Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Tempest in a Wine Glass

Summer has arrived and the Roundhouse has redeemed itself.

Or, more accurately, I now know the drill. So after dinner at Garnett's we knew enough to be at the Roundhouse before 7 p.m., arriving to find the band set up and having a relaxed chat about the set list. What makes me think others had not yet learned their lesson was how few people had their butts in seats when Quatro na Bossa started playing shortly thereafter.

And, honestly, why on earth wouldn't you be on time for Brazilian Bossa Nova music from the '50s, '60s and '70s? I mean, really?

The evening's performance was extra poignant because it was guitarist Bruno's last show with the band now that he's moving to South Carolina as a doctor of music theory. His exquisite guitar playing and lovely voice will be missed, at least until he realizes he wants to return to Richmond (like they all do).

During the first song, an instrumental, singer Laura Ann stood off to the side listening, eventually making the executive decision (like women do) that we didn't need no stinkin' overhead light and turning it off. She was right, with sun pouring through three windows (unfortunately not open, though, like last week) behind the band and the door wide open to light, we had all the early summer sunlight we needed.

Let's just that when she joined the band onstage, it the lighting was much more appropriate for Brazilian music.

Because the syncopated sounds Quatro na Bossa play are so danceable and because we were all sitting in folding chairs, there was a lot of toe-tapping and seat dancing going on as Laura Ann and/or Bruno's voices rose and fell with each samba or Tropicalia song.

Happily, people kept arriving to give the band the audience it deserved.

Once the sun finally got near setting, a firefly found its way into the Roundhouse, flying around and reminding us of its presence periodically with a green glow before then showing up on the far side of the room to dazzle someone new.

It says so much about the music that despite not being able to understand a word of the lyrics, everyone was rapt listening to the music.  All except the big galoot sitting in front of us, taking up three chairs by extending his arms across the two on either side of him and repeatedly staring at the ceiling, rubbing his face and looking bored out of his mind. Luckily, his date got the hint and they cut out early.

We stayed until the last note, reluctant to leave the magic of bossa nova and fireflies before retreating to J-Ward.

When it comes to Summer Solstice, that was celebrated outdoors by seeing Quill Theatre's production of "The Tempest" at Agecroft on a night when the weather could only be described as glorious. Breezy, low humidity and just warm enough, it was a night meant for being outdoors with just the right person, savoring the longest day of the year (also a bittersweet one now that days begin getting shorter).

We stopped at Goatocado to get dinner, bringing along birthday wine courtesy of my best friend in Texas (thanks, Buns!) and a slice of cake - my personal fave, chocolate with white icing - to celebrate multiple occasions. Spreading a quilt under a row of massive shade trees on Agecroft's back lawn, we had a view of the river, a breeze from multiple sides and live entertainment.

Four of Quill's costumed Young Players showed up, offering a song or a monologue for our pleasure. The first we chose was that of the melancholy Jacques from "As You Like It" and afterwards, they offered us another. The young man offering to do Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" seemed especially animated and eager when he offered up his monologue, so I capitulated, telling him that it was obvious he was dying to dazzle us.

At several points, he was crouched on one knee or leaning forward looking about to spring onto us, so his antics were worth it.

Once inside, we chose seats in the third row center for best possible view. In the 20 past years of seeing Shakespeare at Agecroft, I have never tired of being close enough to see the actors spit, not to mention scale the nearby stone wall and deliver monologues. Translation: I like to be in the thick of things.

Sitting just behind us was a familiar acting face who now graces L.A. with his acting chops, but is back in town for a few. Last time I'd seen him at Agecroft, he'd been playing Sir Andrew Aguecheeck dressed in a brown suit. Hearing his guffaws throughout added a nice touch to tonight's show.

My standards for "The Tempest" are unusually high, only because back in the '90s, I saw Richmond Shakespeare (Quill's predecessor) do it on Fulton Hill with an approaching thunderstorm as backdrop and that's tough to beat.

This production got its points other ways, since the weather couldn't have been more un-tempest-like. The always-impressive Adam Turck made Ariel his own in gray-blue body paints, nervous tics and aim to please. Just watching him stand on the stone wall and react to what was happening onstage could have been a master class for a younger actor.

Jeff Clevenger has made a career of milking the humor in any character, making him the ideal person to play the jester Trinculo, besotted with wine and fearful of spirits. My fandom for Adam Valentine was born when I saw him in "Heathers" and tonight's turn as Alonso's butler "Stephano" showed that his take on humor is equal parts visual (that sad sack face he calls forth!) and gangly physicality. The scene of Trinculo and Stephano "hiding" in plain sight had the audience in stitches.

Sitting in the courtyard of a building that stood in Shakespeare's time, watching a time-honored play under a brilliant blue sky on the longest day of the year may take the cake in terms of exquisite ways to wile away the summer solstice a deux.

But then, anyone as stupidly happy as I am would think that. Just ignore me...

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