With the snow melting on peaks around the Rogue River Valley, it's time for a return to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where the 1989 season has opened with four plays examining personal conflict.
Although it will be another three months before the festival opens its outdoor Elizabethan stage, the two indoor theaters are presenting Arthur Miller's "All My Sons," Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac," C.P. Taylor's "And a Nightingale Sang . . ." and Januscz Glowacki's "Hunting Cockroaches."The most impressive must be "Cyrano." It's got tender love scenes and flashy swordplay, lightning wit and grisly battles. But most of all, it's got Henry Woronicz in the title role, who gives a daring, dangerous Cyrano, whose sensitive side reveals a broken-hearted poet. At one instant, he is the Gascon warrior with "panache." In another, he is a timid little boy who is ashamed of his overgrown nose.
Marco Barricelli and Michelle Morain give a delicious warmth to the roles of the lovers Christian and Roxanne, and Mark Murphey brings the villainous Count de Guiche to the very brink of darkness without sacrificing anything in credibility.
James Edmondson's direction is right on mark, whether the moment calls for a kiss or a killing.
In "All My Sons," Miller examines the need for ethics over greed by examining two families in crisis following the end of World War II. Joe Keller, played powerfully by Richard Elmore, owns a plant that turned out some defective airplane engine parts that eventually killed 21 American pilots.
He and his foreman both were sent to prison for passing the defective parts along, but Joe got out on appeal and has attempted to return to a normal life. A complicating factor is that Joe's son, who was reported missing in action, had planned to marry his foreman's daughter until the scandal broke.
Joe's remaining son, Chris, is planning to marry the same girl, and the flowering of their relationship has reopened wounds.
Cristine McMurdo-Wallis plays Joe's emotionally scarred wife, who refuses to accept her elder son's death; Michelle Morain brings an understated style to the pivotal role of the girlfriend; and Mark Murphey runs the range from utter joy to unbearable anguish as Chris. Philip Killian directs.
World War II is also the basis for action in "And a Nightingale Sang. . . ." This time the scene is Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, where German bombs drop outside while the Stott family deals with emotional bombs of their own inside.
The story centers around Helen, a pleasant but plain woman in her late 20s who has a slight limp. Much to her surprise, she finds love in the arms of a soldier. Then she discovers he's involved with someone else. This rather mundane plot is spiced by the antics of Helen's parents, grandfather and sister - a strange lot to say the least.
Through the chaos of war and an unsteady home life, Helen holds herself steady and eventually overcomes her setbacks to emerge a stronger person.
Jeanne Paulsen's performance as Helen is one of the jewels at Ashland this season, and the audience is clearly won over by her spirit.
The fourth offering at Ashland, "Hunting Cockroaches," is also the only one staged inside the tiny Black Swan Theatre. It centers on two Polish immigrants as they attempt to adjust to life in America as represented by their cockroach-infested apartment in New York.
Anka and Janek, played by Robynn Rodriguez and Robert Lisell-Frank, face problems in the new world. Her accent keeps her from finding an acting job; he's a struggling playwright.
But they also face a variety of nightmarish "roaches" that crawl out from under the bed. These include a bag lady, a censor, an immigration officer and Polish secret police agents - played in turn by Philip Davidson, JoAnn Johnson and Buzz Fraser. Pat Patton is the director.