Our Oberon Stratford group this year was able to fit into one car. The five of us, Richard, Linda, Sue, Rosey, and I, headed eastward toward the bridge at Port Huron/Sarnia early last Saturday morning, August 25. There was no wait at the bridge, and the merry little band was admitted to Canada after brief questioning by the attendant as to who we were (Oberon, Shakespeare study group), what did we do (study Shakespeare), where we were bound (Stratford),for what reason (to see a play), at what time (2 p.m.), which play (Merchant of Venice), brief plot summary please (one followed--just kidding), by which author (Shakespeare), was he the real author (just kidding).
Fortunately, I had given the driving over to Richard, so it was Richard who patiently answered the questions as opposed to me who, as Rosey likes to relate, undoubtedly would have become totally irritated and scornful and who would have gotten everyone strip searched and jailed, thereby missing the curtain.
The drive through Canada by Richard was masterful indeed, following an off the beaten path itinerary of two lane roads and small towns with colorful names, none of which shall be made public here since Richard made us take a vow of silence having discovered and patented the route.
It was by far the best way to get to Stratford, Richard maintained, and he should know having gone there several times a year for the last 40 or so years of his life.
When we passed the familiar Tim Horton’s at the edge of town, we knew we were there, only to be confirmed as Richard pulled up to the tourist office where everyone disembarked to load up on free literature inside.
Richard and Sue disappeared while Linda, Rosey and I munched delicious date bars at one of Richard’s favorite restaurants -- the York Street Kitchen -- which appeared to be a covered alleyway between two buildings with doors on either end and some tables, chairs, and a kitchen in the middle. Richard appeared some minutes later with bags filled with puzzles which he had bought at a store at the end of the block with some kind of secret access which involved stairs. Lord knows where Sue was.
All together again, the merry band pressed onward to Jack Scofield’s seminar on The Merchant of Venice. For the first 20 minutes, Mr. Scofield zeroed in on another play that we weren’t going to see that evening. I was getting impatient, but luckily Jack turned his attention to the Merchant of Venice before I rudely voiced my impatience which would have gotten everybody strip searched and arrested by the local police. Fortunately that didn’t happen either when I began to monopolize the conversation with my cockamamie theories about the Merchant. Mr. Scofield, very polite, from time to time managed to wrest the floor away from me, but it was a struggle.
Luckily, I soon solved for all time the MOV enigma for all who were present, and a grateful public, including our merry band, departed to see the play.
But first lunch.
That was at an Italian restaurant after we almost lost Sue who gave in to the siren call of an ATM machine. The group together again, we found the restaurant -- Trattoria Fabrizio Cooking School & Restorante on Wellington Street -- recommended by Richard who has an unerring knack for such things, and enjoyed a filling lunch sitting next to a vast table of luscious desserts with signs basically saying, Keepa You Hands Off.
We noticed that when we approached this table to get a better look, battalions of wait staff gathered to enforce the signs. The whole event ended nonviolently, and, cookies and gelato consumed, the group departed post haste for the theatre, curtain in twenty minutes, although Sue thought there was plenty of time to do some shopping.
The play was almost everything I wanted it to be. It should be OK to say that everyone had a most entertaining afternoon. Even Richard, who vehemently warned us against it due to an apparently unhappy experience with it earlier this year, found something of redeeming value. I had been in e-mail contact with the play’s director Richard Rose that week and had found out some things that caused Richard to take a different look at the proceedings and to come away more at peace with it so at least we didn’t have to listen to him crabbing about it all the way back home which probably would have caused us to be strip searched and arrested at the border.
Incidentally, I found out from Mr. Rose that he would be seeing it this past Tuesday evening for the first time since he last saw it before it opened. I hope he liked it.
With Richard mollified, we made the traditional stop at Tim Horton’s on our way out of town, feasting on muffins and bagels and coffee until we found an actual restaurant for dinner. Richard took us through St. Mary’s, a lovely town to the west of Stratford, to which we would like to return to spend more time. The wait at the bridge was 32 minutes. Richard won $1.50 Canadian on the over/under pool, dropping some of it under the car seat and so leaving a share for the house, so to speak. Dinner was at Dmitri’s on Gratiot north of 59. I took over the driving the rest of the way, immediately making a wrong turn, but no matter, since all roads lead to Hunters Ridge.
Home again, but never far from Shakespeare.
Artistic credits -- Director / RICHARD ROSE, Costume Designer / PHILLIP CLARKSON, Associate Set Designers / GILLIAN GALLOW, DOUGLAS PARASCHUCK (Based upon an original concept by GRAEME S. THOMSON), Lighting Designer / STEVEN HAWKINS, Composer / MICHAEL VIEIRA, Sound Designer / TODD CHARLTON, Fight Director / JOHN STEAD, Choreographer / MARK CHRISTMANN
The cast -- Salerio / PAUL AMOS, Bassanio / SEAN ARBUCKLE, Solanio / BRUCE DOW, Nerissa / RAQUEL DUFFY, Shylock / GRAHAM GREENE, Stephano / GRAHAM HARLEY, Old Gobbo / BERNARD HOKPINS, Duke of Venice / JOHN INNES, Salarino / JACOB JAMES, Launcelot Gobbo / RON KENNELL, Lorenzo / JEAN-MICHEL Le GAL, Prince of Arragon / TIM MacDONALD, Gratiano / GARETH POTTER, Prince of Morocco / JAMIE ROBINSON, Leonardo / ROGER SHANK, Portia / SEVERN THOMPSON, Jessica / SARA TOPHAM, Tubal / BRIAN TREE, Antonio / SCOTT WENTWORTH