at last!

Nathan the Wise, the 1779 play by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing ((1729-1781) is being presented at the Stratford Festival this summer of 2019, and it’s a knockout—today—as or even more apt, resonant and riveting today as it has been in its chequered past. No, its past hasn’t been chequered, its reception has been. The play has “long been celebrated as a canticle of tolerance and humanism” (quoting from the program). It’s déja vu over and over again—discrimination, self-righteousness and hard-wired prejudice—presented in an excellent production with an astonishing Nathan at its centre. Canadian actress Diane Flacks plays the “rich Jew, Nathan” in the best swtiched casting my friend and I had ever seen at Stratford. Every move she made, every nuance and shrug, her voice, her appearance — all flawless and totally believable—along with a moving interpretation. Not knowing what to expect, we were knocked out. I said that.

Good we saw it. It helped soften the blow dealt by the worst production of The Merry Wives of WindsorI I have ever seen in which attempts were made to upstage Shakespeare with scatological humour. A predictable turd joke was repeated three more times, just as unfunny as the first time. Face or foot in shit, it was not funny. I can’t say more. We left at intermission.

Well, you can’t win ‘em all. I was relieved to attend Mother’s Daughter, the third play of the Queenmaker trilogy by Canadian actor/playwright Kate Hennig. The subject of this one is Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”) played by the wonderful actor, Shannon Taylor, who carries on from The Virgin Trial as young Bess’s older sister to the thankless, complex role of an unpopular queen. The historical facts are there but Hennig won’t call the leading figure bloodyy. Historical events are treated realistically and add suspense to thre ‘story”. No one, of course, can write like Shakespeare and Hennig wisely doesn’t try. I must admit, though, that I was dismayed at the 21st century language she occasionally resorts to: Bullshit and the F-word stayed with me after the show was over, actually obscuring the power of the play. I’m not old-fashioned; i just have taste and perception.

Stratford’s choice of new plays is heavily biased toward the Shakespeare tradition, history, myth, legend, whatever.



I promised myself a new blog—sort of new—a review of Nathan the Wise (a production at the Stratford Festival this season). Instead, I read a whole new book, just for me. I have been reading,of course, but in bits and pieces:

Ploughing through Virginia Woolf’s The Waves at the breakfast table, and finding it difficult. A friend has promised me I’ll like it better when I re-read it. How soon? I asked. Two or three years, he said. I can hardly wait.

Re-reading the short story collection, Florida, by Lauren Groff, because I like(d) her and I could dip into it - them- during slow periods of the Blue Jays game. I don’t like her as much. I found her sour and ominous and unlikable.

Tried to read another “thriller” by Linwood Barclay when I pedalled (stationary bike in the gym), but I haven’t had much time to do that, so it’s a write- off — read-off?

Reading for information mostly to do with my new book, checking on facts, people and dates. That doesn’t count, but it’s necessary nit-picking.

Educated is a memoir, harrowing and inspirational and maddening, by Tara Westover. It reminded me of The Glass Castle with the terrible things that happened to the writer, brought up with (non-existent) “home-schooling” by fanatic Mormon parents in the mountains of Idaho. She got educated, though, with a BA in history from Brigham Young University, followed by a Gates Scholarship at Cambridge where she subsequently earned an MPhil in intellectual history and political thought from Trinity College (2009). In 2010 she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. Back to Cambridge where she received a PhD in history in 2014. I guess she wrote this book after that.

You’ll have to read it, if you like that kind of thing (the disasters of her upbringing). Generally I don’t, but this was different for the psychological challenges it presents to one’s mind-set. How did she do it???