Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stratford Sundries, 2

Tuesday, 6 p.m.

1. We're just back from seeing our first show of our week--a late Restoration comedy (The Beaux' Stratagem) by George Farquhar (1677-1707)--and it was wonderful. He finished writing the play while dying of TB. (So what's our excuse?) It deals with con artists, highwaymen, frustrations of all sorts (a very unhappy marriage), and--no surprise (it's a comedy!)--the triumph of love. But it also deals frankly with social class, with divorce (unthinkable!), with English inheritance laws, and other issues.
scene from The Beaux' Stratagem
The cast comprised many of Stratford's A-Team: Colm Feore (whom we'll see as King Lear later in the week), Lucy Peacock (who's played major roles here for years), Mike Shara (a young actor with great comic talents), Martha Henry (who's in her 40th season here!), Robert King ... and quite a few others. They found every quark of humor and heart in the play--without, well, chewing the scenery.

Tonight ... it's Shakespeare's King John ...

2. We had one of our "normal" days here otherwise. I was up early to head to the coffee shop to do some reading for a book I'm reviewing; Joyce joined me for a while (she's reading a new book about Salinger), then headed out to visit a few of her favorite, uh, commercial venues. We met later in the morning at another of our favorite coffee shops, where we both did some more reading and where I worked on the doggerel I'll post on Facebook tomorrow. Then ... back to our hotel room for lunch--a fruit-and-yogurt parfait we'd bought in a shop + some homemade sourdough bread I'd brought along to munch on. After lunch, I wrote and zapped a review to Kirkus Reviews; then we headed off on a fairly long walk (about a mile) to the Festival Theater, the largest venue, where we saw what I just wrote about in #1.

Afterwards, a brisk walk back to town, where we found--to our alarm! dismay!--that our favorite post-matinee restaurant, The York Street Kitchen on Erie (long story about the name), a wonderful natural-foods place, is now closing at 5 p.m. except on the weekends. Oh no! (We always ate our little suppers there.) Not to worry: Just a few doors down Erie we found The County Food Co., a small place with a great little menu of well prepared items. We munched happily, then headed back to the room before walking down to the Tom Patterson theater (arena style) to see King John at 8 p.m.
County Food Co.
3. Wednesday, 11:15 a.m.

King John is not one of the Bard's better--or frequently performed--plays. Last night I saw it for only the second time--and with a very strong cast. It's a play about the brother of the late Richard I (Richard the Lionheart)--about John's last days. It's a play about the exigencies of war--about why men fight--and what they will do (anything!) to gain or retain or regain power. Family, children, marriage, loyalties of all sorts--all re-sort themselves in time of war. The are grim moments--a boy threatened with having his eyes burned out, a head of a vanquished foe brought out on stage, a boy dying after what he'd hoped would be a leap to safety, and on and on. One of our Stratford favorites--Graham Abbey--played Philip the Bastard (and retained his status as a favorite!)--and principal parts also by other favorites, Tom McCamus (the King) and Seanna McKenna (Constance, mother to the doomed boy).

The production--arena style--also employed a lot of Elizabethan devices: candlelight (though with a bit of aid from Edison), Elizabethan costumes (instead of the medieval period, when the play took place), use of a balcony, very few props.

Among the most depressing things about this dark show: Our hostile, violent species has not changed much, just what we wear, our vocabulary, what we hold in our hands, what we employ to kill others who have what we want ...

Tom McCamus & Seanna McKenna

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