July 31, 2017
1. Last night--down at the small Studio Theatre here in Stratford, we saw The Breathing Hole, a new work by Canadian playwright Colleen Murphy; it's a work the Stratford Festival had commissioned.
There were some odd things about it--beginning with the older woman (my age!?) sitting next to her husband (whom she absolutely ignored), right in front of us, where--before the show and during the interval--she played some fast and furious (and mostly losing) games of Candy Crush. When she lost, she seemed ... hurt. Did not turn to her husband for consolation.
Anyway, the play takes place in the Canadian Arctic. Two acts. Three scenes in each. Time span: May 1534 to New Year's Eve, 2033. Five hundred years of goings-on. The early scenes featured some Inuit actors--and a very large polar bear, manipulated by a visible human (inside) (think: War Horse). Later, there were two of them--bears.
It's the history of the changes in the Arctic--including the ill-fated Franklin Expedition (probably the strongest scenes)--concluding with the selfie generation aboard a cruise ship into the ice-free Arctic (climate change, you know), where some of the passengers resolutely kill a dying polar bear, covered with oil, in the black waters. The bear is the same throughout--the "spirit" of it all, I guess. And although some of it was very moving--with some solid performances--I felt it was a bit too long (it didn't let out until after 10:30--began at 8) and perhaps a bit too obvious in places.
It was only the second preview, so there were some botched deliveries of lines--some awkward moments. But there were also some moments of great power and emotion.
We returned, exhausted, to our room, where I crashed about as hard as I have in all of my adult years!
1a. BTW: Joyce I and remembered that we had seen Tartuffe before last night ... but when? ... and where? I checked my journal. Found it. Saturday. October 18, 2003. Great Lakes Theater Festival. And here's the odd thing: That was the night that the symptoms of my Bell's Palsy appeared. Pain. Couldn't close my right eye. Right side of face ... absolutely dead. But--tough (i.e., dumb) guy that I am, I stayed till the end of the show, spent the night at home ("I'll be better in the morning"--I wasn't), and did not go to the ER until the next morning--causing me to miss Parents' Day at WRA, where I was teaching at the time. My recovery from Bell's has been incomplete. Still some problems with my right eye--my upper right lip. So it goes in Mortality Land ...
2. This morning--down to Coffee Culture, where I did some reading of Joyce Carol Oates--then realized I should have begun reading this morning the book I'm reviewing for Kirkus Reviews this week. Oops. Went back to the room; retrieved the galley; headed over to Balzac's Coffee; read my Kirkus quota; felt better about myself as, you know, a person ...
3. We're back in the room now, typing notes, etc., will soon have lunch before walking over to the Avon Theatre (a "traditional" venue downtown), where we will see Richard Sheridan's The School for Scandal at 2:00. Rain is in the forecast ... umbrella time ... sigh.
A play about gossip, "fake news," and the consequences of same. A play about the human heart--what it will endure, what it needs, what it loves (clue: another loving heart!).
5. Afterward--over to our favorite supper place, the cozy York Street Kitchen, where we had a sandwich and ceaseless talk about what we've been seeing, experiencing ...
6. Oh, do I love these Stratford trips ...
7. In about an hour, we'll head back to the Studio Theatre to see The Virgin Trial, about the young Tudor queen--Elizabeth. Don't know much else about it ... report tomorrow!