Monday, July 03, 2006


What fools these mortals be

Along the Hudson Valley we have a number of estates and mansions that once belonged to wealthy and famous families. Families such as Rockefeller, Roosevelt, Vanderbilt, and Livingston built their mansions here, as did inventor and artist Samuel Morse and artist Frederic Church. Most of these are now open to the public, and some (the FDR home and the Vanderbilt estate) are run by the National Park Service as National Historic Sites. One can walk through the estates, picnic on the grounds, and take guided tours of the mansions.

Boscobel is one of the lesser-known ones, and in one of the nicest spots, with a beautiful view of the Hudson and of the United States Military Academy at West Point, across the river. It wasn't originally there, actually — it was moved there as part of the restoration. I'm not sure what the point is there, since one would think that a restoration project would want to restore it to its original state, but never mind. The grounds are used for various events, such as weddings, and every summer the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival uses the grounds for its performances.

Yesterday, I saw their performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The group always does a wonderful job, and this was no exception — a very enjoyable show. They usually do a bit of "updating" here and there, particularly in the comedies, which might not be to everyone's taste. In this performance, the players for the "play within the play" — Quince, Bottom, and the rest — came in as spacemen, complete with flying saucer and ray-guns. And they added a hip-hop line-dance number in near the end. (One quibble I have with this performance: Shakespeare describes the play within the play as "a tedious brief scene", and the HVSF players go too far to make it tedious, and not at all brief. The death scene of Pyramus (Bottom) goes on far beyond the point of amusement.) But the core of the performance is Shakespeare done very well, and, through the years that I've seen their shows I've never been disappointed.

Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover's fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!

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