Mediocre Wives – Notes on a Shakespeare Performance

MWWThis review assumes a familiarity with William Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor.

  • So disappointed was I that I eschewed taking home the playbill. I speak of American Players Theater’s (APT) performance of Merry Wives of Windsor (without the The), September 19, 2015, 8 PM Saturday.
  • To be sure, two actors milked their performances to expectable, magical APT standards: Brian Mani’s Falstaff and Jonathan Smoots’ Doctor Caius.
  • Several second-tier performances deserve call-outs: Wigasi Brant’s Bardolph (at last, an actor who understands that “I shall thrive!” is a line to be delivered with gusto). Deborah Staples’ Mistress Ford and Colleen Madden’s Mistress Page are cheekily confident. Yet I’ve seen the production by APT twice previously, and the wives have been better played. Sarah Day’s Mistress Quickly is fine, but not up to the standards of previous performances. (“Thereby hangs a tale” was cut from her lines. Also, her “glover’s beard” reference, an autobiographical insert from Shakespeare no rendition of Wives should be without. Or, if it were there, I missed it. More on that later.)
  • David Daniel’s Master Ford is appropriately manic, but after Jim de Vita’s turn in the previous APT production, he seems to borrow too much from the legacy. His staccato-squeak delivery of the oft-repeated “cuckold” made me cringe. (And “wittol,” from the text, is cut entirely. Shame on you, APT. Afraid the audience won’t know the reference? Shakespeare fans ought to; don’t sell us short. Wait—Ford did it again. “I will rather trust … an Irishman with my bottle,” says Ford, where the text has aqua vitae bottle.)
  • The catechizing of William Page, the only self-named character in the canon, is entirely absent. All of Act 4, scene 1, is gone. Parson Hugh could have shone here for his malapropisms even more (“Hic hang hog”), but APT pulled it all. This was a mistake. 4: 1 shows, also, Ms. Ford’s ultimately loving care for children and Quickly’s daftness, but farce is all the APT team was after, and who knows Latin anymore anyway?—all this they seem to say.
  • Lowest tier performances.
    • First, Chické Johnson’s Nym is all but invisible. What can be an overreaching commoner aspiring to intelligence by referencing the humors with abandon was trimmed and deadened. Again, I got the impression the APT company doesn’t trust the intelligence of the audience to get the joke (which was also at Ben Jonson’s expense). Worse, Johnson’s Nym’s cockney accent was an embarrassment.
    • Second, Jeb Burris’ Pistol gets the same treatment. Lines are cut, and the magnificent insult Base Hungarian Wight! Wilt thou the spigot wield? is tossed off as filler. Pistol’s middle class education, which he should wear on his skin, is overlooked.
    • Third, Robert Doyle’s Abraham Slender is not nearly nervous enough for us to believe in his social reticence.
    • Fourth, Aidaa Peerzada’s Anne Page. If the cast has a nadir, she is it, wooden, softly spoken, and flat. Anne has a minor but important role in showing a bright, knowing young adult, a sort of sanity in the madhouse presence that was completely missed by the actress.
    • Fifth, and purposely last, is Tim Gittings’ Welsh priest Parson Hugh. Hugh’s lovable butchering of English ought to have gained as many laughs as Smoots’ Caius, but he didn’t push or emote Hugh’s earnest English-hacking to anywhere near the spirit it deserved. His second-tier character devolved into a minor character engaged but to advance the plot.
  • A British 1880’s era production design was the backdrop. Methinks someone took a tip from Winona, Minnesota’s, Great River Shakespeare Festival production of Wives in 2014. This smaller (and now better) crew placed the action in Edwardian England with emphasis on Joplin ragtime rhythms. Although Winona cruelly excised Bardolph altogether, their melding of music and play was magnificent. APT’s copy seems forced and over-idyllic. APT even drug in a raft of youth and a dog to push the cute factor. After cutting William Page, I guess they felt a need to pack the stage with singing youngsters. It didn’t work, for none of the little actors became anything more than a vehicle to explain the defenestration of Falstaff in the final act by the little urchins in fairy costumes.
  • Sonically, the play was very lacking, and here was my other chief concern. Although I sat in the left-third of the band shell seats, a good 1/3 to ½ of the lines were either garbled or inaudible. Even my familiarity of the text of the play didn’t help me fill in the gaps. What’s up, APT? Have you told your actors to drop 10 decibels?

