Sunday, October 12, 2014
Sunday Sundries, 19
1. We saw Gone Girl last week. I'd not read the book, though I heard some folks near us in the theater talking about how they had read it--so I began the viewing by feeling inferior. That's okay; I'm used to that. I found myself, for the most part, not really caring about anyone in the film--maybe Ben Affleck's sister, who seemed to have some sort of moral core. I liked Ben, though he seemed, for an English teacher, a bit buff (I know: Batman is coming). I also never saw him grading any papers, so I knew this was fiction! The best thing about it (well, maybe not the best but something I could relate to): the film's portrayal of our obsessive media and how they fill our airwaves with crap, 24/7. News channels look around to see what the most degraded and depraved people in the area are doing--and put them on TV. Great.
2. Stoddard's Frozen Custard (in nearby Kent, Ohio) closes for the season today (I think), so we went for the final time earlier this week. I was hoping for white chocolate-macadamia nut, but ... no luck. Had to go with a vanilla waffle cone (large). We ate our cones outside at one of the tables--not inside the car: The last time we'd done that (cones-in-the-car) I'd had an "accident," one that required an interior car wash, which, as you no doubt know (especially if you've been to Stoddard's) is not cheap. I will not tell you what Joyce had--I learned in Adams Elementary School not to "squeal" (that was our word) on a friend, and Joyce, of course, is my finest friend ... Back in our foolish youth we used to go there almost every night in the summer (how did we afford that?)--and my waistline expanded impressively. We went only three times this season--felt guilty each time ... afterwards. During the Consumption ... just moans of pleasure.
3. In March 1990, I directed Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602) at Aurora High School (Aurora, Ohio)--getting great help from all kinds of people along the way, especially Andy Kmetz and Gary Brookhart, talented colleagues who added so much to the show--music, dancing, scenery. Anyway, for that reason alone--my having done the show with a wonderful cast--Merry Wives has become a special show for me. At the time we did it, I'd never seen a production, but, a few years afterwards, some parents and I drove many of the cast members to Washington, D.C., where we watched a great version at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Joyce and I saw another at Stratford, Ont., a couple of years ago--and didn't like it. And just this past Friday we saw another at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, and we did something we have only very rarely done in our theater-going years: We left at intermission.
Well, they had modernized the setting--which does not bother me--at all. I like how directors offer new insights on the Bard's plays by putting them in different places and times. We saw a great Midsummer Night's Dream some years ago at Stratford--set in a Brazilian rain forest. And on and on. Also, directors virtually always cut dialogue from the Bard's plays. In our own Merry Wives we cut a scene about a Latin lesson and numerous other lines.
But this production of Merry Wives did not just change the setting or cut lines; it changed the language; it added dialogue--lots of it. We heard lines about Ava Gardner; Falstaff was a filmmaker (based on Orson Welles); Ann Page (the young lover) led a group of Girl Scouts. There were all sorts of contemporary allusions and language added to the text. Mrs. Page ran a dance school. Mistress Quickly had an eye patch and spoke in a thick German accent. Dr. Caius spoke in an unintelligible French accent--unintelligible even though I knew what he was saying.
I guess what bothered me was that I didn't know it was coming. I thought I was going to see a Shakespeare play, and instead I saw a Shakespeare smoothie--his text blended with empty-calorie pop culture references and language. And I hated it. I had told Joyce before we went that I would probably cry all the way through it. (I loved that cast I'd worked with in 1990.) Well, I felt like crying--but for a much different reason. And I'd also thought about rounding up any cast members in the area and going to see it as a group. Glad I didn't do that.
I was thinking afterwards: You know, the popular culture has invaded and pervaded just about every aspect of our lives ... can't we at least keep Shakespeare? Please ...?