Friday, May 11, 2012

Saucy and Audacious Eloquence

"No doubt they rose up early to observe the rite of May."

There was no rising involved, but early I did arrive for Richmond Shakespeare's free production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Maymont.

Doing so got me in the front row, as much as there were rows, where I found several blankets spread and a friendly couple already entrenched.

Like me, they'd attended last year's production and remembered how early and large the crowd had been.

Learning from our mistakes, we were having none of that this year.

Meanwhile, a couple of hawks circled overhead as we made introductions.

Ah, nature. That's why we go to Maymont, right?

With over an hour and a half until show time, I chatted with them, ate my picnic supper of fried chicken, legume and olive salad and watermelon and read.

I was not unique; looking around, most of the early arrivals were either eating or reading a book. I can't recall the last time I saw so many book readers in one place.

Coincidence? I think not.

Meanwhile the actors practiced their lines silently or sotto voice, ran around the stage flexing the stage boards or rehearsed songs.

"I am out of breath in this fond chase."

I would advise getting more exercise or eating more fruit if you want to keep up.

The performance began with the announcement of where the facilities were and the information that, "The Port-a-Potties are over there, they just arrived and they're freshly done."

I think we can all agree that there is nothing quite like a freshly done portable toilet. I know I took advantage of them.

With that reassurance began the play about how the course of true love never does run smooth (and if it does, how concerned should we be?).

And especially in a comedy about people loving the wrong person.

Even more so when the entire cast is in pajamas and robes (and kudos to Hermia for her alluring peignoir).

"Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind."

If you ask me, they should teach that in Romance 101.

As if the misguided lovers weren't amusing enough, the ragtag group of amateur actors who are painfully rehearsing a play for the Duke's wedding provided non-stop hilarity.

When the dim Snug agrees to take on the role of the lion, his Cowardly Lion imitation was laugh-out-loud funny.

Quince's barely restrained impatience with his slow-witted associates was written all over his face and in every muscle of his tensed body, ensuring that we felt his pain.

"Mine ear is much enamored of thy note."

Puck was a bundle of red union-suited energy, mounting stools, bouncing around the stage and leaping off the end of it.

The surrounding trees and lawn were the ideal setting for a story that takes place in a fairy-inhabited woodland (well, except for the children climbing the nearby tree).

That said, I was glad I wasn't in pajamas since once the sun set, it was a tad cool out there in the grass.

"We cannot fight for love as men may do. We should be wooed and were not made to woo."

For me, the pleasure of this play, which I've seen performed many times, comes with the chemistry of the actors playing the three sets of lovers, all of whom shone tonight.

At intermission, we were instructed, "Please feel free to go wherever you want to now."

For me, that was straight to the ice cream truck for a double scoop of butter pecan while a couple of musicians played Paul Simon and Kenny Loggins tunes.

And, yes, someone called out, "Free Bird!" Is that book-reading crowd behavior, people?

All the mix-ups and tomfoolery of the first act were finally righted in the second (whew!) act so everybody ended up happy with their partner and the over-the-top Bottom and his band of actors put on their histrionic play.

That brought to a close this year's gift from Richmond Shakespeare and another fine evening of feuding fairies and love and madness.

"To say the truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days."

Did they ever?

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