Review Archive

In addition to collecting such reviews as I post directly to this site, I’m hoping (in time) to repost many of the reviews from my columns in Dragon, Amazing Stories, and elsewhere.  Posts of older material will be backdated to reflect the original publication date of the review in question.

The text of the reviews will appear exactly as it was originally published.  Given the age of much of this material, however, I’m omitting the price and ISBN information that appeared in the original columns.  One other note about the Dragon reviews: for the first year or two, the review column’s title in the magazine was sometimes “The Role of Books” and sometimes “Off the Shelf”.  For purposes of consistency, I’ll be tagging all of these reviews as “role of books”.

Ashland 2017: The Merry Wives of Windsor

When the high-powered rock musical numbers are the strongest elements of your show, you don’t usually have a problem…unless the show isn’t actually a musical.

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Ashland 2017: Off the Rails

The advance descriptions of Off the Rails stress three points: the author is Native American, the script loosely adapts Shakespeare’s often-criticized “problem” play, Measure for Measure, and the story’s major concern involves boarding schools that Native American children were forced to attend in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of these is inaccurate, or at …

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Ashland 2017: Henry IV, Part I

Even with a (first-rate) understudy playing Falstaff, this Henry IV Part I may be the single most purely watchable history play I’ve seen in Ashland. And that takes in a lot of territory.

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Ashland 2017: The Odyssey

The annual pilgrimage to Ashland began this year with an epic production (3 hours 20 minutes, just as promised in the playbill) of The Odyssey, adapted from the Robert Fitzgerald translation by director Mary Zimmerman.  I can’t comment just now on the technical or literary quality of the adaptation — though I will be looking in …

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Summer Movie Report: Wonder Woman Beats Mummy Going Away

Herewith a quick take on my two most recent summer-movie visits: Wonder Woman is very, very good — and manages to be so by mostly being a World War I movie rather than a superhero movie.  I am, of course, much too young to have living memories of the WWI period, but one of my …

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Ashland 2016: The Winter’s Tale

Winter’s Tale has always been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.  I look at its peculiar structure as a challenge rather than an obstacle, and when it’s well-executed, the finale involving Hermione’s “statue” strikes me as one of the most dramatically satisfying scenes in all Shakespeare.  And of course there’s that famous stage direction…. I’ve …

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Ashland 2016: Twelfth Night

Ninety-nine percent of this year’s production of Twelfth Night at OSF is sheer genius.  The set design for its nominal 1930s Hollywood transposition is clever in all the right ways, nearly all the performances are exceptional, and the comic swordfight between Sir Andrew and Viola-as-Cesario gets the single funniest execution I’ve seen in the 40+ …

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Ashland 2016: Yeomen of the Guard

If you are a Gilbert & Sullivan purist, you may want to steer clear of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s current incarnation of Yeomen of the Guard — it is, I’m advised by the G&S purists in our tour group, a sufficiently free adaptation that they might as well have called it something else.  (Possibly Boys …

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It’s Aliiiive!!! (and reading)

And so, after a much-too-long hiatus, we return — with, I hope, rather more frequent updating in the weeks and months to come.  At the very least, I anticipate regular posts restoring the lyric archive from the old SFF Net site, and I also want to continue gradually importing the considerable file of reviews from …

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Ashland 2015: Shakespeare, Sweat, and Singing

Five plays in three days — that’s the schedule for my annual visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, hosted by the Whitman College alumni office (which books the rooms and the tickets) and curated by our designated Whitman English professor (who picks the plays).  This latter job is a perennial challenge, as there are usually …

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