Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Vermont, Day 2: er, mmm, It's a, all about the Ol'. . . . Mamet's, his play, um, Oleana

It was a late morning kind of previous evening, but I awakened early enough to sneak out and do some more serious mushroom foraging and to get a sense of the landscape up the hill, and found a trail up behind the house that let me explore it more. The trail led past a rocky area toward the next farm. Further up, according to Wyn, was a stone marker memorializing a triple murder/suicide that had taken place on what had been a larger farm about a hundred years ago: farmhand hot for the farmer's wife and things got out of hand, an old story. Trees, slope, rocks, a small stream. I found a few past-perfect chanterelles, some nice bicolor boletes, and one stunning Caesar's mushroom (amanita caesari) that I was tempted to try, but I don't eat amanitas, since a mistake can be fatal.

Back at the house, Wyn had the eggs out and toast in the oven coffee and we set into planning the day around Shawna's evening performance, a staged reading of Mamet's Oleana for a community theater across the river in New Hampshire. Shawna would spend the day at kick boxing, then getting ready, while Wyn would show me more of the area and run an errand or two. He showed me Saul Bellow's house, near his, and the sky opened up into muscular rain and we stopped and chatted for awhile with Wyn's friend, a Marlboro graduate who did interesting work in Physics and Photography and chi, while stopping to pick up some organic garlic. We then stocked up on provisions--by provisions I mean wine and by wine I mean from the lovely Wyndham Wines run by people who know wine very well, people who gave up academic tenure to pursue this dream, and by dream I mean I'm damned jealous. We spent maybe 90 minutes in the store, too long, since Wyn and I were going to have dinner at Alici's and we had to make the play at 8:00. Shawna doesn't eat before she performs, so we were to meet her after. Wyn and I shared some exquisite carpaccio and a half bottle of cab and I ordered a very rare filet mignon burger, which for 10 dollars was a bargain. It was served with truffle-0il fries and garnished with blue cheese, spinach, and tomato, and it was second in my experience only to the legendary burger served at My Father's Office in Santa Monica. Wyn ordered the duck confit pizzeta, which tasted very good (could have been just a bit more confit), and the server sped things along nicely so we could enjoy the food despite our limited time there.

We walked into the theater just before the beginning of the play. I wasn't sure what to expect, since I'd never seen a staged reading. I knew the play, though, having taught it once, and I found it difficult for freshman who struggled with Mamet's verbal ticks and the moral difficulties presented by both characters. I wasn't sure what to expect, but Shawna and the male lead were both stellar, and the setting, a professor's office, was perfect for making the play book just another part of the usual professor's office detritus. The play is a study in power--age, gender, and institutional power relationships--and no one comes off sympathetically. The male lead, a lawyer with much professional acting experience, crumbled magnificently, while Shawna played her character with wonderful nervous subtlety despite the tremendous vocabulary shift that occurs between act I and act II. I remember this shift seeming heavy handed when I read it, but not here. Shawn, however, deftly presented the character's discomfort with the vocabulary as she spoke it. When it was over, we headed to the Pub after all the post play congratulations and then back to the house for a little more wine and conversation, stared up and up at the beautiful stars, the milky way evanescing above the trees.

No comments: