at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Gibraltar by Octavio Solis
The components of this OSF-commissioned play are outstanding. The stories have depth and subtilty. The acting performances in the intimate New Theater are world-class wonderful. The technical elements – set design, costumes, lighting – range from flawless to inspired.
I left the performance feeling that it was my fault that the play didn’t come together in my mind.
I replayed the scenes given by Judith-Marie Bergan (Dot) whose her Alzheimer-damaged character stole one of the three major vignettes. Surely the strength of that class acting forwarded a grand meaning for the overall play.
I couldn’t watch parts of the final scene of the Julie Oda (Sharon)/ U. Jonathan Toppo (Taylor) story. The writing, acting, and directing together created a too-tense situation for the small stage right in front of me. Amazing theater. Really.
The first love story starring Kevin Kenerly (Steven) and Dee Maaske (Francesca) was breathtakingly intense and satisfyingly bitter-sweet.
The play’s protagonists, Vilma Silva (Amy) and Rene Millan (Palo) were both engaging and physically beautiful. Their presence was very pleasant even when the on-stage action was uncomfortable. They acted like the script had tremendous meaning and they must strive to do justice to the playwright.
Even the format of the play is one I enjoy. I love it when a theme is shown from several different perspectives. The writer has all of these balls in the air. At the end the juggling stops and the point of the play is brilliantly brought together.
The problem for me, though, is that nothing came together at the end of Gibraltar. The individual scenes remain outstanding bits of acting, but they don’t make a cohesive quilt. I didn’t and don’t understand the simplest things that the author gives us.
The title “Gibraltar” is a good example of the play’s escape from my comprehension. It’s mentioned in dialogue as a setting for a vacation (honeymoon?) of the lead Amy and the name of a painting she is/was working on. The worded is loaded with geographic metaphors. Yet, I don’t think its symbolism was used. Or, if it was, nothing reached my consciousness. In my mind, no rock or straight or crossroads ties to the Meaning of the Play. Of course, I have the annoying feeling that “Gibraltar” is supposed to have meaning. It’s just that I am too stupid to understand the significance of the title.
The whole structure of the play similarly escapes me. Leaving the theater I felt the same inadequacy as I did in high school English class when the teacher would quiz us about the symbolism of whatever masterpiece we had just read. I didn’t – and don’t – see a consistent coherent connection among the individually gripping scenes. I didn’t – and don’t – understand what Amy is about or even if Palo is touchable in flesh and blood.
The play is well-crafted with rich language. It’s a small step from admiring that talent to saying that the play and production are masterpieces. The lack of revelatory understanding must be my own.
But, I have thought about this play for several days. Meditated on what I missed. Compared notes with others. Read the rave review in traditionally Ashland-hostile San Francisco Chronicle .
The sad truth is that Gibraltar is not a good work. At least not yet, in its first incarnation. Because the scenes are so well done, we the audience want and try to save the play. But, that is something the writer needs to do.
Nevertheless, I whole-heartedly recommend seeing Gibraltar. All of its three rating stars are due to the production.
Ozdachs rating *** out of ***** .