Did Homer Invent the Limerick?

amphora_100124_056Archeologists Discover Papyrus, Script

Link to Homeric Style “Certain,” says expert

<snip>

“The ditty translates as follows:

I go to the amphora forum,
For it needs four metaphors for ’em.

I walk in the door with
Four metaphora forthwith—

Morphing amphora decorum.”

South American Chance

Camelids for South American Chance

A llama mall: a card game ahead!

“Deal ’em, Mac,” a camelid said.

A coupla’ alpaca dealt: “An’ you cave, vicuña,”

As up-cards sailed under toes bifurcated.

“Where is all my luck?” a huarizo led.

“I’m gonna’ go,” the guanico pled.

Note: I enjoy word-play nonsense, as you can see. How successful I am is up to the reader. “A llama mall: a” is an orthographic inversion. “Deal ’em, Mac/Camelid“, “A coupla’ alpaca“,and “An’ you cave, vicuña“,are syllabic inversions. “Where is all/huarizo” and “I’m gonna’ go/gaunico” are doubling puns.
(All pictures courtesy Wikepedia, except the huarizos, courtesy of this link.)

Bad Review

Mystery on a BudgetI got a bad review on my book Ready or Not available at Kindle. It isn’t long, but out of respect for the writer, I link it here rather than quote it in its entirety.

At first I had a sinking feeling and not a little despair. But on reflection, my writer’s integrity asserted itself and I issued a very polite (I hope) thanks and apologetic, also available at the above link as a comment on the comment.

Two things I take away from this. One is Kay’s (the reviewer’s) take on the language. I can’t apologize for my grammar. It is what it is. And I took severe pains to actually talk down the characters’ dialogue as I wrote (and rewrote) the text. I wanted characters’ spoken words to reflect accurately the speech I knew from my years in the 70s and 80s in Iowa, swearing included. Perhaps I had grown up in a privileged (linguistically) environ? Yet everyone I knew was middle class, strictly. We were well-educated readers in those days. All my friends read, and avidly. And we fished, played board games, card games, camped, and swatted softballs around. That was we. And my characters reflect that.

Two is her lack of commentary of anything substantial to the driving plot. I worried about this as I wrote it, yet it was based on real events. A youthful girl was raped who lived in my neighborhood while walking home from a school function at night. She did try to kill herself when her parents didn’t believe her after enduring months of her growing volatility and instability. This neighborhood shock was what inspired me to put pen to paper. Further, the subjects of unplanned teen pregnancies were beginning to become rife in the 80s, as well as the prevalence of digital and video material’s easy access to society.

It is as it was, and I stand by it. I see my book as more of a record of what started to happen to a recently staid society that found itself suddenly open to new avenues of media and rapidly changing cultural norms. We’re still reaping those changes.

Siblings’ Sins – a poem and a note

Siblings’ Sins

Emily Emily

Horses of eternity
Stand fetlock-still for Emily — her
Groom, the teamster Death is waiting.
Bright’s Disease enjoins the mating.

Eager for his long betrothéd –
Garments’ royal verse she clothéd
Him, her decades’ virgin’s pining —
Pine plank bedsheets be their linen.

Burn no manuscript for incense
Even at her own insistence!
Square church altar not the nuptial:
Buttercup’d mound their sepulchre.

Sister Livvie saves the verses —
Libbie’s inner universes —
Luminate the world-wide now,
Eclipse our theft-saved almost-curses!

Yet Bronte Emily stands to faint, to
Waft her life like fumes from paint; is
This your laugh, tuberculosis?
Sister knows a diagnosis.

Charlotte’s claim: for Emmie’s fame she
Touched the Heights’ sequel to flame. Yet
Buried siblings know no shame. Has
Char charred criticisms down? Or
Burned her own — a green-eyed gown?

I know I’m not alone for being chagrined at Charlotte’s burning of her sister Emily’s second manuscript. What had the authoress of the incomparable Wuthering Heights wrought? Alas, we will never know. Lucky for us, the other immortal Emily, the poetess, had family that knew what treasures awaited a world.

Spam Attack

Courtesy State of Washington

Courtesy State of Washington

Have fellow, true-life bloggers suffered the same illness as I? Suddenly several posts have gotten through the filters at WordPress. Scan the (nearly) coherent syntax to this non sequitur:

I ran into this web page incorrectly, extemerly, this really is an excellent site. The site proprietor has carried out an excellent career of putting it together, the data the following is actually as well as helpful when i do evaluation. Now im going to save our planet wide web site to ensure that I can revisit inside the long term.

