Adversity can’t hurt a fine evening at Barn
The Barn Theatre near Augusta is my favorite summer stock theatre. The Ragotzys have produced exceptionally fine shows for 57 consecutive seasons, probably a national record for any theatrical family and undoubtedly a real blessing for theatre lovers in this region.
Last Friday, I attended a performance of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” there and enjoyed it immensely. Everyone recognizes the easily singable tunes of this lightweight musical, that does nothing to stimulate the intellect but simply wants to entertain. It is facile summer stock fare at its best.
Of course, at the Barn all other appealing and charming features of summer stock come into play. Young aspiring thespians wave the cars of patrons into the big parking meadow in front of the theatre. Another young and friendly actor, Kevin Field, hands me my tickets at the box office: he later plays a delightful Isaachar on stage. At the refreshment stand outside the theatre I buy my Sprite from a beautiful woman who appears on the stage as one of the wives. The gifted choreographer doubles as the doorman who takes the tickets, and Sean Walton, who as Judah sings and dances a marvelous “Benjamin Calypso” hands me my program and ushers me to my seat. Jack Ragotzy then ambles on the stage and greets the patrons in his inimitable way; pointing out that his daughter-in-law and two of his grandchildren will appear in the musical. Actors, musicians, family members, stage hands, and technical personnel all are involved in every aspect, artistic and practical, of the enterprise, a particularly charming facet of the Barn and much like it must have been in the traveling acting troupes of past centuries.
Once inside, all does not go as planned, however. A pleasant and youngish, but broad-shouldered man, seats himself in front of me and blocks out 40 percent of the stage. He is accompanied by a woman who is so smitten with him that she entwines herself around him like ivy on a column. Overcoming his initial, minimal resistance, she then pulls his arms over to herself, so that they eventually end up looking like a human pretzel. Another 40 percent of the stage disappears.I am thinking of asking the lovebirds to show some consideration for me, but my wife, knowing me too well and thus anticipating my interruptive intentions, sends me stern and forbidding glances. And so I resign myself to pondering the inscription on the sightblocker’s polo shirt, which reads, “Are you digital yet?” No, but ask me if I am ticked yet. The answer would have been affirmative. Why, I think dejectedly, don’t people who turn into Siamese twins connected at the cheek select seats in the last row?
Not being able to see much of the stage, I observe the audience. While Pharaoh reveals his dreams in song, the man kitty-corner from me pulls out his cell phone, reads his electronic e-mail messages, and receives phone messages. He should be in my seat. Obviously he is digital yet. Then Pharaoh, a campy looking Elvis impersonator, wanders off the stage to harvest a few laughs by singling out patrons. Luckily he passes my seat, but stops right behind me and verbally teases my friend Dr. Koonrads Lubavs. He, however is quick on his feet and matches Pharaoh’s goading with swift repartees. A woman behind me, totally abandons herself to this hilarity and shrieks and screeches with delight, piercing my ears with high-pitched bursts of laughter. I begin to sympathize with King Ludwig II of Bavaria who was in the habit of having operas, particularly those by Richard Wagner, performed with him as the only person in the theatre. But then I also realize that Ludwig was insane, and I return to the visually blocked show, consider going digital, and relax and enjoy the music.
After the show, we and other smiling patrons walk across the lawn to our cars. The stars are out, a nice, cool summer breeze fans across the festively lit theatre. We make our way back into town, humming the show tunes, and happy that we have such a treasure as the Barn nearby.