Damn you, Hardywood, you keep sucking me back in.
God knows it's not for the beer, which I disdain, or for the crowd, generally ditto, but when you go and schedule a Bard Unbound performance to celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday, I have no choice but to be there.
I will say this. Unlike with the music shows I've gone to there on Saturdays, the herd was considerably thinned tonight so at least I wasn't fighting for a place to stand.
What was very noticeable tonight was the startling number of men with epic beards standing around, so when one bumped into me, I struck up a conversation.
Tomorrow is the mid-Atlantic beard and 'stache championships at the Canal Club and I was talking to Jeff, a competitor from Austin with 2 1/2 years worth of growth and sporting a very fine silver beard and drinking a Hoplar which he was liking quite a bit.
"Do they bottle this?" he asked me, probably the only person in the brewery who didn't know the answer to that. "I'd like to take some of this home on the plane with me."
Nothing like a liquid souvenir.
He pointed out last year's championship winner, also from Austin, a guy sporting eight years' worth of growth with a beard that reached nearly to his belt buckle.
I have to admit, I was seeing some truly impressive facial hair tonight. Already I was glad I'd come.
Jeff and I shook on our new acquaintanceship and I took up residence at the end of a picnic table right in front of the stage for tonight's Shakesbeer at Hardywood, the theme being "Send in the Clowns."
A cast of five proceeded to perform nine scenes from Shakespeare, most of which involved running madly around the brewery and the use of song snippets from a boombox.
Two minutes into it, a very drunk woman at my table observed, "Hey, they're doing Shakespeare in a brewery," just in case we hadn't noticed.
A scene from "Romeo and Juliet" began with two rednecks and involved towel snapping while a scene from "Two Gentlemen of Verona" made use of a stuffed dog and the song "Hound Dog."
There was a hilarious scene from "Twelfth Night" between Sir Toby Belch, Maria and Sir Andrew involving his hand on her breast.
Yes, I've got a handful of jokes. But when I let go of your hand, I let go of the biggest joke of all.
During a scene from "Hamlet," a woman was pulled from the crowd by the gravedigger and told she was to be the water. Her arms immediately began undulating.
Pulling a man from the audience, he said, "If the man goes into the water and drowns himself" and the guy threw back the last of his beer to great applause.
Where better than a brewery to drown yourself in beer?
We got the beginning of the scene from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" where Peter Quince is trying to organize a play for the Duke with his band of half wits ("I will roar you!" Snug the joiner says).
The Bard Unbound troupe - James Murphy, Cynde Liffick, LaSean Pierre Greene, Dixon Cashwell and Elizabeth Ashby- was terrific, milking every line despite having to talk over the drunken masses.
During intermission, there was a Shakespearean insult contest with nine people from the audience competing to win a growler of beer and the title master of insults for the best delivery .
Insults like, "Thou art a mewling, fat-livered kidney pie!"
The second act began with more "Twelfth Night," this time with Elizabeth in a Redskins jersey with a plastic sword at her waist trying her best not to fight.
We got Dromio and Antipholus doing a scene from "Comedy of Errors," with James playing the beleaguered Dromio to perfection.
Besides belonging to myself, I belong to a woman. A woman who says she owns me, who won't leave me alone and who wants me.
Dixon and his stuffed dog returned to do another scene from "Two Gentlemen of Verona," his cheeks flushed bright red from all the running around.
They closed with the play within a play from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," beginning, "Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show. But wonder on till truth make all things plain."
Plain? It was downright hysterical.
James in a blond wig as Thisbe brought the house down when he finds Pyramus (LaSean,humorously refusing to die quietly) dead and modifies his line to, "Oh, fate, come, come to me with hands as pale as...India pale ale."
Damn you, Hardywood, I don't want to have a reason to visit but how can I resist Shakesbeer?
You'd think I'd have the sense to leave the drunken masses to their Friday night goings on but instead I swung by Foo Dog to see what was what.
It was a zoo with people waiting for tables when all I wanted was a bar stool and a couple of things to eat.
The hostess suggested I wait around for someone to relinquish their stool so I did, wishing I could hear the music over the din of shouting pretty people.
Make no mistake, I took the time to admire the mural of Red Riding Hood on the wall, check out the anime movie playing over the bar and glance at the menu, but after a while, it was just not worth it and all I wanted was sustenance.
Of course, five minutes after I placed a to-go order, a stool came open and I claimed it, notifying the bartender that boxes were no longer needed for my food.
Arriving almost immediately, I all but inhaled the five pieces of seared ahi tuna over seaweed salad, appreciating how fresh the fish tasted but quickly tiring of the inane conversation between the two guys next to me.
Where's a bearded talker from Austin when you need one?
Next came miniature lamb tostadas with red onion, cuke, cherry tomato, toasted coconut and Thai peanut sauce, an earthy combination that stood out in contrast to the sinus-clearing notes of the wasabi on the tuna I'd just had.
I'd been in my bar stool for less than ten minutes and already polished off two dishes of street food. I was ready to relinquish my seat to someone needier and it took all of five seconds to cede it to a non-bearded guy loitering nearby.
Some evenings peak early.
Thanks, Bard Unbound. Thou art so much more fun than a mewling, fat-livered kidney pie