Kenneth's co-workers mocked him early Friday evening as he left the office to fetch me for Measure for Measure at APT. American Players Theatre is a fabulous outdoor, primarily Shakespeare theater in Spring Green, about an hour west of Madison. And, during the gray, soggy drive to the event, we thought his co-workers might be right: it was no night for a show at APT. However, we've gone to rained out shows in the past and had a great time. A change of scenery, an air uncertainty (maybe we'll see a play tonight, or maybe we'll head home early for heaven-knows-what), the people watching, all of this can make for a fun outing.
Upon arrival, we discovered that the weather wasn't so bad. A dark haze hung over the grounds of APT throughout the evening, but the misty drizzle quickly gave way to warm humid air. It was a perfect evening for outdoor theater.
We wiped off a table and had a picnic among clusters of other playgoers.
I made a tomato basil gratin (with garlicky ricotta cheese) and mayo-free tuna sandwiches. The oil-packed tuna, olives, celery, onions, etc. are tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. The trick to the dish: a layer of cannellini bean spread goes on the bread first and holds the tuna salad in place. The recipe called for watercress, but I substituted spicy radish microgreens because, well, I couldn't get watercress. That's orchid melon (a watermelon with pretty orange flesh) in the plastic bowl.
For dessert, I made a plum tart topped with marzipan crumble. I supplemented the plums with a handful of Bayfield blueberries. I'm in love with the crumble. It's not super-cheap but it's so easy and delicious: just whirl together golden brown sugar, almond paste, sliced almonds, flour, and butter. I can't stop eating it...
The crust is a little dark on the outside. I'm figuring out a couple of new things: a black tart pan (darker pans cause things to bake faster) and the new pizza stone in my oven (which must shift the ways and wheres heat accumulates).
The production took a broadly comic approach to Measure for Measure. I enjoyed it and learned a great deal about the play from APT's interpretation. However, I remain convinced that Shakespeare's play makes the most sense (or perhaps only makes sense) when understood as a meditation on the relationship between theater and politics. The sometimes sprightly and often seemingly sympathetic portrayal of the Duke veiled his manipulative character and his concomitant drive to re-tool his reputation-- to improve the morality of the city without being held responsible for upholding rigid laws. At the play's end, evildoers are punished by marriage rather than hanging not because Shakespeare adheres to some corny comic convention but because this outcome (mandated by the Duke) makes the Duke appear a benevolent ruler. The Duke scripts and directs the play's conclusion: it's one of my favorite metatheatrical moments.
Director Kenneth Albers implores the audience to "embrace [MfM's] unusual circumstances and gleefully follow the Duke's 'Master of Ceremonies' as he leads us through the various 'acts' of this unique and often chaotic theatrical 'circus.'" This is a cop out: a preemptive against any assertion that his production seems jumbled (as it does). If one wants to consider the play as scathing comedy, why not push Angelo's violent treatment of Isabella to heights of dark comedy heretofore unimagined? Why not twist Isabella into a more complicated figure (humorously icy? or flatly self-righteous? or dully innocent?)? If, as Albers commands, one gleefully follows the Duke's "Master of Ceremonies," one leaves the theater with a confusing aftertaste of unexplained sadism. The costume and design, as always, were delightful.
Kenneth's co-workers may have mocked him, but that didn't mar our Friday evening plans. AND, I may be a persnickety scholar or whatever... but that didn't keep me from enjoying another great evening of picnicking and theater in Spring Green.