Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Tongue with a Tang

Oddly enough, it was my second time at Maymont in three days.

I'd been there Sunday to see the trees all dolled up in skirts.

I'm always curious to see how the VCU fashion students manage to make muslin look feminine on a tree, no easy challenge.

This year, they did it with a lot of red trim - rick rack, fuzzy balls and red stitching- but after the recent rain, most of the skirts looked kind of bedraggled.

But that was Sunday and tonight was something else entirely, with the skirts stripped off the trees and a stage set up on the carriage house lawn.

It was Richmond Shakespeare's annual gift to the city, a free performance, this year of "The Tempest."

True, I'd seen this very same production as recently as the last week of March, the difference being this time it was free and outside.

Where better to see a play about a storm than under a breezy May Day sky?

I knew from attending the last two years that it's smart to arrive early and secure a good patch of lawn and planned accordingly.

My fellow Bard-lover and I made Garnett's our first stop, getting a salad, a sandwich and coconut cake to tide us over.

Our server suggested we take our goodies away in one of their picnic baskets and it seemed like too good an idea not to take advantage of it.

"Just bring it back tomorrow," she said, waving us off to have a good time.

It wasn't a tough assignment.

We got there early enough to place our chairs front and center and enjoy a leisurely meal under a sky that vacillated between sunny and overcast.

Looking around, I saw lots of families and lots familiar-faced actors.

When I got up to use the port-a-potties just before the show began, I heard my name called and found two friends lounging on a blanket.

They had all kinds of goodies laid out and she promptly handed me her box of Merlot, saying, "Have a drink! I've only had one sip."

If not May Day to share swill, then when?

We chatted about ways to defuse a protest (he was thinking pink frou-frou shorts and a pink Confederate flag would totally disarm the protesters at the Confederate chapel), a worthy topic on this, the day of international workers' protest.

Back in my chair, the play was about to begin when, at the last moment, a couple spread a blanket directly in front of us.

I was all ready to think rude things about latecomers taking prime positions when I recognized a friend.

A friend I'd convinced to come.

The play began moments later when the cloud cover dissipated and blue sky began to show under wispy cloud scraps.

Since I'd just seen "The Tempest" staged, it was fun this time to enjoy the audience's reaction to what they were seeing.

When Prospero referred to "the rotten carcass of a butt," a little boy near me snickered in delight.

He said butt!

Unlike last time, I also got to watch as the sound effects were made.

We were seated very near the guitarist, keyboardist (who also did percussion) and she who rattled the sheet of metal to make thunder.

The beauty of the outdoor setting was how the cast made the most of it, jumping down on to the grass and gesturing to trees and sky.

During intermission, another friend came over to say hello.

Just yesterday, I'd gotten a message from him asking me what I knew about "The Tempest" at Maymont.

Everything, I'd told him, giving him the lowdown.

I was pleased to see he'd heeded my advice and chanced it.

Even if he was responsible for plopping down right in front of me at 6:59.

He and his friend were enjoying the play and we all marveled at John Mincks' energy and athleticism playing the sprite Ariel.

Repeatedly, he'd come out of nowhere, jumping up and over the set or down onto the lawn and springing back up effortlessly.

"I could do all that jumping," Friend claimed, "But not all that popping back up. Too old."

Aren't we all?

That's why jumping and springing is best left to 20-year olds.

By the time the second act began, the sky was a pale gray and the bugs were flitting around the stage lights.

By now lots of people had donned hoodies and blankets were draped over legs and shoulders.

At one point, Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban jumped off the stage and took off through the sea of blankets and chairs, screaming like banshees to great hilarity.

I could have tripped Caliban if I'd wanted to, he was so close.

It might have been funny, but that trio had already provided so many pratfalls and so much physical humor, cracking up the younger members of the audience over and over again, that they didn't need my help to get laughs.

Instead I just kept my rotten carcass in my chair and enjoyed the gift of Shakespeare in the park.

I almost said butt.

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