Sunday, July 22, 2018

Running into Strange Capers

All the world may be a stage, but when Mother Nature wants to assert herself, it's all the players and audience who get wet.

After many rainy afternoon hours, the sky finally cleared a bit or at least enough to hope that  Quill Theatre would be able to stage tonight's installment of the 20th Annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival so we could see "As You Like It" at Agecroft. If nothing else, we were guaranteed that the extensive gardens and grounds surrounding the old Tudor mansion would would have had a good soaking, making them completely inhospitable to dining al fresco.

Which is a shame because picnicking is always part of the festival's charm.

Cut to Plan B, which involved the same picnic goodies spread out on a blanket on my living room floor. Two benefits to the indoor picnic? Drinking our Rose out of glass instead of plastic and being able to cue up "Music for Dining" on the turntable. Because nothing says impromptu indoor supper quite like a 1954 record by British orchestra the Melachrino Strings.

Only once the album and meal were finished did we venture to Agecroft, hoping all the while that the show would go on. Shakespeare lovers were already heading into the courtyard while we claimed our programs at the box office and found seats in the second row in time for the audience selfie.

What care I for words? Yet words do well when he that speaks them pleases those who hear.

Unlike so many overly warm nights watching Shakespeare at Agecroft, the rain had left behind cool air and high hopes we could make it through the love antics of the Forest of Arden crew before Mother Nature returned to her wet ways.

But then we're optimists like that.

My affection has an unknown bottom, like the Bay of Portugal

Did someone say Portugal? The first act passed in a flurry of love, cross-dressing and, yes, a wrestling match, as the Shakespeare fan next to me and I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the enthusiastic wooing and new relationship foibles on full display in front of us.

No sooner met but they looked; no sooner looked but they loved; no sooner loved but they sighed; no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy.

The cast wasn't just strong, they were also embracing the spirit of the pastoral play with much scampering, confusion and poetry writing. The reliably brilliant Luke Schares had kicked the evening off by taking introduction duties, but followed that with his hilariously melancholy take on the exiled duke's buddy, Jaques. Rebecca Turner's Rosalind was particularly fetching as her male alter-ego Ganymede and truly, what woman wouldn't enjoy a turn coaching her beloved in how best to woo her?

Men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.

It was my date's first time not only seeing "As You Like It," but also seeing the indefatigable John Mincks pull off his distinctive brand of comedic delivery (biting off his consonants and enthusiastically spitting out his retorts) and superb physicality in the role of the jester, while Nicole Morris-Anastasi nerdily nailed Phoebe's lovesick passion with the skill of a natural comedian.

Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.

During intermission, the man sitting next to me came back from a bathroom break looking like he'd seen a ghost. What he'd actually seen was a mummified cat in one of the walls and it had so unnerved him that he was sharing the details with us so he didn't have to deal with it alone. And he didn't just tell us, he proceed to Google it so he could know there and then the cat's story, and regale us with more information than we ever needed to know about Britain's long history of dead cats in house walls.

When we finally started looking pained at his in-depth dead cat rantings, he then pulled up the audience selfie from earlier and pointed out how we'd at least made ourselves notable in the photo while he and his wife sat there like bumps on a log. All I know is, you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family...or your seatmates.

Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?

As satisfying as the second act's shenanigans are, they were immeasurably aided and abetted by the fine rain that began falling not long after it began and kept up until the bows. Not anything heavy or obnoxious, but a delicate precipitation that left droplets on the people's hair in front of us and came down in front of the stage lights like a steady snow shower.

Because if you're going to enjoy "As You Like It" on a cool July evening - and especially if it's someone's first time seeing it performed live - there could be no more magical way to see it than in a soft, summer rain. Worm weather.

Take it from a woman who doesn't hesitate to speak what she thinks, all the more so when it pleases he who hears it.

And everyone knows she thinks a lot. Just not about dead cats in the wall.

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