July 14th, 2003

Roper-Ferraro wedding, 07-12-03

After a couple of quiet weeks, we're back in the whirl attending the wedding of Milwaukee-area fan and well-known filker Carol Roper and former Chicago-area fan John Ferraro. John has relocated to Milwaukee and the two of them will shortly be moving to a new joint residence in Mukwanago (which is about the nearest remaining rural area to Milwaukee). The wedding was held at the residence of Gerry and Dawn Frey, which is in the rural Fort Atkinson area. Georgie was providing the wedding cake, so it was both a prfessional and a social occasion. (I get to provide moral support to Georgie, and transport services for the cake--). The Frey's property is located in one of Southern Wisconsin's green valleys among gentle hills, and was a beautiful site. The actual wedding was conducted under a tent, which worked well, given the beautiful weather. Carol and John specified on the invitations that the wedding was to be "trans-temporal," in that the bride and her women would be wearing Rennaissance gowns, whareas the groom and his men would be dressed as '50's "beats." The wedding guests were encouraged to dress as whatever they felt would do justice to the occasion. The bride wore a white gown produced by fannish seamstress Teresa Roden, and her attendants wore princess-seamed gowns in teal taffeta with coordinating sleeves in pale blue lace. I decided to support the groom, and wore my black beret, dark glasses, grey sportcoat over black t-shirt, black jeans, and brown sandals (there were no black sandals for men in those days--). Georgie, on the other hand, was very elegant in an ivory lace and crinkle-satin gown, with matching hat, net gloves, and high-button boots. The service was brief but elegant, and was followed immediately after by the receiving line (which took longer than the service) and a delicious and festive meal catered by Rupena's from West Allis. There was to be filking aferward, but we didn't stay for that, heading home about 6:00PM.

"Barrymore," American Players Theatre, July 13

in recent years, American Players Theatre in Spring Green has usually had a special event during the season. This year, it was a one-show-only production of "Barrymore," a one-man-show (mostly) about the actor John Barrymore. APT veteran Lee Ernst, known to us as a marvellous Cyrano, among other roles, played the title role. The play is set in 1942, three months before his death, which is implied was due to complications of alcoholism. The premise is that Barrymore, whose last stage apperance was in 1938, and movie in 1940, intends to stage a comback by mounting a production of "Richard III," the role that was his first great triumph as a "serious" actor. He has rented a vacant theatre for a night, and, with the help of his long-suffering prompter, Frank (mostly present as an offstage voice), intends to rehearse the part. What happens mostly instead is a two-hour monologue about his life and times which is frequently gleefully profane, and frequently pathetic as the actor struggles with his lack of concentration and memory.

The play started off under circumstances which will make it one of APT's historical shows--the electricity went out just as the show was to start. Fortunately, at 6:00PM in July there was plenty of daylight, so the show went on. Indeed, we hardly noticed when the lights did first return.

The script is undoubtedly entertaining, though I felt Barrymore was short-changed by some of it. He is supposedly unable to remember more than a line or two of Shakespeare at a time, INCLUDING Richard's opening speech, "Now is the winter of our discontent," which is probably Shakepeare's second most famous monologue after Hamlet's soliloquy. No matter HOW badly off Barrymore was, he should have known that much in his sleep. I could imagine needing prompts on much of the rest of the show, but not that.

Ernst played the role with his usual skill and power, which, oddly enough, was the problem I had with his interpretation. I didn't see him as a sixty-year old alcoholic who'd lead a hard life and was nearing death. Although parts of the performance called for energy, I thought we needed to see a more febrile and fleeting energy, last reserves of strength being called on, rather than the expression of Ernst's still youthful vigor. The highs were too energetically high, and the lows perhaps not low enough.

All this aside, it was still a facinating performance, and we were glad to have seen it.