This afternoon I returned home from a three-day trek to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, which is just north of the California border on Interstate 5. What a magnificent trip it was.
I was a driver and chaperone on the trip for the theatre department at my younger son’s high school. There were pleasures enough in that, but what I want to emphasize here is the quality of the plays we saw.
First was a matinee performance of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, which I must admit I was ho-hum about seeing. But this performance was vivacious and entertaining, sweeping me up in the story and winning over the audience with its delightful characterization of life, class and romance in 19th Century England.
That was followed by a powerhouse evening performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a classic part of the Tennessee Williams canon. His Glass Menagerie is one of my favorites, and I had not previously seen Cat performed live. It was a knockout, bringing to heartbreaking life a dysfunctional 1950s family in the American South tormented by cancer, alcoholism and greed.
We rounded out the visit with a matinee yesterday of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, given a modern-day setting and a hip-hop treatment for the play-within-the-play.
Each play was outstanding. Seeing three of them within such a short span was a new to me, and it enhanced the experience.
If you’re within striking distance of Ashland — and anyone from Seattle to San Francisco and Spokane to Reno qualifies — get thee there at first opportunity.