Dawn Reader

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

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Stratford Sundries 4

1. Last night we saw a terrific performance of Shakespeare's late (and not-often-produced) play Pericles, Prince of Tyre, a long story with a large cast (folks playing multiple parts). It was great, by the way, to see the star of Carousel (the young man who played Billy Bigelow) playing small parts in this one--such is repertory theater.

Pericles discovers a nearby king and his daughter have been guilty of incest; oops; they put out a contract on him--and off he goes, fleeing around the Mediterranean. Shipwrecks, contests of arms, singing, grief--this show has it all. He eventually marries and has a daughter (born at sea), and he suffers the deaths of both (he thinks) and retreats back to Tyre (after the incestuous king has died, canceling the contract), where he basically hangs out in bed all day and speaks to no one--sort of like a surly adolescent on summer break.

And then--through a series of coincidences--some surprising reunions. Some very surprising reunions, one of which caused the bright, lovely Ohio woman next to me to weep. Her husband (neither so bright nor lovely), too.

We had seen a magical production of this some years ago (back in the days when Mom could come with us)--lots of fancy costumes and scenery. This one was more basic. More ... Elizabethan. No scenery, a few props (stools, a bed, etc.). And very moving because its effect rested entirely on the skills of the actors, the cleverness of the staging. Oh, did we love this one!

2. This afternoon we'll be heading out shortly to see The Taming of the Shrew, one that is guaranteed to spill some more tears, as well--principally because I taught it to 8th graders at Harmon Middle School for eight or nine years (one year, 1985-86, our son was in my class), and I had wonderful experiences with those classes--and learned a lot.

3. Wireless still a disaster in this room. We are, well, pissed.

4. One hour later: Wireless is fixed--works great! And we are not, well, pissed.

5. 6:03--Back from seeing the best production of The Taming of the Shrew that I've ever seen--and I've seen some excellent ones. This one had an A+ cast--from Petruchio and Katherine (she's the absolute best) all the way to Hortensio's widow, who appears only in the final scene.

  • They played the Christopher Sly frame story in the cleverest way I've ever seen. (For those who don't know: Sly is a drunk who passes out; a passing lord and his hunting party, as a prank, carry him back to the lord's estate, dress him in fine clothes, and convince him he's the lord who is recovering from a long madness; part of his lordly entertainment--a play, which, of course, is Shrew.) I don't want to spoil anything but Sly comes out of the audience ...
  • The show was at the Festival's largest venue, the Festival Theatre (!), and they played it very much in an Elizabethan style: few props, no scenery, actors interacting with audience members, musicians on and near the stage (playing period instruments). There was lots of funny business--but only at the very beginning did they mix current/local humor with the text; once the play "got going," they trusted Shakespeare--unlike some other companies I could name.
  • The show--from the 1590s--can be a difficult one for modern audiences and modern sensibilities (we don't like the idea of a woman's needing to be tamed!), but the director and his cast found every nuance in the text, and Katherine's final speech (to the other wives), the famously controversial one? Well, Deborah Hay (a luminous actress) played it with high intelligence and deep emotion. There were tears in our row ... again.
  • Ben Carlson--a great young actor--was a wonderful Petruchio, wild when he needed to be, compassionate, too.
  • And, of course, so many scenes and moments reminded me of Harmon Middle School years, reading the play with my students, watching the (very good) Zeffirelli film (with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, et al.), introducing Shakespeare to youngsters ... among the greatest thrills of my teaching career.
  • Finally ... our son played Lucentio in his high school production, so every time Lucentio came on the stage,well ... let's just say that I noticed.
Tonight, we go back to the Festival Theatre to see another of my favorites, Love's Labour's Lost, and I can't imagine how they can measure (for measure?) up.  But I bet they do ...

Time to rest before another long walk ...

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