The Review: St. Ann’s Oklahoma!
By Antonio M.
Walking into St. Ann’s Warehouse, I was immediately taken by the rows of beautiful brightly colored steamers hanging between the lights and the stage. As I took in this simple plywood barn set, (Set Design by Laura Jellnek) I could see a faint painting on the far wall of a field or a farm and felt excited to experience Daniel Fish’s wonderful production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. I settled into my seat noticing the steaming crock pots on the tables, the big mixing bowl, boxes of cornbread mix and thinking this is quite the cozy little environment to spend the evening. Then I looked behind me at the wall covered with gun racks filled with rifles and I realized that anything was possible.
I was completely captivated by this amazing cast. Curly, (Damon Daunno) is wearing chaps not to please the audience but for his own pleasure. Aunt Eller, (Mary Testa) is filled with wisdom and is not afraid to mock the young with sarcasm and wit. Ado Annie, (Ali Stoker) has agency, passion and a strong point of view. Laurey (Rebecca Naomi Jones) is a creature of desire fighting for her opportunity to be self actualized. And Jud, (Patrick Vaill) is obsessed, desperate and aching to be loved.
It was all there in the script and music in 1943. These pioneers of the Indian territory, soon to become Oklahoma, at the beginning of the 20th century created their own destiny. They sacrificed to survive but now as this new state will be incorporated into the United States, everything will change. It appears this future has created some psychological conflicts in this community. Daniel Fish has found such nuance in every line, song and relationship. The characters are searching for how they must change themselves if they want to thrive in this new state and new century. The music, (Orchestrations and Arrangements by Daniel Kluger, Music Direction by Nathan Koci) supports the exploration and the small band seems so in tune with every performer.
The lighting designed by Scott Zielinski, goes from bright to green to complete blackouts and helps illuminate the anxiety that has overwhelmed this small community. The scene of Jud’s death is completely new, disturbing and feels inevitable. After hoping for a new life with Laurie and working so hard to win the woman of his dreams, the rejection is just too painful for him to bear. With Curly and Jud, the blackout is broken by the video of that very scene (Projections Designer Joshua Thorson) projected most dynamically on the wall and the close-up shot reveal so much. There are no heroes and no villains in Oklahoma!, just humanity in many shades of grey.