Just a weekend in the country
When Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics for “A Little Night Music” back in 1973, it’s unlikely that he was thinking about my weekend, or, for that matter, this part of the country. Even mid-week, I was whistling a happy tune, though—blissfully unaware that the Stone Temple Pilots (STP) and I don’t really agree on what a little night music is.
The “90s alternative rock” (read loud—really loud) band appeared at Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) last Wednesday, and it would appear that the group still thinks it’s 1993 (the last time anybody really cared). Opening act “The Crash Kings” did its best to deafen the small crowd, and then we waited. And waited. STP finally hit the stage at 10 p.m. while audience members shouted things like “we have to go to work in the morning!” and “c’mon already, we’re not getting any younger out here!” Once STP got going, I realized that (even with ear plugs) my hearing was in danger of permanent damage. Suffice it to say, not my favorite evening at one of my favorite spots in Sullivan County.
Sondheim’s clever lyrics go on to describe his idea of a weekend in the country as “amusing... and delightfully droll,” and although it was only Thursday, I took heed and made my way to the Forestburgh Playhouse (www.fbplayhouse.org) to catch Loretta Swit in Bob Barry’s frothy comedy “Murder Among Friends.” Joined by cast members Dan Fenaughty, Ellen Pavloff, Steve Davis and Zachary Bencal, Swit was clearly intended as the star of the show, having become a household name during her 11-year run on television’s M*A*S*H. It’s always lovely to see Loretta at the playhouse, and I looked forward to catching her in a comedy this time out—but did not foresee her costar (the playhouse’s producing director) Norman Duttweiler stealing her thunder. I’m sure it was unintentional, but Duttweiler’s hilarious portrayal of Swit’s foil, husband Palmer, kinda-sorta stole the show.
Duttweiler is no stranger to the stage, having begun his career acting in the ‘70s, and has appeared with other female luminaries Lana Turner, Arlene Dahl and Kim Hunter. Swit, then, was probably forewarned, but possibly not forearmed, and although her performance was fun, the show belonged (IMHO) to Norman. In all fairness, Duttweiler is extremely popular here in the county, and his many loyal fans turned out in droves (not an empty seat in the place) to catch his performance. Undoubtedly, Swit is humming Sondheim’s tune and recalling the words, which suggest “controlling ourselves while strolling the lawns” as she prepares to enchant this week while starring in Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” which plays through September 2. Stay tuned.
I made my way to Hortonville, NY on Saturday, for the annual Fireman’s Field Days and parade. Still can’t resist a parade here in the Upper Delaware Valley, and Hortonville’s did not disappoint. Families, neighbors and dogs (yes, she was with me) lined the streets, hooting and hollering as the fire trucks, classic cars, ambulance corps and (yay!) dairy queens waved at the crowd. Entertainment, games and great food waited for us all at the end of the parade route and the turnout for the festive event was huge. Dharma (the wonder dog) and I spent a few hours kissing babies and shaking hands, while thanking all of the volunteers who help keep our country homes safe all year ‘round.
I took a breather for a few hours of “personal time” to attend my first same-sex wedding at Beaverbrook Cottage in Narrowsburg, NY, which was beautiful, emotional and laden with happiness and tears (you girls rock!). State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther sat with me and shared how “thrilled she was to have played even a small part in the process of making sure that equal rights are recognized in New York.” Naturally, I cried, before extending my sincerest congratulations to the happy couple, and considered my next move.
On Sunday, I checked in with Sondheim one last time, whose lyrics reminded that “with the crickets and the pheasants and the orchards and the hay, we’ll be laying our plans while we’re playing croquet.” Apropos, with the Harvest Festival waiting in the wings, and I swung by Bethel Woods for my final farewell, positive that country sensation Jason Aldean knows what a little night music really is. Prior to Aldean taking the place by storm, newcomer Rachel Farley did a quick set and warmed up the sold-out-to-capacity crowd nicely. I really liked her, and suspect her 15 minutes on stage will be growing exponentially.
Aldean’s “My Kinda Party Tour” includes party master extraordinaire DJ Silver and country heartthrob Luke Bryan, who visited us last year with Tim McGraw. “It’s great to be back in Bethel!” Bryan shouted above the screaming fans before delivering a solid, smashing hour of good ol’ boy charm and displaying musical prowess that (thankfully) made STP fade away in my mind, just as a nightmare should.
Headliner Jason Aldean hit the stage running and proved why he has won both single and album of the year awards for “My Kinda Party,” before treating us all to a preview of his newest album, “Night Train,” which pulls into the station on October 16. Country audiences, and concerts, are among the best in the world, and this show was no exception. The crowd was exuberant and appreciative of the incredible performances, but not the slightest bit out of control. “Bethel is a crazy town,” Aldean roared. “I’ve had seats on this lawn. Party on, but be safe and have fun,” he advised, before delivering the remainder of his explosive, fan-tastic set. With respect, I paraphrase Mr. Sondheim ever-so-slightly—and conclude that yet another “weekend in the country, was so active... that one has to lie down.”