Regional Theater Review: A WRINKLE IN TIME (Oregon Shakespeare Festival)

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by Joel Beers on August 28, 2014

in Theater-Regional

LOST IN SPECTACULAR SPACE

It’s easy to get lost during the world premiere production of A Wrinkle in Time, particularly if you’re not familiar with the classic science fiction/fantasy novel it’s based upon. Heady concepts like tesseracts and bending the time and space continuum fly by; there are journeys to bizarre worlds populated by equally bizarre creatures; and characters called Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which are actually enormous centaurs from another planet posing as human beings.

And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

A WRINKLE IN TIME at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Judith-Marie Bergan, Daniel T. Parker, Kate Hurster, Sara Bruner, Alejandra Escalante.

But while this new adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1961 book, courtesy of adaptor and director Tracy Young, hurls so much at the audience that it’s tough at times to keep track of what’s going on, her inventive, creative staging always makes the ride, if bumpy at times, a certifiable trip to watch.

A WRINKLE IN TIME at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Joe Wegner, U. Jonathan Toppo.

Young’s chief conceit in the adaptation is to frame it around members of the ensemble holding copies of the book, taking turns reading short passages and then basically enacting the play. Whether that’s necessary for a clear telling of an already complicated tale is debatable, but the result is clear: This is an adaptation that is in love with its source material and it ultimately becomes as much an examination of how literature sticks to the soul of its readers as it is a highly visual, frenetic play.

A WRINKLE IN TIME at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Daniel T. Parker, Mark Bedard, Alejandra Escalante.

This is the coming-of-age story of a nerdish, lonely teen-age girl, Meg Murray (a dynamic Alejandra Escalante), recruited into a galaxy-spanning quest to rescue her father. He disappeared several years ago in the midst of a mysterious government mission which dealt somehow with the growing menace to the universe by a presence called the Black Thing. Located on Camazota, the Black Thing seems to be an Orwellian-like totalitarian Groupthink Unimind. Meg, her brother Charles Murray (a sparkling Sara Bruner), and her newfound friend Calvin O’Keefe (Joe Wegner) battle valiantly against apparently overwhelming odds. While this reviewer isn’t entirely sure how they do it, no one who champions non-conformity in the midst of blind allegiance to the status quo will be disappointed.

A WRINKLE IN TIME at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Alejandra Escalante, Sara Bruner, Jeremy Thompson, Joe Wegner.

Ample credit goes to Young’s designers, most notably video designer Shawn Sagady, puppet designer Lynn Jeffries, and scenic designer Christopher Acebo, who somehow manages to pull off a set that captures an early 1960s American home along with several different planets.

While Young’s playful, yet also grandiose, adaptation may not be the most articulate conception of Engle’s novel to the uninitiated, the visuals are spectacular. This Wrinkle in Time may not always be clear, but it’s never boring.

photos by Jenny Graham

A Wrinkle in Time
Angus Bowmer Theatre
Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR
scheduled to end on November 1, 2014
for tickets, call 800.219.8161 or visit www.osfashland.org

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fred Cochran September 27, 2014 at 11:30 pm

I talked a group of 6 into OSF’s production of “A Wrinkle in Time” on the evening of September 25, 2014. This proved to be a horrible mistake. A group of retired school teachers, we were all familiar with the book, and in fact had taught it to students from 5th to 8th grade level. This adaptation had little to do with the book! In fact even though we were very familiar with the storyline we all found it nearly impossible to follow the manic presentation on stage. The rather impressive special effects, and the efforts and in some cases the talent of the players were completely wasted in this mess. We couldn’t help but wonder if they were embarrassed by what they had to do on stage, yelling, screeching, and running amok for much of the time. Two of our group had to be woken up at the end of the play. If we were to pay based on value, we would ask for much of our money back. By the way, we have been coming and experiencing OSF for years and have always been impressed with the quality of the performances we have seen, up to and including the “Cocoanuts” production we saw on the same stage the previous night. What a disappointment.

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