'Wild Oats' at Southern Oregon University

There are no profundities in John O'Keeffe's 18th-century comedy, "Wild Oats," says Dennis Smith, a theater professor at Southern Oregon University.

"It makes fun of British Restoration plays and the actors of the era," Smith says. "The story's about an itinerate actor, and it's full of mistaken identities. The action is fast-paced enough to make the play almost a farce."

Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 13-15, and Thursday through Sunday, May 20-23, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23.

Smith retires at the end of this academic year. He had several good reasons for choosing "Wild Oats" as his last directing project at SOU.

"I picked it up because I know the play, and it appeals to me," Smith says. "It can be quite liberating for actors because it offers a broader freedom of expression than a contemporary, naturalistic style. There are recognizable archetypes, such as villainous villains, heroic heroes and virtuous damsels."

O'Keeffe's comedy was first produced in 1791, and Smith and SOU's Department of Performing Arts are presenting the play in a straightforward way, as if they were a British acting company at the turn of the century.

"We're staying true to the period," Smith says. "This is a play that written strictly for the fun of it."

Restoration comedy lampoons the social conventions and cultures of London from the late 1600s to the early 1700s.

"This one comes in at the end of the era," Smith says. "It's set in Hampshire and it's more about the idiosyncrasies of country folk, though there is reference to life in London."

Smith has trained young actors at SOU for 25 years.

"If we're not careful, we can easily take ourselves too seriously," he says.

The SOU cast includes Tim Homsley as Jack Rover, an actor who always stays in character; Justin Cowan as Sir George Thunder, a volatile admiral; Danielle Chaves as Lady Amaranth, the personification of Quaker mores; and Isaac Kosydar as Ephraim Smooth.

Scene, costumes, sound and lighting are designed by students from the department: Daniel Haskett, Katherine Nowacki, Steven Sagert II and Bridget Carlson, respectively. Stage manager is Karen Kuran.

Tickets cost $20, $17 for seniors, $5 for students and available at the door or by calling 541-552-6348. More information is available at sou.edu/theatre.

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