“Now im going to save our planet wide web site.”  ? What is it that such posters want from true bloggers (howsoever infrequently they post)? Am I expected to dog his or her or its blogging site and follow such salivant excess?

Here’s another freshman effort at invitatory excess.

А това е да се върнат и да обяснят на простия български народ, че като го мамят, Zначи са велики!

Exclamation point, indeed. That’s the opening line in Cyrillic, obviously. I leave it to the linguistically bored to determine whether this is the gibberish I expect it is, for abandoning St. Cyril’s alphabetic contribution to Slavic orthography, the post continues.

Haha, nqma smisyl da se obnvqqsa na takiva kato vas. Zashtoto ne si struva da se vlagat usiliqta da obnvqqsash na nqkoi, koito ne razbira i ne iska da 4ue. Ili za syjalenie se zablujdavash, 4e sa dostato4no inteligentni da razberat.

Eloquent, isn’t it? More, for documentation’s sake. The following has a weird kind of A.I.-generated sense to it. Someone tried a little harder, to be sure.

After I become bored at work I just begin wiithn searching for the majority of type of weblogs. After checking a lot of content, We comparable the particular browser to become very bored because the content articles as well as evaluations work for a number of phrases come up with. Nevertheless, Which makes it very divulge i had been moving your site and i’m floored together with your posts. Lastly I discovered another kid that is able to write a rare content approximately any kind of usual affair. Well done!

The following shows some thought. Someone is fishing with a more delicately adorned barb.

I am really pleaesd to have found your blog, and look forward to reading some more of your posts. You clearly really have your hands full, and I think your children are really lucky for the way you take their imagination and run with it.

Unfortunately, my children having flown my coop (perhaps due to these spam attacks), any relevance to what I am about is lost. Nevertheless, to all your efforts, coprolites, I may thank you in one regard. You gave me material for a desultory post somewhat worthier than your own post-seizure, spittle-splattered babble.

What Felons Don’t Know – Writing

courtesy Wikipedia

courtesy Wikipedia

I always find it amazing how little the felons know whom I teach. English. Standard, edited English. I teach medium- and minimum-security level males in a prison of some 500 inmates in a facility in Wisconsin. Close to one-half of those inmates attend the prison school to chase down their G.E.D.‘s. I’ve done this for over fifteen years, the longest I’ve held a continuous position at any job.

True, I have two study hall hours and one section of lower level civics, but my remaining three sections remain my bread and butter, that-which-I-was-hired-for reading and writing. I love the latter two best, especially writing.

Having no experience in standard public schools, I can only guess as to why so few men come ill prepared for some of the most basic writing standards. Subject/verb agreement, random capitalization, never ending and period-less sentences, apostrophes thrown in at random before final S‘s, atrocious spelling, and almost universal cluelessness towards quotation marks–these are among the numerous problems nearly all men face towards writing competency.

Yet even some items of a more fundamental level (I would have guessed!) cannot be taken for granted. The choice of A as in “a car” versus An as in “an elephant”–this must be taught! The personal pronoun I ? This must be brought to men’s notice as a constantly capitalized form. Those are two egregious examples. More basics than those two abound in the men’s ignorance.

What has happened in the public schools? That question may be unfair. My students admit to having some memory of these school basics when I question them. But most of these men must write so very little (and care nothing for how they appear in print when they do write, as in a letter home) that expansion–let alone implementation–of any writing skills is next to never on their radar screens. So I do know the woeful state of their skills when each arrives and starts the long trek towards competency.

Nor are these deficits limited to race or region. White men from small towns of middle age, some who have run businesses (construction, plumbing, electrical wiring) are as likely to be ignorant of English basics as a black young man from inner Milwaukee–likewise the black man of collegiate experience or the Hispanic man with broad bilingual (spoken) ability.

I don’t know how or where to place blame, so I don’t. The decline is general and across demography. Perhaps my even questioning public schools as I have done above is unfair to those schools. The culture of writing seems to be in decline, at least among the rarefied men who drag themselves into my classes. Those schools and educators, too, are fighting the same valiant but discouraging battle.

Then too, fellow bloggers, we may be the exception as all who aspire to write have always been. We care at least to some extent about how our writing appears. We have audience; we want to shine. I wonder if prison teachers of, say, the 1940’s would have shared my sentiments almost verbatim?

courtesy swap.mag.co.uk

courtesy swap.mag.co.uk