The Utah Shakespearean Festival is Cedar City’s biggest draw for tourists. The festival is internationally renowned, and produces some of the highest quality theater in the state. Actors from across the country come to the festival; large profits allow for high-quality design for each show. For student discounts on tickets, call 1-800-PLAYTIX. Here are reviews of each show this season, in order from most to least worthy of your time and money.
Taming of the Shrew
Jane Page, the only female director of the season, presented a non-Shakespear-y interpretation of Taming of the Shrew. Page set the play’s time period to the forties, which allowed for the already raunchy dialogue to be interpreted as even raunchier. The time period also made the Italian male characters fun, changing them into stereotypical forties gangster or a Don Johnson look-a-likes, which added an entirely new dimension to these characters.
One prevalent complaint of this play is that promoted is the idea that women are about as useful as cattle. However, the final monologue in which Katharine states that a wife should be a slave to her husband should not necessarily be interpreted as a claim about women’s use or usefulness, and in Page’s production it wasn’t. The play was a heightened discussion on reciprocation in relationships, which felt very applicable for today.
On a lighter note, this show was visually pleasing. The costumes allowed for a great range of motion, the set was flexible and inventive, and the actors weren’t too bad to look at either.
Two Gentlemen of Verona
This show was by far the most humorous at the festival this season. Brian Vaughn, one of the most critically acclaimed actors to frequent the festival, was given one of the funniest roles Shakespeare ever wrote, and he also had a dog to play off of. Yes, a real dog. This trifecta created some of the most hilarious physical comedy that has shown at the festival in quite a while.
The story is also the most applicable to college students, because similar plots are seen everywhere you look on campus. The premise revolves around four young people who switch back and forth, indecisive about whom they really love. Girls go to great lengths to lead on their poor suitors. Take away the petticoats and titles of nobility and you might as well be looking at a group of freshmen. These characters just have a broader vocabulary.
The most outstanding directorial trait of this show is the detail work — there are small moments that are not in the script at all, but really make the show worth watching. However, some scenes were cut to make the show shorter, but this wasn’t really necessary. Some of the best comedy in the script was omitted for the sake of time.
Cyrano de Bergerac
If you’re going to commit to watching Cyrano de Bergerac, you’ll just have to accept that that script will be long and wordy. There’s no way to get around it. At times it will feel endless. Every once in a while, there’s a line of dialogue that will send your young mind into rapture, but then there will be a lull where it’s either just boring or awkward. This is our punishment for translating the script from the original French.
The standout aspect of this show is that Brian Vaughn plays Cyrano and Melinda Pfudstein plays his love interest Roxane. The two actors are married in the real world, and are also some of the festival’s wonderful stock actors. They both turn out an absolutely fantastic performance. As for the ensemble, it’s catch and go. Some of the supporting actors play their roles brilliantly, and others are a disappointment.
There were directorial aspects of the show that were perhaps good ideas originally, but wound up just being awkward. The director had the poor actors freezing in motion with swords up in the air and a vast outpouring of testosterone at the end of act four with no transition to the next act, which takes place in a nunnery. Parts of it just didn’t work.
School For Wives
The most interesting thing about this particular production was that they hired a house translator, which really worked for the actors. Translating Moliere from the original French without adulterating his intention is notoriously difficult, but this translator tossed that stigma to the wind and did what they wanted with the script. The surprising part was that by letting go of some of the rules of translation, the story became a better parallel to the original French. The rhyming is kind of hard to get used to, but you won’t even notice it by intermission.
This show is meant to be funny. But if you start thinking about the characters too much, it really becomes tragic. All of these people are so disillusioned and cruel to each other. However, there are plenty of things to distract you from their callous motivations. The costumes are lovely, the supporting cast is wonderfully ludicrous, and the blocking is enough to keep even those with the shortest of attention spans interested.
Fiddler on the Roof
The tragedy about this musical is that the movie was so popular; it almost eliminates any real need for the stage production to be performed. Unless the director has a truly original angle with which to approach the script, the production is often just a shadow of the movie.
Unfortunately, this production brings very few original ideas to the table. Of course, it’s nice to see a well-executed musical every now and then, but it’s hard when you’ve most likely already seen this particular script before, and you know just how
the story is going to end.
In the past, most of the Festival’s musicals have been truly immaculate, from curtain to curtain. This production only had one spotless number, and that was at the very beginning. To be honest, my hopes were high but the rest of the numbers were just disappointing. But five minutes of perfection is better than nothing.
The casting of this show was particularly inconsistent. Some of the actors (namely Iago, Cassio, and Desdemona) were played as actual human beings, while others (Othello and Emilia) were over-acted in comparison.
In addition, the costuming was particularly disappointing. The designer intended to incorporate modern pieces to make the actors more comfortable, but the idea only made it as far as leather Levis instead of period-appropriate britches. Other than that, almost all of the costume pieces were made in house, and appropriate to the time in which the action was set. It came across as cheap, which is just silly for a festival that has to bring in $6.5 million just to break even.
The saving quality of this show is that it dramatically picks up after intermission. That’s when the real quality violence and drama begins.
The Greenshow is basically an appetizer to any show performed in the Adams Theater, which is outdoors. The players are traditionally all SUU theater students or recent graduates, and the audience is always forced into participating.
At this point, The Greenshow has become a sort of handout to SUU’s theater department. It isn’t necessary, it doesn’t compliment the real production, and it doesn’t bring in any money. It is great for children, but sitting on the lawn or standing to watch it is in general just uncomfortable.