Despite the wasteland of theater activity that summer typically is, I’ve been doing all kinds of random junk for the past couple of weeks, but I’ve been too busy pulling weeds and barricading myself against the heat to update my blog (also…I started a brand-new play). So, this week will involve some catch-up, beginning with my most recent adventure over the weekend.
On Saturday night, Aurora and I buzzed up to Allentown to take Sally (my Godmom) to the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. I’ve mentioned my complicated feelings about Billy in earlier posts. However, a few years ago, I discovered that my Godmom had never seen one of Billy’s plays on stage, despite having read a good number of them (this is due to inaccessibility…she lives in a small, coal-mining town in upstate Pennsylvania). I immediately corrected this by driving her twenty miles to the closest theater to her—Bloomsburg University—to watch a production of Hamlet, which turned out to be completely awful.
So, I’ve spent the past three years making up for my mistake and taking her on the long trek to Allentown every summer. Back in my post-college days, I was a huge fan. I started going when the festival first started in 1992 and even had season tickets for a couple of years. But as I’ve explained elsewhere, I’ve largely eschewed Billy, and only my love for my Godmom has caused me to go back on that.
Having said that, our choices this year were Pericles and Henry V, and I’m sorry, but I don’t love anyone enough to see Henry V. I’ve read it and seen Kenneth Branagh’s movie, and I’m done. Forever. Pericles is another matter, because no one ever produces that. I hadn’t read it, but after seeing PSF’s production, I can see why.
Billy wrote plenty of (what we call in the biz) “problem plays.” The final act of The Winter’s Tale takes place something like twenty years after the second act, and it involves a statue of the protagonist’s dead daughter coming to life and picking up where they left off. Despite the clunky plot, or maybe because of it, it’s fun to see how a theater handles it.
But Pericles is a doozy. I won’t get into it, because scholars already know the plot and laymen don’t care, but suffice to say, a lot of crap happens to the protagonist through no fault of his own, and then resolves itself, again, through no fault of his own. Theater is about choice, and Pericles doesn’t choose a lot of stuff.
But it was a fun production, anyway, and I was glad I saw it. There was a lot of great music and a boot-stomping dance. Also, much of the second act takes place in a brothel…that’s always a good thing. The acting was over-the-top for my taste, but given the unsubtle script, they had to do something. In any case, no one fell asleep, and my Godmom enjoyed herself, so mission accomplished.
Oh, and kudos to the musical performers before the show. I really enjoyed that. There was a gentleman on a lute and a young lady on flute playing Elizabethan music on the lawn while fans of Billy picnicked. We dined on prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ripe heirloom tomatoes, a variety of salads, and two bottles of wine under a perfect summer day as at the sun went down. A wonderful evening all around.