A Midsummer Night’s Dream

American Shakespeare Center presents Will’s popular romantic mixup comedy in “Renaissance Style:” a limited rehearsal period, a charismatic repertory cast of only ten, no traditional director, and (per the program note) “a unique mashup of tradition and ‘DIY’ aesthetic.” The reduced size cast means that the lovers double as mechanicals and fairies, to very good effect. There are (the now de rigueur) acknowledgements that some of the rhymes no longer work, and some other modern schtick. More fun are the ad libs with the onstage audience, as well as a very funny bit in which an imaginary bolt kills a train whistle hoot owl that would otherwise disturb Titania’s nap.

Joe Mucciolo’s Puck is quite corporeal, receiving pantomime kicks and blows from Ronan Melomo’s Oberon every time he messes up. The three-way fight among Puck, Demetrius, and Lysander makes good use of the Blackfriars’ upstage doors. Annabelle Rollison’s “Bottom’s dream” monologue is a marvel.

The test of a good Dream is a rollicking Pyramus and Thisby (Shakespeare’s 11:00 number), and the team delivers with fresh bits, from an enormous pair of falsies for Sarah Fallon’s Flute’s would-be ethereal Thisby, to a live dog for Moonshine, to Natasia Lucia Reinhardt’s approach to Wall. Rather than the conventional peace sign chink, she leaves another opening for P and T to converse—let’s just say that Wall enjoys the kiss more than either Pyramus or Thisby.

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare, American Shakespeare Center, Blackfriars Playhouse, Staunton, Va.

Blackfriars has made some accommodations to audience comfort since my last visit, with permanent seat backs and cushions.

West Virginia road trip

Yesterday, S. and I made a pilgrimage to Dolly Sods Wilderness in order to give a proper, final goodbye to Ann (thunderstorm whisperer) and Leta (her mom’s biggest fan).

We overnighted at The Greenbrier, not really close to the wilderness area but at least in the same state. A short climb on a bit of the Raven Rock Trail (once I got out of the golf course) did turn up two wildflowers new to me, Eastern Gray Beardtongue (Penstemon canescens) growing on the exposed rock of a road cut, and Tall Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis).

On the move, up and over the ridges of West Virginia, then on to Jordan Run Road, and finally climbing the 7 miles of potholes and washboard of Forest Service Road 19. (S. was a great sport about all the various driving conditions on this trip. And she doesn’t mind I-81.) We reached our destination, the Dolly Sods Picnic Area and had a snack. Winds were surprisingly light, and the immediate area was more or less sheltered. I read from Graham Swift’s Last Orders and S. from Emily Dickinson. A Columbine Duskywing (Erynnis lucilius) nectared in the drifts of bluets; Black-throated Green Warblers and Wood Thrushes and Red-eyed Vireos and American Goldfinches sang. I took a very short walk on the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail.

a place to come back toAs the trail entered a forest of spruce with rhododendron understory, I returned a smidge of Leta’s and Ann’s remains to the ecosystem.

I found more new plants in bloom: Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia), and Canada Mayflower (Mainanthemum canadense).

And the birds continued their songs.

Mason and Bailey: 8

A modestly successful meeting of the Mason & Bailey Club, again at Huntley Meadows Park but this time with more moderate temperatures. We have added theater buddy L and husband J to the crew. We found a bit of Eastern Yellow Stargrass at my reliable Hieracium venosum spot, and a wee snail tentatively ID’d as genus Mesodon.

It was a good herp day: mucho Snapping Turtles, a Black Ratsnake coiled up at the tower, Northern Watersnakes, Ribbonsnakes, unidentifiable larvae in the water, a likely Red-eared Slider. On these outings, I find that I’m too busy overexplaining to take many pictures or reasonable field notes.

Forte

Linda Holmes nails it in her response to Apple’s crass iPad advertisement.

But these are not practical items to begin with. Nobody owns a piano because it’s practical; it’s about the least practical thing you can own. It can wreck your floor. It goes out of tune. And if you happen to get a new place, you don’t just need movers for it; you may need special movers. You don’t own a piano to get from point A to point B in the most direct way you can. You own a piano for the reason we had one in my house: a person plays it. Someone sits down, as my mother did, and plays the “Maple Leaf Rag,” and you can hear the pedals lightly squeak, and you can watch hands skitter across keys, and of course you are listening to music — but also, those are your mother’s hands.

In my case, the piano’s owner was Leta and the player was Grandmother Madeline.

And in my case, the piano was in the Northern Michigan University dormitory lounge and the player was Audrey from Rockford, Ill., and the song was indeed “Maple Leaf Rag.”

