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'Shirley Valentine' at Oregon Stage Works

Actress Helena de Crespo returns to Oregon Stage Works in "Shirley Valentine," a joyful and moving one-woman comedy by Willy Russell. The play will open at 8 p.m. Friday, June 12, at Oregon Stage Works, 191 A St., Ashland.

"Shirley Valentine" premiered in 1986. It tells the story of a stifled Liverpool housewife Shirley Bradshaw-Valentine. She is estranged from her two grown children. Her marriage is stale. Her life, once passionate and adventurous, has grown so monotonous that she talks to the wall while sipping a glass of wine and making her husband Joe's "chips 'n' egg" dinners.

When her friend Jane wins an all-expenses-paid vacation for two, she invites Shirley to join her. With a burst of her old courage and a seven-word note — "Gone to Greece, back in two weeks" — Shirley's adventure in self-transformation begins.

"Shirley Valentine" unfolds as a monologue by Shirley before and after her life-transforming holiday in Greece. Though the artistry of de Crespo, we meet all the play's characters, including Shirley; her bad-tempered husband, Joe; her friend Jane; and Costas, the Greek waiter she falls for.

De Crespo trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and has performed all over the world in theater, television and film. She received the Ondra award for her contribution to Latin American theater and has won multiple awards in the United Kingdom for her work. De Crespo was last seen at OSW in Alan Bennett's "Talking Heads."

Russell, known for his gutsy stories of women reclaiming their lives, also wrote "Educating Rita," which the playwright later adapted for the screen.

"Shirley Valentine" had long runs in London and on Broadway — marking Russell's Broadway debut — and received the Theatre World Award, the Olivier Award for Best Comedy of the Year, the 1989 Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Play.

The Broadway production starred Pauline Collins who reprised her role as Shirley in Russell's 1989 film adaptation of the play.

Don I. Horn, director and producer of Portland's triangle productions, directs the play. Kristin Munn is the stage manager.

"Shirley Valentine" will play at 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays and at 2 p.m. Sundays from June 12 through July 13. There will be a special general admission price of $15. Tickets for students (with a student ID) are $12, with a $10 student rush.

Two benefit performances, held at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, June 10 and 11, will support OSW's Ashland Children's Theatre's Scholarship Fund. Benefit tickets are $15.

Tickets are available online at oregonstageworks.org, at the door and by calling 482-2334.

Shirley Valentine (Helena de Crespo) contemplates her life in the comedy 'Shirley Valentine' at Oregon Stage Works. - Photo by Sue Cowper