Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Love Long Life Better Than Figs

Bootleg: to make, distribute or sell illicit goods. Origin: late 19th century, from the smugglers' practice of concealing bottles in their boots.

Bootleg Shakespeare: annual production whereby actors learn their lines separately and only come together for one night to stage Shakespeare without rehearsal.

Scene: VMFA for the first time, meaning that instead of standing outdoors on a nasty evening to wait in line for tickets, would-be attendees waited in the comfort of heat and art.

I could get used to this.

Once tickets were handed out, everyone beat feet to Best Cafe to wine and dine until showtime. Both Pru and I opted for steaming bowls of beef stew and bread, the better to ward off the chill from tonight's wind and rain.

We joined George and Jo, two strangers who'd been in line behind us, at their table to eat and listen to Bardship Enterprise, an aptly named quartet playing music (Prince, Jackson 5, Bob Marley, Sublime) for our listening pleasure.

Between songs, George, a security guard at the museum, regaled us with tales of drunken debauchery during corporate parties and weddings at the museum. Imagine a couple pitching woo on the Rockefeller bed and you get an idea of the nerve exhibited while on state property.

It was only during our chit-chat that I learned that tonight we turn the clocks back. Woo-hoo, after the week I've had, I could sure use an extra hour.

Then it was on to the Leslie Cheek theater for "Antony and Cleopatra" directed by local favorite Foster Solomon.

"Twelve hours ago, this production did not exist," he explained from the stage. "If you know 'Antony and Cleopatra," you're going to be surprised. If you don't know 'Antony and Cleopatra," you're going to be surprised."

Sounded like a win/win to me.

The play opened with "As Time Goes By" performed by the show band onstage which went on to feature the vocal stylings of Rebecca Anne Muhleman in a bright red wig and Jacqueline O'Connor in a sassy blond wig on vocals doing Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

My full heart remains in use with you.

The always compelling (and quick) Joe Carlson played Antony, getting big laughs with lines such as, "Look here at this imaginary letter" and pulling out nothing.

The world and my great office will sometimes divide me from your bosom.

When he said that line, he stared directly into Octavia, his future wife's, chest.

Octavia is of a holy, cold and still conversation.

Of the 33 actors involved, I recognized many of them. I'm an unabashed fan of David Janosik who played Caesar for his diction and timing, Billy Christopher Maupin who played a white-faced soothsayer for his facility with language and comedic detail, and Kerry McGee for her elastic face and descriptive gestures.

And we are women's men.

I never tire of watching the nuances of an Adam Mincks character, Dean Knight can convey more with a glance or downturn of his mouth than some actors can with entire monologues and Dixon Cashwell was born to play a saucy eunuch.

During the big fight scene in Act II, a screen showed everything from Monty Python to space battles, while the real cast used plastic swords and pillows to fight onstage.

You knew very well that my heart was tied to your ship and that you would pull me along with you.

The delight of a bootleg performance is that even when you're watching a tragedy, humor bubbles up throughout, whether it's an actor calling for his line (and often making a joke of it in the process), missed cues ("Enter Caesar...Caesar?") or improvisation ("Trust no one with Caesar except that guy with the "P" name").

By the end, the lovers were dead and even Caesar had to soften a little acknowledging their love of each other, but not before the inimitable Susan Sanford had the audience in stitches as the asp supplier with a thick Scottish brogue. Hilarious.

After the cast took a well-deserved bow or two, Pru and I walked out discussing how the Bootleg Shakespeare production is always top-notch despite the lack of rehearsals and reliably funny because of the lack of rehearsals.

It was enough to make me drop everything I had in my wallet into the bucket on my way out.

And then, just because I'd found out we had an extra hour, we headed to the Sporty to hear our favorite '80s cover band who tonight were all about some southern rock.

Turning away from the bar after procuring my 1800, a guy asked me to dance before I'd even had a sip or found a place to roost. Sorry, sir, not yet.

Sipping and listening to the band, I exercised my best conversation, which was neither holy, cold or still.

Octavia, I'm not. All about bootleg and '80s covers, I absolutely am.

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