‘Shakespeare with a Twist – Revisited’ at The Greenspring Players by Eric Denver

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Shakespeare’s famous quote – “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves” certainly rings true to the Greenspring Players. Within the Greenspring Retirement Community the twice-a-year theatrics have been ongoing for 19 productions. On May 15th, I was sitting in the Village Square Theater at 7 PM watching a sold-out production of While Shakespeare Slept and Romeo and Juliet, a Musical Farce with approximately 60 cast members performing on stage – and behind the scenes – that made this night a rousing success.

Fortunately, for our readers, I had the opportunity to speak with two of the performers of Romeo and Juliet and its director prior to showtime.

After retiring from her Federal career, Jane Ford moved to the Greenspring community and once again began a different facet of her acting career. She began her love of entertaining audiences in New York City by participating in the Macy’s Tapathon held every August. After moving to Washington, DC, she became a member of the Snappy Dancers and worked with that tap dancing group for close to 15 years. At 83, I appreciated her zeal and self-motivation in giving her interpretation of Juliet that extra punch throughout the performance. This was her 9th major role with The Players.

Ernie Sult, (Romeo) woos the lovely Juliet, (Virginia Scott).
Ernie Sult, (Romeo) woos the lovely Juliet, (Virginia Scott).

At 88, Ernie Sult seems to be just warming up after eight previous Players’ productions, by portraying  Romeo. It was a natural progression from his 70 years of performing over 35 roles at The Little Theatre of Alexandria.

Ernie was born in Alexandria, VA. and his first role was at age 10 in grade school as the Admiral in HMS Pinafore. His ideal role would be to play John Adams in 1776.  Ernie shared with me during our conversation that he considers himself a “Virginia ham.” I promised Ernie I would include his pride and joy performance of Monster Mash performed by the Players during some Halloween hauntings on the Greenspring property in October 2012.

John Carle, the director of Romeo and Juliet, was the last individual I spoke to during this pre-show enlightenment session. John began his acting/singing/dancing career in New York. In 1963, he auditioned and received a part with the Provincetown Playhouse followed by roles at the Dorothy Raedler Gilbert and Sullivan Repertory Theatre. He soon assumed directorial responsibilities. Nevertheless, he never shied away from being an actor. Even in tonight’s show, when the actor portraying the Friar Laurence role was unable to perform at the last minute, John stepped in without missing a beat. When asked what role he would love to play his response was, “A role in The Pawnbroker.”

The Greenspring Players’ first production of the evening, was While Shakespeare Slept. The play revolves around Shakespeare giving his career as a playwright and settling down for a career as a stable hand in a nearby inn. After falling asleep on his first night in the inn, he is troubled by his many dreams from the heroines of his unwritten plays – each demanding that they be given their opportunity to be on stage. There were 4 principal actors and then 6 Ladies of the Mist (Dream Girls) from his unwritten plays – Juliet, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Portia, Kate, and Cleopatra. I’m sure you can figure out the ending.

The second play of the evening, Romeo and Juliet, is a musical version of the famous play with some tunes you may recognize with modified lyrics. Millicent Taylor did a humorous job as the frustrated Trumpeter repeatedly attempting to get his trumpet to blow on key. The one scene that had me in hysterics was Juliet’s decision to kill herself after seeing her love, Romeo lie dead after taking the poison to put an end to a life without Juliet, his love. Yet, before inserting the knife into her chest, Juliet goes through a 7-minute scene where she prepares herself for death ensuring that her face is cosmetically perfect by doing repeated touch-ups of her make-up, lipstick, and rouge. You had to be in the audience observing the stage antics and facial expressions of Jane Ford to fully appreciate the scene.

On the way out, I was totally amazed to meet Verna Finly, the woman responsible for the costume design, set design. and the Romeo and Juliet lyrics. Hats off to a multi-talented woman whose invaluable contributions made the evening a smash hit.

Members of  the cast of 'While Shakespeare Slept.' Photo by Jessica  McKay.
Members of the cast of ‘While Shakespeare Slept.’ Photo by Jessica McKay.

Some of the proceeds from these productions are donated to George Mason University Theatre Arts Scholarships, which are given to students who are graduating seniors each year.

“To be or not to be” is not the question; it’s whether you will be able to get a ticket for the next show of the Greenspring Players.

Running Time: Approximately Two hours, with one intermission.

Shakespeare with a Twist – Revisited ended its run on May 18, 2013 at The Greenspring Community – 7410 Spring Village Drive, in Springfield, VA. For future reservations, contact the public affairs office at (703) 923-4690.