Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Defy You, Stars

Summer may not have officially begun, but its ways and means are well underway.

The bedspread is packed away (the cotton blanket soon to follow), heat naps have become the norm on unbearably sticky afternoons and the 20th annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival is in full swing at Agecroft Hall.

Now, I know that sitting outside in the courtyard of a 500-year old house on a summer night isn't everyone's cup of tea (Pru's complaints run from the humidity to the uncomfortable chairs to the bugs), but for decades, it's been mine.

Don't waste your love on somebody who doesn't value it.

Although my date wasn't technically an Agecroft virgin, it had been enough years since that one long-ago visit (for a party, not a play) to dim its full memory. Right there you know I just have to give him the full experience. Add in the production - "Romeo and Juliet" - and I'm in my element making sure we cover all the bases.

Intermission on the stone terrace, for example. A picnic dinner. The usual.

Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.

We were the first to spread a blanket on the lawn behind the gardens for a picnic with a diminishing view of the James and the bridge. Despite being non-natives, we both extolled the good old days of less verdant trees allowing for wider vistas from the lawn, ending up sounding like old-school Richmonders always assuming the past was better than the present.

Maybe it's something in the humidity.

Did my heart love 'til now?

The costumed young players moved from blanket to blanket, offering up scenes to accompany the al fresco dining going on, and though we never got asked, we had great seats for two scenes from "Taming of the Shrew," a play I inevitably enjoy.

I know, I know, plenty of people take issue with its chauvinistic overtones, but I can overlook that because of Petruchio and Katerina's brilliant dialogue (just as good but without the machismo: Beatrice and Benedick's parrying in "Much Ado About Nothing"). Those two sure can talk.

Under love's heavy burden do I sink.

When it came time to go to the courtyard to find seats, the location was left up to me, presumably the pro. Usually I'm a front row kind of a gal, but at Agecroft, that sometimes makes you part of the show.

I got pulled onstage once and told to scream on cue. I did it several times, but I'm no actress. Better we sit in the second row where we lucked out when no one sat in front of our view. More good first-timer vibes.

'Tis an ill cook that can not lick his own fingers.

I have no idea how many times I've seen "Romeo and Juliet," but a stellar production can still wow me every time. Quill's James Ricks had fashioned a teen-aged love story with equal parts sass and heart. And may I just say how utterly refreshing it is to see a Romeo still within reach of his teen-aged years? Tyler Stevens had the face and voice - not to mention all the young man bravado necessary to woo a major crush - to nail Romeo's youthful/testosterone-fueled exuberance.

Educated men are so impressive!

And don't get me started on Todd Patterson's scene-stealing depiction of the swaggering Mercutio. It was as if David Bowie and Mick Jagger had a love child and he channeled his parents to do Shakespeare (and then maybe bed a wench). Loyal, lascivious and oh-so fluid in his movements. a pity since he dies in the first act.

Seek happy nights to happy days.

Eventually the sun went down, the fireflies came out and both the lovers were dead. Everyone left was devastated. I don't know when I've had such a romantic evening.

Oh, wait, yes I do. Never mind me, that's just a fume of sighs...

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