Noel Coward haunts the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival
So, as I’m prone to do this time every year, I packed up my spouse and dog and headed to the great expanse that is upstate Pennsylvania, all so that I could take my Godmom to the Shakespeare Festival in Allentown, where we were joined by our friends, Red and Rick. This is our fourth year doing it with my Godmom, and for our entertainment, I chose that deeply moving Shakespeare play, Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward. In my defense, the actual Shakespeare options were Love’s Labor’s Lost, which sucks, and The Taming of the Shrew, which can be fun, except that I can’t take one more conversation about how to make the themes of the play relevant to modern American society, or at the very least, not mind-blowingly sexist. I’m not necessarily saying this isn’t a valid discussion, but I’m 46 years old now, and I just don’t have it in me, anymore. In any case, if you truly need to spend so much time and energy defending the relevance of the play, maybe you shouldn’t be performing it. It’s 400 years old, after all. One or two more plays have been written since.
So, we went with Blithe Spirit. And while I enjoy Coward, I didn’t know this play. Having said that, if I didn’t know what play I’d walked into, I would have guessed Noel Coward within the first five seconds, when a maid walked into an opulent drawing room with a tray full of martini glasses. Performances were great, and PSF gets funding out the wazoo, so you know the set looked sensational. I cannot imagine a better production of a play, and yet, it just sort of sat there. Sure, I laughed a few times, because it’s Noel Coward, and only a four-day-old corpse can sit through a Noel Coward play without laughing, but it was as predictable as the waning of the moon. I will say that, while it flirted with tedium, it didn’t quite lapse into it, thanks to the energy of the actors. God bless them, they really poured themselves into it. And you can’t fault PSF for knowing their audience. The show got a standing ovation, which confused me, until I remembered that they often get standing ovations. It’s just one of those things that people do in Allentown, I suppose.
Anyway, special thanks go to the Spring Valley Inn, which is where we ate afterward and had been closed for several years, but is now open again. I call them the “trout house” because they have their own trout pond which they use for seven or eight different dishes on the menu. Seriously, if you like fresh trout, this is the place. And the ambience is great: a 200-year-old inn on a lonely, windy road. We sat outside for three hours, sipping martinis (of course), watching an electrical storm wander in and out, and gorging on trout. Not a bad day.
- Harry Potter strikes!
- Ambitious plays suck (until they don’t)