Amm(i)gone

A very personal piece of metatheater, Amm(i)gone is an extended Moth-style confessional monologue about Adil’s efforts to reconnect with his devout Muslim mother (his ammi) by unconventional means: an (uncompleted) joint project to translate Sophocles’ Antigone into Urdu. Hence, the equally unconventionally punctuated title. The piece takes off from this season’s earlier My Mama and the Full-Scale Invasion (with its coda of a video call with the playwright’s mother) and runs with the notion: an extended passage is built from recorded conversations between ammi and Adil. A bit less moving than it wants to be, for this reviewer the strongest material was a video segment of Ivo van Hove’s Antigone. But at least the fifth-grader’s pun in Urdu is redeemed at the end of the piece.

  • Amm(i)gone, created and performed by Adil Mansoor, co-directed by Lyam B. Gabel, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in association with Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Washington

At the park: 146

Sunday’s report:

Ducklings on the ponds and traffic jams in the parking lot: it’s mid-spring!

On Sunday, we saw three boxes hatched out, as well as box #2 in the process of hatching. Photographers reported 21 fledglings leaving box #6 on 21? 22? April. [We cleaned out 7 dead eggs from this box—this was our dump nest box for the season.] And we have one new clutch started and incubating in box #61.

Box 2 - 28 April 2024
Box #2 with pips visible in three eggs.

Box 10 - 28 April 2024In box #10, we saw sticks and veg indicating that a songbird might be interested in using the box.

So we have seven active clutches to check on our next work day. Since 12 May is Mother’s Day, we will next meet in three weeks, on 19 May. We will check all the boxes at this time, and after that we will only do spot checks for any boxes that continue to have activity….

Thank you for listening to my dumb jokes!

At the park: 145

This week’s report:

Ten active nests, and four are due to hatch by the time of our next work day, Sunday, 28 April. Many observers have reported Hooded Mergansers with young on the wetland, so we can only conclude that they have found suitable natural cavities this year, as only one box has been (temporarily) home to a merganser as of now.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were audibly in attendance.

New York 2024

(Cleaning up my to-do list.)

Back in January, I took my first trip to New York since pre-COVID-19 days. I’ve already posted my theater reviews; I checked off two new (to me) jazz venues and made my pilgrimage to the Met’s Astor Court. This post is mostly about trains.

The trip stated off with a mess: a Northeast Regional train was out of commission ahead of our Acela, somewhere in the neighborhood of Aberdeen, Maryland. Our train picked up all the passengers and it was standing room only (and not much of that) all the way into Penn Station, an hour-plus late. I was very grateful for the comped snacks in the mini fridge in my hotel—they got me through the dinner hour—and even more grateful for the lone food truck that was open, in the rain, at Hudson Yards, after Here We Are let out.

at the terminalturnaroundThe next day, I checked off a new rail system: I rode the Staten Island Railway from St. George about halfway out the island, then turned around and rolled back. There are no fare gates at the interior stations: you scan your OMNY card in or out at St. George.

Much drama finding some place that would sell me an OMNY card; much thanks to the Bronx express bus driver who asked me, “just where are you heading?”

I made what will not be my only trip to Zabar’s on the Upper West Side. I brought back babka for the Dance Nation teams and a scrumptious fruit-filled confection labelled “Russian coffee cake” for me.

relicThere are still fire escapes to be found on Coenties Slip.

mostly in the frameAnother highlight of the trip: Sol LeWitt’s Whirls and Twirls (MTA) at Columbus Circle. LeWitt’s wall drawing style, accomplished in much more durable tile.

On the way back home, the Amtrak conductor was a little tongue-tied approaching Philadelphia, and it sounded like he was announcing “William H. Macy Station.” Now that would be something.

Dance Nation: an update: 5

We closed the show on Sunday, with a bit more drama. Sunday was a clean run for cues, except that at the end of the show we were high-fiving each other and I forgot the cue to bring the house lights up (the last of 80 light cues, which is a new personal maximum).

I missed Thursday through Saturday because I was chasing off a COVID-19 infection (first time for everything!). Swiss Army knife/ASM/understudy Trenor called the show, and do it well, by all reports. We spent four hours Thursday morning with me coaching him through my book and explaining (as best I could without the license key dongle) how to use the EOS virtual light board.

my deskYou can see the app running on my laptop here, along with my book, the god mic, a walkie-talkie, flashlight, scribble pads, water bottle, and Godzilla guarding it all.

step upclimbing wallHere’s that dummy electrical box and the climbing wall setup.

Wet towels to pick up the candy glass residue just made the deck sticky. Sweep, sweep, sweep.