Summer Theatre Notes

Diane and I have always enjoyed going to plays (in fact, one of our first dates was to see the RPI Players perform “Sweet Charity”), and we’re lucky to live in a place that offers us many opportunities to do so.

So far this summer, we’ve seen seventeen plays (and will see another on Sunday, with a high probability of an additional play or two next week).

I’d be foolish to write to write reviews of all of them, but I do want to point out a few of the ones which I thought were especially good and which are still playing. So let’s go to the theatre!

We saw the entire season (11 plays) at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It took two visits. The first trip was in early June with Road Scholar (the class included 3 plays, and we added five more for a total of 8 plays in 6 days). We made a point of scheduling all of the outdoor plays for that visit to minimize the odds of fire-related cancellations. The second trip was a few weeks ago to pick up the plays that weren’t open in June – and I’m glad we didn’t try to see any of the outdoor plays then, because OSF had to move them to a much-smaller indoor theatre because of the Milepost 97 fire in Canyonville, 80 miles north of Ashland.

OSF’s season continues into October, and I can recommend all but one of the plays – Alice in Wonderland was disappointing. The music and costumes were good, but the characterization was limited, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about what was happening on the stage – it was just a pack of cards, after all.

On the other hand, I found Mother Road, Hairspray, Between Two Knees, Indecent, How to Catch Creation, and Cambodian Rock Band to be thought-provoking, well-acted productions with something to say about society and how different groups interact. I’d recommend any of them without hesitation (though Mother Road and Between Two Knees are the weakest of this group).

The Shakespeare plays were all well-done and worth seeing; La Comedia of Errors was a very different take on Shakespeare!

We’ve already signed up for Road Scholar’s Ashland experience next year and hope to see the entire season again.

We’re season-ticket holders and supporters of three local theatre companies – none of them have the resources of OSF, but they produce great theatre.

City Lights Theatre in San Jose is currently performing Cabaret based on the original 1966 production. There’s a lot more story than I remember from the previous versions I’d seen – the music was there, but the story took priority. The similarities to what’s happening today were clear (not blatantly pointed out – but there to see) and chilling.

Earlier in the season, we saw their production of Silent Sky, a Lauren Gunderson play about the first female computers/astronomers at Harvard. I’d seen the play before, and thought that City Lights did a very good job with it.

We’re already signed up for their entire season next year.

Silicon Valley Shakespeare has two plays in rep at Sanborn Park in Saratoga through August: Macbeth and The White Snake. Their Macbeth was much crisper than OSF’s – we also got to see it from the front row, unlike our seats in Ashland! We haven’t seen The White Snake yet, but will this weekend – it’s an adaptation of a Chinese tale.

Earlier in the season, we saw SVS’s free “Shakespeare in the Park” production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it was a lot of fun.

Again, we plan to go to their season next year – but they won’t be selling tickets for a few months.

Lyric Theatre started out as the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of San Jose, and they still do at least one G&S play every year. This summer, their “Discovery Series” presented the very first G&S, Thespis; it posed a special challenge because the original music was lost a century ago!

Lyric’s productions feature huge casts, wonderful costumes, and great music – we always have a good time there, and we’ve bought next season already.

I know 3 Below as the home of ComedySportz, but they show movies and put on other shows, too. We saw Disenchanted, a musical purporting to tell the truth about the Disney princesses – it was an enjoyable evening, and the songs were well-crafted.

And that’s the summer theatre report – so far!