Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Wooing is Too Urgent

You don't want to be late for a three-century old play long regarded as a hoax and just last year authenticated as based on a Shakespeare original. Or at least nerds like me don't.

Which presented a problem since I got home from gallivanting late and didn't walk out the door until almost 6:30; curtain time at CenterStage was 7:30. What to do?

To the rescue was my nearest neighborhood joint, the Belvidere. Two short blocks and I was in my usual stool (the one from which I've met and talked to so many people), explaining my predicament. No problem, I was assured.

Tonight's soup was their spectacular vegetarian French onion, although I scoffed when told, "We can make it vegan if you want." No cheese on French onion soup? No, thanks. Full cheese, please.

It's such a well-made soup with a surprising depth of flavor for being animal-free. I suspect that they wave a hunk o' beef over the pot while they're making it, much the way my friend waves a bottle of vermouth around the room when he's making a martini.

Following the soup were roasted red and golden beets with Maytag bleu cheese, toasted pine nuts and micro-greens, always a filling and satisfying dish. Because my mother never gave me beets growing up, I continue to seek them out as an adult to compensate for that gross childhood omission.

I was fed, paid and climbing into my car by 7:10, a remarkable feat considering I'd enjoyed a fair amount of conversation with owner Dave before leaving.

Aside from an always excellent evening of comedy or drama, there are two delights of Richmond Shakespeare's' staged readings. The price of admission includes a glass of wine (I chose the Cab) and there's a dessert bar (I had the chocolate eclair). Not that I need enticements to see Shakespeare, but it's icing on the (chocolate) cake, so to speak.

Tonight's staged reading of "Double Falsehood or the Distrest Lovers" marks the first production in this country; Richmond slipped in under the wire as it's about to be produced in NYC and was done in London in January. First Picasso and now "Double Falsehood." This city's coolness meter just burst its bulb.

Who is it that woos at this late hour?

The play, written in the early 18th century is an adaptation of a lost play called "Cardenio," written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher. It included many of Shakespeare's usual devices, girls dressed as boys, lovers kept apart, as well as the distinctive meter and vocabulary.

Passion in women is short in waking and strong in effort.

What was particularly noticeable were the 18th century updates intended to appeal to a different audience than Shakespeare's, like the rape of the humble, but virtuous country girl. And unlike the master's plays, there were bad people in the bucolic country.

Love is contagious and it hurts my brain.

Because it was a reading and not a full production, the actors were working with scripts and even stands for the scripts, the first time I'd seen that. They used them to good effect, though, raising and lowering the stands as suited what they were doing as they spoke or if they were trying to be hidden.

I can't get this false man's memory out of my head.

A staged reading means limited props and interaction, but there's always enough to captivate. During the shepherd scene, the actors wore shearling caps with ear flaps and the head shepherd, (who salaciously licked the young shepherd's hand to demonstrate his lust), had a fake shearling piece over his shoulder.

Let them alone. They're almost starved for kisses.

Music was courtesy of the actor who could simulate a beat box and speeches from windows and balconies above were delivered by actors standing on their chairs.

Will you be ruled by me? Kill yourself!

How could the authenticity of the origins of this play ever have been doubted? By the end, the good and noble brother brings everyone together: the distraught fathers who thought they'd lost their children and the two sets of lovers who could now be joined in nuptials. All's well that ends well.

Being a hopeless romantic, I admit to getting great satisfaction from seeing distrest love resolved. Not so the epilogue, which opined, "Heaven defend us from these moral plays."

Heavenly defense not necessary.


  1. I just wanted to say thank you for coming to see the reading and for sharing your experience!

    Love your blog too!

  2. I was just happy to get to experience it, so thanks to you guys!

    SO glad you like my blog; hope you'll keep reading.

  3. Thank you so much for coming out! I enjoyed this posting, and will definitely keep up on your future posts.

  4. I enjoyed your reading, even if you were the bad son!

  5. Thanks so much for coming out! It was a very cool experience getting to speak those lines for perhaps the first time in the Western Hemisphere, and a very appreciative audience.

  6. One of the pleasures of a staged reading is watching the actors react to each other's interpretations.

    There were times you were laughing as much as I was (see: hand lick)!

  7. Thanks so much for coming--so glad you enjoyed it! (And I highly approve of your selection of the chocolate eclair.)


  8. A girl needs a treat when she's watching so much wooing but not being wooed herself!