Saturday, June 6, 2015

I Will Stop Your Mouth

Some evenings are spent in the service of love.

I am enraptured with my latest CD, I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty, partly because of his voice - clear, assured - but mostly because it's a young man's album about meeting and falling in love with a woman and he sings it with the passion of someone really falling for the first time.

People are boring
but you're something else completely
Damn, let's take our chances
I wanna take you in the kitchen
Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in
So bourgeoisie to keep waiting
Dating for 20 years just feels pretty civilian...

Pulling into Agecroft for the 17th annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival, I was instructed to park anywhere but on the grass (please, I wasn't raised by wolves). In line waiting for the house to open, the Young Players amused the crowd with scenes from various works. I watched as a scene from Troilus and Cressida played out, Troilus madly wooing Cressida (or was it the reverse?).

The amusing house manager finally let us in, but only after instructing us not to sit on anyone else (rude), nor in the aisle (or be trampled by actors) and, most importantly, not to sit on any chairs that had blue tape on them. "They have acid or something on them," he said nonchalantly.

Inside, I nabbed a non-acidic seat next to a Lynchburg couple who'd come to see their daughter perform. They were having the usual reaction a first-time visitor to Agecroft has: awe and reverence. What, Lynchburg doesn't have a late 15th century house that was removed from England and reassembled on the banks of the James? Pity.

Not sure about the later temperature, they'd toted in beach towels while I'd made sure to have a wrap and a scarf in case it got chilly. We talked about what they'd seen in Richmond so far. "There's a lot going on here!" the husband observed. You don't say?

The row of people behind me were amusing ("Hey, you had on that same shirt the last time I saw you") me as I heard one ask another if he read a certain graphic novel series. "Cause, you know, the main female character in that is named after Hero in this play." Hey, at least he knew the point of origin.

We were all there for Quill Theater's Much Ado About Nothing, surely one of the easiest and most enjoyable of Shakespeare's comedies.

Joshua Daniels as the constable, Dogberry, announced himself as a very funny man with an opening speech explaining with Dogberry's typical malapropisms what to expect tonight.

Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?

As many times as I've seen this play, I never tire of its banter between Beatrice and Benedick as they work so hard at denying their attraction to each other.

To be merry best becomes you.

Strong performances by Donna Marie Miller and especially Dave White in the title roles helped draw those less familiar with the story in while allowing those of us who know it well to just sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

If they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.

This year, the festival is starting performances at 7:30 instead of 8, but as in past years (and I went to the first festival 17 years ago), once dusk begins its descent into night, fireflies swirl around the audience and tonight, frogs croaked loudly while Benedick gave a monologue.

She loves him with an enraged affection.

I watched as the couple next to me experienced for the first time the clever way the production used the courtyard space. When there was eavesdropping going on, characters hid behind the "bower," a trio of plastic topiaries that lent a green note to the stage.

Happy are they that can hear their detractions and put them to mending.

Because I know the story so well, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that some people have no idea where this play is going. At the end of the first act, an older man near me leaned forward, hands on knees and said to his wife, "I smell trouble brewing!"

I used intermission to buy M & Ms, share them with a stranger ("What about not taking candy from strangers?") and walk the gardens, admiring the delphiniums, foxglove, poppies and zinnias that made them look so charmingly English in design. I wandered as far as the rolling lawn so I could see the river at the bottom of the hill before it was completely dark.

The second act began with three characters - the watchmen of Messina - coming in, weapons in hand and falling asleep, snoring loudly on benches onstage. Their nap stretched out far longer than the crowd anticipated (nervous giggling after a while), giving the stragglers time to get back from the bathroom or snack cart in time for the real action.

Neighbors, you are tedious!

Call me a romantic, but I'm a big fan of the scenes where Beatrice and Benedick have been convinced that the other is in love and begin to let their guard down. "I do love nothing in the world so much as you," Benedick lets slip, only to follow it with a regretful "Ah!" when he realizes he's given himself away. So the man who said he'd never marry is having a change of heart.

No, I was not born under a rhyming planet, nor I cannot woo in festival terms.

Alright, so he's no Father John Misty, if you know what I'm saying, but White did a splendid job of showing the arc of a man who is convinced he can live without love and a woman, only to fall hard. Oldest story in the book, still one of the most appealing.

Note to locals and visitors alike: sitting under the stars laughing at 500 year old lines, watching an energetic cast wind their way around to a happy ending, has to be one of the finest pleasures of summer in Richmond.

Suffer Love!  A good epithet. I do suffer love, indeed, for I love thee against my will.

And they got married ("To bind me or undo me, one of them") and danced and lived happily ever after. I'm guessing Benedick was also of the opinion that dating for 20 years just feels pretty civilian.

Leaving Agecroft, I had half a mind to finish the evening with some dancing of my own - No BS Brass band was playing the penultimate show at Balliceaux - but driving by, I saw a line that stretched down the block and doors didn't even open for a while. Maybe not.

Maybe it's enough to have seen a well-executed evening of begrudging yet enthusiastic wooing, a killer combination.

I haven't hated all the same things
as somebody else
since I can remember.
What's going on for?
What are you doing with your whole life?
How about forever?

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