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BWW Review: SNOW IN MIDSUMMER at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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The production is available to stream through May 29.

BWW Review: SNOW IN MIDSUMMER at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Justice favors the rich and powerful, but, eventually, the truth will out. These two maxims are at the center of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's SNOW IN MIDSUMMER, which had its U.S. premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2018 and is now being offered as a streaming production through OSF's digital platform, O! This big, bold play pits individual desires against the collective good, exploring the nature of injustice, the systems that perpetuate it, and the lengths to which we're willing to go to protect ourselves and the people we love.

Based on The Injustice to Dou Yi That Moved Heaven and Earth, a 13th-century Chinese drama by Guan Hanqing, SNOW IN MIDSUMMER takes place in the modern day in a small town that has been in a drought ever since Dou Yi (played by Jessica Ko) was executed for a murder she didn't commit. Three years after the execution, Tianyun (Amy Kim Waschke), a businesswoman who grew up in the area, returns with her daughter (Olivia Pham) to purchase the local artificial flower manufacturing facilities. When a swarm of locusts descends and Dou Yi's ghost begins speaking through the young girl, the town is forced to reckon with its past.

Like OSF's first digital offering, MANAHATTA, SNOW IN MIDSUMMER was filmed during the 2018 season and not with the intention to be streamed, so it doesn't have all of the fancy camera work or the audio quality of made-for-streaming productions. But also like MANAHATTA, this play shows that you don't need all of that. As Dou Yi, Ko's anger explodes off the stage and through the screen, as does the anguish of various characters when previously concealed truths come to light.

The raw emotion, along with Cowhig's intricately woven story, had me on the edge of my seat, wondering not only how it would all turn out but also how I would behave in the same circumstances. All of the characters at some point are forced to choose between their own best interest and the interests of others, and Cowhig has done a fantastic job of making the situations and characters complex enough that, with perhaps a few exceptions, the answers are far from black and white. The actors inhabit this gray space masterfully, especially the charismatic Daisuke Tsuji, who plays Handsome Zhang, the son of the murdered man.

And just because the show wasn't filmed for streaming doesn't mean it's not stunning. The work of the design team -- Laura Jellinek, Helen Q. Huang, Jane Cox, and Paul James Prendergast -- lives up to OSF's extremely high standards. Having been in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, I could easily imagine how striking the live experience would have been. I can't describe how much I'm looking forward to sitting in a Bowmer audience once again.

SNOW IN MIDSUMMER is available through May 29. At $15, it's one of the best streaming options out there.

More details and tickets here: https://www.osfashland.org/productions/2021-digital-plays/d-snow-in-midsummer

Photo credit: Jenny Graham


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