Dawn Reader

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Stratford Sundries, 2017-4

City Hall
Stratford, Ontario
July 31, 2017
1. Last night we saw a very strong production of The Virgin Trial, a new play by Canadian playwright Kate Henning, a play about the possibility that the young Princess Elizabeth (who would become Elizabeth I), had conspired, early, to bypass both her brother (King Edward) and her sister (who would become Queen Mary) to take over the throne. Sex and violence and lies and political intrigue and loyalty and cowardice and cruelty (one character is water-boarded; we see it)--all figure in this strong script, which is actually the second play in Henning's series about the Tudors (we did not see the first one--The Last Wife--which played up here two years ago).

Young Elizabeth--called "Bess" here--was played by a young Canadian actress, Bahia Watson, who was very strong. I was very impressed with her--as I was with Stratford veteran Yanna McIntosh, who played one of Bess' relentless interrogators.

We see "Bess" adopt and adhere to "the myth of the virgin" as her way to achieve popularity-/and popularity was her pathway, she knew, to the crown (which actually arrived via two convenient and early deaths of her half-siblings: illness in both cases).

2. We came back to the room afterward, talking continuously. Ate some potato chips because, you know, we needed them for nutritional purposes only. Nothing to do with pleasure, believe me! Read some more of the new Michael Connelly novel--which I'm enjoying.

3. This morning it was back down to Coffee Culture, where I read my Kirkus quota, read some online newspapers (NYT, PD, Akron B-J), then up to our other coffee shop, where I read some more of Joyce Carol Oates' new novel--A Book of American Martyrs--a brief (750-pp) novel whose end I'm nearing--should finish it on Saturday--at which time--if I've the energy--I'll tell you about it.

4. After Balzac's, we went over to the local and excellent kitchen store--Bradshaw's (where, in previous years, I have dropped more than a chunk of change on various baking "needs")--but I didn't see anything this year (yet!) that I, you know, needed. But ... we don't leave till Sunday ... so ...

5. We're back in the room now and will head down to the Festival Theatre for a 2 o'clock production of Romeo and Juliet (the first Shakespeare we've seen this year). More later ...

... a solid production with two good young actors (Antoine Yared and Marion Adler--who was great last night as Mary Tudor) in the impossible parts of R & J. The director (Scott Wentworth, whom we've seen act many times up here) chose to do the entire script--the Full-Meal Deal (no substantial cuts that I noticed)--but hurried it along by using a plain stage-costumes-props (as the Bard would have seen it), and so it came in under three hours. But--guess what?--it doesn't have a happy ending ... at least not for the star-cross'd lovers. (SPOILER ALERT!)

Joyce and I both noticed how, the older we get, the more the minor parts increase in relevance for us. In a way, we were like R&J--marrying quickly despite some parental ... reservations--not listening to the advice of those who suggested we take it a bit more slowly (we met in late July, married in late December). And now ... we relate to the Nurse, to the parents, to the Friar, etc. Even poor Paris doesn't seem like such a bad guy, you know?

But oh that lovely language that comes flying from the mouths of our principals! As usual, Mercutio (played wonderfully by the talented Evan Buliung--who also plays Sky Masterson up here) steals the first half of the show with his humor and with the (justly) celebrated Queen Mab speech, a speech I don't think I've ever seen delivered more effectively.

But Death emerges the victor, again. He is one determined dude, isn't he?

I've probably seen R&J more times than any other of the Bard's plays--and I'm a bit weary of it, to be honest. But each production does usually show me some things I'd not noticed before--or thought of before.

And that's why we keep coming up here, you know, year after year after year ...

6. We hurried up to the York Street Kitchen afterward, had our usual sandwichy supper (avoiding the rain that fell while the show was in progress--luck be a lady tonight!). On the way home we checked out the Scottish Shop (not far from our Inn), where I found a sweater I liked. Joyce bought it for my birthday, and one of the only advantages of being an Old Guy is that when my birthday comes (in November), I will have completely forgotten about it!

7. Tonight we go to the Avon Theatre to see Treasure Island, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel which I finally got around to reading a year or so ago. Looking forward to it!

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