March 1, 2014 10:25:11 PM
As I closed my overnight case and took it to the car, I kept thinking to myself, "This should be interesting, but I really cannot think there could be anything entertaining about the Mississippi River flood of 1927." I was on my way to meet my sister Margaret in Montgomery, Ala. We were going to celebrate her birthday by attending a play about that great flood at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
Although I had not been born at that time, I had heard about that flood all my life. I had known someone who went on a rescue mission to the area flooded. I had read a book about it, "Rising Tide." Although I could not imagine how it would be staged, I really thought I would see a dramatization of that story.
Well, of course I was wrong. The play we saw was indeed set partially on the flood waters, but also partially at Parchman penal farm, from where inmates were taken to try to control the flood and to rescue some of its victims.
Instead of the historical play I had expected, we saw a somewhat dark drama based on a story by William Faulkner. Typical of the author, the play dealt not only with a crisis, but with racial tension and personal challenge. And, I might add, a woman's plight only a man could accept with credulity. It was billed as a "world premier." Instead it might better be described as a "world one-run-only." At least that was my humble opinion.
The play did have its comic relief in the volatile character of a swamp-dwelling Cajun whose words were incomprehensible, but whose actions, wrestling and killing an alligator, were impressive.
Typical of Faulkner, the story had a dismal ending with a bizarre and unjust "justice."
Still, it was memorable, and it makes me want to reiterate a recommendation I have often made. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival offers extraordinary entertainment just three hours away. Instead of a large municipal auditorium, its two theaters are set on lovely grounds, landscaped to enhance its function. Swans glide across its lake. The play we saw was in its smaller facility, the Octagon, a theater in the round. ASF produces Shakespearean plays at other venues as well.
I do not pretend to be a theater critic. In fact, I am more a theater enthusiast. I applaud nearly any performance from a fifth-grade presentation to a high school senior play to Broadway. I like 'em all. I have, however, been privileged to see Shakespeare performed not only locally, but at both Stratford and the newly recreated Globe Theater in London; and I have to tell you, nobody does it any better than the actors over in Montgomery. The problem in our recent case was with the play itself, not its actors.
If you have never been to any of these productions, you owe it to yourself to put it on your bucket list. Excellent hotel accommodations and a variety of restaurants abound in the area. An easy phone call or computer contact with the ASF can set you up with a convenient package. And really, now, don't let the idea of Shakespeare put you off. It can be greatly entertaining. A really special treat is to be able to stay long enough to see two plays; make one Shakespeare and one by another playwright and have yourself a theatrical "feast-ival."
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.