Fried chicken and a foolish king were the highlights of my recent Sunday evening.
My friend Jack Breslin and I have been regulars at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival for about 10 years. Each summer, we picnic and partake in two of the Bard’s plays.
So far this season, it’s been fried chicken from the Rye Country Store and “King Lear,” the story of a man too slow to know who among his three daughters truly loves him and who is all sweet talk and no affection. You might have guessed. It’s a tragedy.
Later in the summer, we’ll attend a performance of “All’s Well That Ends Well,” which is, in today’s parlance, a romantic comedy. Maybe we’ll order one of the picnic dinners the festival offers. They range in price from $16.50 to $23.
Jack, who is an Iona College professor, and I are equal opportunity Shakespeare fanciers. Last month, we saw “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. The movie is an inspired contemporary version of the zany 16th-century comedy. And we might take in “Macbeth” on Broadway, starring Alan Cumming. But watching a performance at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is an unmatchable experience. I’ll go as far as to use the word “unique.”
The plays are performed outdoors under a tent at Boscobel, a Hudson River estate in Garrison. A great lawn rolls out from the tent all the way down to the riverbank. That expanse of green becomes an extension to the stage. After the sun sets and the sky darkens, actors appear and disappear into the night. Battles are fought on that lawn, on the same patches of green where picnickers sat just minutes before. Lovers embrace under the stars. Witches stir their brew. Mysterious fairies perform mischievous magic.
You might call it “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Those of us who return year after year have come to expect quirky, playful twists on the iconic plays. Especially the comedies. Often contemporary musical numbers and dances are tucked into the performances. It’s part of the fun.
This year, Alexandre Dumas is sharing the bill with Shakespeare. “The Three Musketeers,” which is billed as “a swashbuckling romp” for people of all ages, has been adapted by Ken Ludwig and is directed by Christopher V. Edwards. Tempting. We hope to fit it in.
For more information, visit hvshakespeare.org.
– Barbara Nachman
Barbara Nachman is the author of “Sylvie Shine: Senior Sleuth,” which will be published later this summer, and four fashion mysteries, to be published in the near future. She’s an adjunct professor at Iona College in New Rochelle. For more information, visit fashionmystery.com.