Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Theater Day

On Saturday, Joshua and I and our landlady attended two theater productions.

At the end of last week, our landlady, who loves theater, had mentioned to us that she thought we needed to devote one of our weekend days to theater. Josh and I decided that it might be fun, and we agreed with her. We chose to make Saturday, not Sunday, our theater-going day.

Consequently, on Saturday afternoon we went to Bloomington to see a Bloomington Civic Theater production of “The Fantasticks”.

Josh and I had never seen a performance of “The Fantasticks” before, and we were not quite sure what to make of this show. The show did not come across in the Bloomington production—our landlady said that the production was too bold, even brassy, for the material—and I am not sure that I would ever find this show to be appealing. The show struck me as thin and wispy, straining to be whimsical, but perhaps this was the fault of the production and not the material. Nonetheless, I am totally puzzled that this show managed to rack up a forty-year run in New York. I saw and heard nothing in the show to warrant such a lengthy run.

The Bloomington Civic Theater generally produces musicals to a very high standard—we all saw a lavish “Funny Girl” there last year, with full orchestra, that was at a professional level—but I do not think that this “Fantasticks” production will go down in the company’s annals as one of its finer efforts.

We caught “The Fantasticks” at the end of its month-long run, so the actors were as settled into their parts as they were going to be. I thought they were floundering. The Saturday matinee performance was sold out.

After “The Fantasticks”, we drove downtown and ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant. On these rare theater excursions with our landlady, we always seem to choose Chinese food.

After dinner, we went to Theater In The Round to attend a performance of “Henry V”.

I normally try to avoid American productions of Shakespeare, because American actors cannot recite Shakespeare’s texts. Iambic pentameter is simply beyond the capability of American actors—they always sound as if they have learned their lines phonetically.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the Theater In The Round production enormously. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable Shakespeare productions I have ever attended.

Simply put, the production worked. It was a spare, even spartan production, cleanly staged. It was paced swiftly and lucidly, so that anyone unfamiliar with the play could follow the action easily. The text was cut—about forty-five minutes of the text had been lopped off, to bring the production in at two-and-a-half hours, with one intermission—and I had no problem with that.

The actors were OK, and I thought the young actor playing Henry V did an excellent job. He was a trifle bland and a trifle tentative, but he created a convincing Henry V. The real Henry V was a young man at the time of Agincourt, still feeling his way into his role, still learning how to be a leader among men, and casting a young actor as Henry V emphasized this aspect of the King without reducing the power of the role or the play.

I am very pleased that our landlady encouraged us to attend this “Henry V” because otherwise we would have missed it. All three of us liked this production. It was as fine a Shakespeare production as I have seen in the United States, and better than anything the Guthrie Theater has done with Shakespeare in my adult lifetime (for Shakespeare, the Guthrie brings in “big name” directors who get bogged down in “concept” productions that never work).

Today we did not do anything. After church, Josh and I had my parents over for lunch and dinner. (On our way home from church, Josh and I stopped and picked up my parents’ dog so that he could join us, too.) We gave them a lunch of tuna-and-noodles and a tomato-cucumber salad. We gave them a dinner of roast chicken and stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas, glazed carrots and fresh cranberries. For dessert, we had apple crisp.

All afternoon, we talked and listened to music and played scrabble. We talked to my brothers a couple of times on the telephone. We took the dog outside a couple of times for a good long romp. It was a nice, quiet afternoon.

First thing Tuesday morning, I have to travel to Dallas on business. I will not return until Friday evening.

Josh will stay with my parents while I am gone. That way he will not have to stay by himself in a lonely apartment.

My parents will take good care of him.


  1. Take good care, Andrew.

    I'm glad you had a nice weekend.


  2. I hope you had a nice weekend, too, J.R., and I hope you have a good week.

    Dallas should be OK--and a bit of warm weather will be welcome!

    Take it easy.


  3. I was in Dallas once. All I remember is that it was hot.

    I did make it over to the Kimball in Fort Worth. It reminded me of the Ashmolean and the Fitzwilliam.

    Never saw "The Fantasticks".

    About one thing you are right: Americans can't do Shakespeare to save their lives.