Coffee Culture; Stratford, Ont.
1. Well, things were a little different this morning. Normally, on our final day, we check out of the Mercer Hall Inn and drive over to nearby St. Mary’s, a lovely little town with many buildings—including an old Carnegie Library—made from local stone. There’s a back road we like—very rural and evocative. And in St. Mary’s, we hang out at its Coffee Culture—read, eat breakfast, write a little, talk a lot. Well, we checked out just fine—got on the road about 8:30—but our little country back road was closed for construction, and when we got to St. Mary’s Coffee Culture by the more conventional (busy, boring) route, we learned their wireless has been out of commission for days, so I couldn’t write online, couldn’t check things I needed to check.
So, after breakfast (lemon poppyseed muffin for me!) we drove back to Stratford, where we worked awhile at Balzac’s Coffee, then came down to the Stratford Coffee Culture—where the wireless was working!—had a fruit/yogurt smoothie for lunch and did more reading and writing and talking. We have a 2 o’clock matinee down at the Tom Patterson Theatre—Ibsen’s late play John Gabriel Borkman, which neither of us has ever seen.
2. Both of us have seen As You Like It (many, many times), so we were especially disappointed in the production we saw last night at the Festival Theatre. I love that play—full of wisdom and humor and music and some of the most famous lines in the English language (“All the world’s a stage” among them). We’ve seen it set in all sorts of times and places, and last night we were supposed to be in 1980s Newfoundland, though I’m not all that sure why.
The production was infernally “busy”: When we entered, we were greeted with little branches of a fir tree, and during Forest-of-Arden moments we were to hold them aloft; later, we used a clothes pin to affix to them some of the poems that love-sick Antonio posts all over the forest (and Rosalind, coming down the aisle next to me, took mine and commented on it—no, I did not write the dumb thing: Shakespeare did). There were other things that other people in the (smallish) crowd held aloft—stars, glowing embers, etc. The woman who would later (at the very end) appear as Hymen, god of marriage (the are four marriages at the end of the play), served as an interlocutor throughout—heavily miked—and I found her intrusive, superfluous, annoying, humorless (such great qualities in an interlocutor).
The director/producers seemed so intent on making the play busy-busy-busy (and so much fun, right?) that I was bored as I have not been since my third consecutive study hall my senior year in high school. Jaques (who delivers the “All the world’s a stage” speech) was cast as a woman (I have no problem whatsoever with that), but she seemed to be sleepwalking. The Clown was incomprehensible. Many of the other characters were mailing it in, but the postal carriers must have been on strike. The woman who played Rosalind (one of the Bard’s great parts) is verbally gifted but exuded no sexuality (a problem). I did like Antonio (Rosalind’s eventual husband) and a few of the others.
But as I walked back to the room with Joyce, I groused and grumped all the way. How could they do that to such a play? And similar sorts of complaints. The crowd was small for a Saturday night in Stratford in high season, so I’m guessing the word has gotten out. Oh well … We still have Ibsen this afternoon, and I am so very hopeful … I’ll write about it when I get home.