Joyce and I took a dash south last week--down to Staunton (pronounced STAN-tun), Virginia, home of the American Shakespeare Center and their amazing replica of London's long-gone Blackfriars Theater.
Let's back up a moment ...
The original Blackfriars included any number of features from the Globe (trap doors, balconies, entrances at Right and Left, etc.), but it also had candlelight--softer lighting effects.
|Blackfriars in Staunton|
We've seen two shows there--Titus Andronicus and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Both are rarely performed, thus: the dash to Virginia last week.
It's the story of a couple of cousins (the "kinsmen" of the title) who are great friends, great warriors. But ... they fall in love with the same woman (at first sight, of course!), and that divides them and introduces the horrible moral quandary at the heart of the play. The kinsmen are captives, and Theseus (yes, that one!) declares that one may marry the woman; the other must die; she must choose. (And she likes them both.)
There's not much of a subplot. The jailer's daughter falls for one of the kinsmen--an impossible love because of their differences in rank, so she goes mad until her loved ones figure a way to convince her that her former boyfriend (who shares her rank) is in fact the kinsman she has fallen for.
The play--like others of Shakespeare's later career (Cymbeline, for example)--features some "greatest hits" from his earlier work--characters in disguise, a mad scene (Kinsmen's mad scene makes Ophelia's look like a middle-school snit), love at first sight (common in the comedies), and so on. And the poetry is not all that memorable but serviceable.
At one point, one of the kinsmen--Arcite--it talking to the audience and says this:
Such a vengeance
That, were I old and wicked, all my sins
Could never plucke upon me.
At that very point, the actor was downstage, looking right at me as he spoke the lines (we were in the front row)--and indicated to the rest of the audience with his body language that it was I he was using for an example. Lots of mirth. I gave him a thumbs up. All in good fun, being called "old and wicked," right? (How did he know?)
It's always a great experience, seeing a play at Blackfriars. The cast was strong, the play moving, the production lots of fun--even though the story ends on a dark note. Just like life itself.