Alas, how love can trifle with itself.
Nothing like a little outdoor Shakespeare to remind me of the many ways there are to love and the endless outcomes of doing so.
Arriving at Agecroft Hall early enough to spread a blanket under a shady tree, I admired the view of the river and the train bridge through the trees before settling in with my book.
There weren't many people on the lawn this evening, but I heard a champagne cork pop from somewhere in the bricked garden behind me. That's the way to pre-game at Agecroft.
A group of players came by and offered me one of four monologues; my choices were Much Ado about Nothing, The Tempest, As You Like It or The Taming of the Shrew, which I chose.
Petruchio's speech about how to kill a wife with kindness was delivered beautifully by a young man who afterwards doffed his hat and thanked me for listening.
I gathered up my things as they went over to another group to perform for them.
The house was not sold out tonight, so I easily got a front row center seat with little effort on my part. I'd be able to see the actors spit and sweat.
There were only five others who joined me in the entire front two rows while people sat ten rows back. I'll never understand that choice.
And by sitting in the front, I got acknowledged within the first minute of the play. Valentine wants his friend Proteus to leave town with him and Proteus wants to stay because of a girl.
When Proteus responds, "Will thou be gone? Sweet Valentine, think on thy Proteus, when thou happily seest some rare noteworthy object in thy travel," it was with a gesture toward me.
You don't get that kind of attention sitting in the back rows, no, sir.
Love has chased sleep from my enthralled eyes
The story about multiple men in love had only one character cross-dressing, but then it's one of Shakespeare's earliest. With time came more.
Thou wouldst as soon go kindle a fire with snow
As seek to quench the fire of love with words
The cast of a dozen was on point even as they sweated in suits and leather jackets despite a beautifully temperate night for an outdoor play.
That man hath a tongue, I say, is no man
If with his tongue he cannot win a woman
Like all good Agecroft productions, the 500-year old manor house was used to great advantage, with actors spitting in the flower beds, speaking through a window and running down the sides of the courtyard. Shakespeare would be proud.
The more thou damm'st it up, the more it burns
But there are risks to the realism. In one scene Sylvia goes running down the aisle, only to return with a skinned knee in the next scene. Somewhere she took a fall, but the show must go on.
A woman sometimes scorns what best contents her
"Two Gentlemen" has a lot to do with the exuberance of love, but also the importance of forgiveness. When Proteus switches his heart from Julia to Sylvia and back again, he benefits by Julia's forgiveness and abiding love.
I have no reason but a woman's reason
I think him so because I think him so
He moves me
The production also benefited from a duo providing music before the show and during intermission, but also as musicians in the play and for the dancing that ended it all.
Oh, heaven! Were man but constant, he were perfect
And dancing was appropriate by that time because everyone was in love with the right person, mistakes had been forgiven and outlaws had been pardoned.
Hope is a lover's staff
Walk hence with that
And manage it against despairing thoughts
By that point, you could almost say all's well that ends well.
Oh, wait, he eventually did.