July 16, 2007

Shakespeare Bash 2007

What a delightful weekend this was: an unbeatable combination of friends, frivolity and food such as I rarely experience now that we've all graduated and scattered. The Texas Shakespeare Festival is running all month in Kilgore, and we settled on this past weekend as our time to go. In town for the event (at various times, in some cases) were myself and Rachel, Scholl and Anna, Randy, Wilson, Gallagher, Barbour, Ashley, Paige, Barbour's mom, and Wilson's family. The festival presented Othello, Man of La Mancha, Much Ado About Nothing and Amadeus for our infinite enjoyment. On Friday evening we pulled in from the four corners of everywhere (alright, mostly Texas) to the congregation point of Buffet City (Chinese) in Kilgore before adjourning to the performance of Othello.

After the rather oppressive rendering of Macbeth a few years ago and the uneven quality of last year's Coriolanus (the play itself, not its interpretation by the company), I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy this year's tragedy, but it was quite good. Good sign #1 was that Othello would be played by a black actor (you'd think that would be a given, but . . .). The actors did well playing up the light elements of the first 3 acts, and it also helps that Iago is probably Shakespeare's most compelling villain. The slow pace of the final acts was alleviated by very strong performances from the leads.

On Saturday afternoon, we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it was greeted by various levels of enjoyment. I largely liked it, particularly in contrast to the awful 4th film, despite a few minor quibbles. I'll stick a review up on Moviegoings soon. As a litmus test of coherence, Ashley said she rather enjoyed it having only read the first book and caught random pieces (out of order) of the first 3 movies.

Saturday night was the musical (after an interlude for Anna's yummy lasagna). I do not care for Man of La Mancha very much, although I do enjoy several of the songs. I find it entirely too preachy in all the wrong directions. In any case, this was certainly the weakest of the 4 we saw this weekend, thanks in part to the weak voice of the lead. I was particularly worried at first when I could barely make out what he was singing, but when Sancho nearly bowled us over with the strength of his voice I was at least glad we'd be able to hear the other performers.

There were some excellent singers up there, but Cervantes was not one of them. I don't want to be mean, but he positively butchered the crescendo of "The Impossible Dream." I should also note that the musical is vastly superior on-stage than it is in the movie version. Keeping the story spun by Miguel de Cervantes grounded firmly in the imagination of the prisoners in the dungeon is a strength that is totally ruined by the film's hijacking it into dreary reality.

Sunday lunch was at Joe's, and then we were off to the races. Much Ado started at 2:00, and it was magnificent. No matter what else you may have to say about the Texas Shakespeare Festival, you cannot deny that they know comedy. Hilarious, total crowd-pleaser. They hammed it up something fierce in all the right directions. Benedick was amazing. Dogberry was amazing. Don John was amazing (albeit difficult to look at . . . that awful awful mullet wig). The timing was fantastic and the improvised stage directions were grand (Shakespeare being notably sparse on that front). This play is the first I've really been tempted to buy a copy of from them.

After a brief consultation, we headed to Chili's for dinner, and then returned for the 7:30 performance of Amadeus. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect . . . I didn't know that the movie (one of my favorites) was based on a stage play, for instance, or to what extent. The long and the short of it is, I was blown away. The fact is, I've only been to a few dozen professional stage productions in my life, and precious little modern drama, but this was by far the most intense experience I've had in a live setting. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the movie and what it has to say about music and the source of art. While the movie gives more time to Mozart himself, the play never loses sight of Salieri's obsession. Everything is seen through his eyes (and narration). Outrageously good.

I can't help but reflect, though, that the performance would have been better without the audience. The guy behind me guffawed like a middle-schooler every time Mozart said a naughty word. And I don't mean just a chuckle . . . I mean ridiculously prolonged gurgling that lasted far longer than even a reasonably funny joke should have allowed. A man on the very front row (we were on the 2nd) decided after 2 hours and 50 minutes (counting the 20 minute intermission) that he just couldn't possibly wait one more second and "snuck" out less than 10 minutes before the end, jarring a microphone on the way out. I'm sure the DVD people were thrilled with him.

And, most egregious by far, some pribbling tickle-brained clotpole didn't turn their kriffing cell phone off, and it went off during the final minutes . . . three freaking times. Unbelievable. Unjustifiable. Unforgivable. Frog-march the stupid sot to the nearest body of water and send his phone to sleep with da fishes. Oh, if only.

Thus ended the Texas Shakespeare Festival. I spent Monday with Wilson and Paige, meeting them in the liberal arts offices at about 10:30 (hardly anyone was there) before retiring to my apartment (where Rachel was waiting) to watch The History Boys. We broke halfway through for lunch with Randy and the Scholls at El Sombrero. Later in the afternoon, we headed back to the Scholls' place and chatted for awhile before accompanying Wilson to the train station.

We were surprised there by Dr. J, who had rushed over to catch Wilson on his way out (miscommunication had prevented contact earlier). Wilson's train was going to be an hour and a half late, so we ditched him there to return to business as usual in Longview. It was fun while it lasted.

Posted by Jared at July 16, 2007 11:51 PM | TrackBack