Monday night we attended a sort of bonus event offered by the Great River Shakespeare Festival, a musical review called The Daly News, written by Jonathan Gillard Daly of the GRSF troupe. He also plays the main role, supported by Jack Forbes Wilson and Jeff Schaetzke, both of Milwaukee. It is based on the weekly letters that Daly’s grandfather wrote, to keep the family and his four servicemen sons in contact during W.W.II.
Like all of the GRSF productions, this one is a marvel of economy and technical compression, each actor playing multiple roles, both male and female, all ages, switching back and forth by changing facial expressions, body language, and in and out of hats and one shared apron. They take, to everyone’s vast amusement, great pleasure in the actor’s age-old fascination with imitating the opposite sex.
The set, of course, is the same that serves the two Shakespearean productions, with minimal adaptations, mostly a desk and typewriter. Orchestration is one piano played alternately by Schaetzke and Wilson, sometimes together in four hands, come to think of it.
So it appears that the only thing that Daly can’t do is play the piano, although I wouldn’t bet on it. He certainly has a far better singing voice than he deserves, considering his manifold gifts as an actor, and the three vocalists in ensemble come together like a trumpet trio.
The music and script are alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching, and as usual when leaving a GRSF show, we were emotionally wrung out. The play ends with some touching observations on the often difficult and always tricky relationship between fathers and sons which complements the overall theme of war and separation very nicely.
For once, however, I have a serious reservation about one of this troupe’s shows, and will be discussing with Mr. Daly how it would be appropriate, given the fact that it is built around weekly letters sent through the mail, to rename this play, “The Daly Post.”
In his usual pre-curtain address to the audience, producing director Paul Barnes delivered the happy news that this years ticket sales, despite the tough economy, are 10% ahead of 2008. However, the festival’s short-term budget calls for another $76,000 in income by the end of the run, so call the office at 474-7900 to make a gift or buy tickets. Hurry, because the season is over July 26. If you miss either of this year’s offerings, The Tempest or Love’s Labour’s Lost, you should be asha-a-a-med of yourself.
After the performance, yet another first-rate GRSF entertainment took place downtown at Ed’s No-Name Bar, a sonnet-writing seminar put on by Winona’s Poet Laureate, James Armstrong. Built around audience participation, it was highly informative – fascinating, or at least seemed so after drinking a combination of beer and a special potion designed for the occasion, the sonnetini. It led me to wonder how it might have affected my college career, if only classes had been held in taverns during the evening. As usual, with the GRSF, a good time was had by all.