Converted by same-sex “Oklahoma”

A good adaptation can change your mind about a play.

To put a twist on the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival retooled “Oklahoma” as a queer romance featuring multiple gay, transgender, and gender-nonconforming characters.

Pairing
Bobbi Charlton and Tatiana Wechsler as Aunt Eller and Curly McLain

I won’t be able to watch straight “Oklahoma” ever again. The same-sex interpretation makes a lot of sense – barely any of the original text had to be changed to fit the f/f and m/m romances. In some cases, the original jokes become even funnier; one notable scene has the townsfolk shocked to learn Gertie Cummings married a MAN. Director Bill Rauch exhibits a keen sense of humor, advising actors to lean into the pronoun changes and other absurdities.

By abandoning historical accuracy, OSF’s production explores a fantastical world where same-sex attraction is a nonissue. This decision makes the now-homophobic Jud all the more frightening. His handsiness with both Laurie and Curly (and each woman’s subsequent discomfort), along with his description of burning down a farm after catching two girls together, threatens the accepting idyll of the Oklahoman townsfolk.

Before this, I hated “Oklahoma.” I scorned the original film, unimpressed by the supposedly “groundbreaking” musical.

I enjoyed the 5th Avenue Theatre’s 2012 attempt more, but that production still had problems. While casting a black man as Jud gave new energy to the material, Jud’s murder at Curly’s hands added a bleak ending to the thin story.

OSF’s “Oklahoma” strikes a balance: it retains the perky innocence of the original without leaning away from the horror angry men can bring. In fact, the same-sex interpretation boosts a fairly weak script, strengthening a once-tired classic for years to come.

“The world is changing,” cowgirl Curly says in the second act, “and we gotta change with it.”

I couldn’t agree more, so today I switch teams.

I’m Pro-klahoma and proud.

 

(You can catch “Oklahoma” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland Oregon now until October 27.)

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Converted by same-sex “Oklahoma”

  1. I love Oklahoma. I saw it at Central Piedmont Community College last semester. It has incredible songs. When I went to Oklahoma, I was wondering if I was going to be seeing any of the same actor or actresses I had previously seen at CPCC years ago and I did see two of the same ones. CPCC knows how to do well-done productions without feeling like community college productions- they combine students with professionals with faculty members with the community- that is one of the biggest strengths of CPCC

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s