This is our first venture into Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but I gather that musicals are relatively rare here. If that's true, then I thought they did it quite well. The music was good, and most of the singing quite good. I thought the adaptation of the space to include a spot for the conductor to poke up was well done and unobtrusive. All in all, I really liked the way they were able to pop different scenes in without breaking the flow of the play.

So it was a day of very stark contrast between the plays, but interestingly, I found myself drawing more comparisons between Music Man and Don Quixote than with Macbeth. In part, I suppose it's because they touch on somewhat similar themes, each dealing with the difference (or lack thereof) between reality and imagination, or the ability of imagination and belief to shape reality. Ultimately, I guess that is a theme that resonates with me more than Macbeth's venture into ambition, prophecy, and gore. I thought Macbeth was the best performance of the three shows we've seen so far (with three more to go), and it will certainly stick with me. But I like the other two a lot more, if that makes sense.

All in all a good day, but a tiring one. Tomorrow is an easy day, with only an evening performance of "Henry VIII" for a couple of us. Then Saturday will be another two-play day. So I better get some rest!

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