Where else have I been lately? If you read my Wall Street Journal drama column, you’ll know that Mrs. T and I recently paid very happy visits to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison, New York, the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vermont, and Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. We started off, though, by spending two nights in the southwest Catskills purely for our pleasure, without a stage in sight.
Since we were both under the weather when we honeymooned at Ecce Bed and Breakfast last October–weddings will do that to you–I decided to treat Mrs. T to a return visit before embarking on our theater-related travels. The picturesque Ecce, whose Web site accurately describes it as being “perched on a bluff 300 feet above the Upper Delaware River,” is the place we like best other than home, not least because Alan Rosenblatt goes out of his way to pamper his guests. I raved about Ecce in this space after staying there for the first time, and since then I’ve come back as often as possible. When I brought my wife-to-be to Ecce a year ago, we decided on the spot to spend part of our honeymoon there. Would that we’d been feeling better when the great day came, but we made up for it this time around.
When you visit Ecce, by the way, be sure to have dinner up the road at Restaurant 15 Main in Narrowsburg, which is as good a place to eat as you’ll find anywhere on or near the East Coast.
From there we drove east, and I went back to work:
• In Garrison we slept across the Hudson River at Storm King Lodge, which has become our regular stopping place whenever I cover the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, partly because it’s so cozy and partly because it’s a stone’s throw from the Storm King Art Center, where we saw a show of lithographs and drawings by Mark di Suvero, who is better known for his large-scale outdoor sculpture.
Mrs. T and I never fail to meet nice people at Storm King Lodge, the first of whom were Hal and Gay Janks, the innkeepers. Hal, who makes a mean omelet, used to play bass trombone with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and is a font of anecdotes about his years in the pit. This year we breakfasted with one of Hal’s best friends, a tuba player named Peter Sexauer whose father, amazingly enough, was a member of John Philip Sousa’s band. Peter loaned me a copy of Marching Along, Sousa’s long-out-of-print 1928 autobiography, which I found so delightful that I’m going to write a “Sightings” column about it next month.
As I mentioned in my Journal review, we also toured the Boscobel Restoration, on whose immaculately kept grounds Hudson Valley Shakespeare is headquartered:
The company performs in a huge tent pitched on the lawn of the Boscobel House, a lovingly restored Federal-style 1808 mansion located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River….Come early enough in the day to take a tour of Boscobel and you can revel in “‘The Glorious Scenery Must Ever Excite’: Nineteenth-Century American Paintings of the Hudson Highlands,” the first show to be installed in the mansion’s new basement art gallery. Many of the 29 canvases and works on paper in this well-curated exhibition portray sites that are located within a 20-mile radius of the Boscobel Restoration.
• Weston, which is nestled among the Green Mountains of Vermont, is small to the point of invisibility. Perhaps because it’s also slightly off the beaten path, Weston has steered clear of the self-conscious italicization that infects so many towns on the New England summer-festival circuit, some of which now resemble nothing so much as theme parks. Unlike them, Weston is what it is–and that’s what I like about it.
Mrs. T and I stayed at The Inn at Weston, which is charming, comfortable, and a short walk from the village green where the Weston Playhouse is located. We dined very well at the playhouse’s downstairs cafe, whose kitchen is run by Bob and Linda Aldrich, the owners of the inn. At breakfast the next morning we met a pediatric plastic surgeon and amateur musician named June Wu who lives in our New York neighborhood. As if that weren’t coincidence enough, June turned out to be a fan of Paul Moravec, my collaborator on The Letter. Small world, isn’t it?
• After booking us into various inns in and near Lenox, Mrs. T finally found the perfect place to stay. It takes a minute and a half to drive from the front door of Gateways Inn to the parking lot of Shakespeare & Company, and Tanglewood isn’t much farther off. The rooms are unoppressively handsome, the restaurant first rate (and open late, too, making it possible to eat after a show, which can be hard to do in Lenox). The bar is stocked with some two hundred and fifty different single-malt Scotches–I counted six varieties of Glenfiddich alone–and Fabrizio and Rosemary Chiariello, the hosts, will do anything within reason to make you happy.
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As for the present moment, I’m still in Santa Fe and busy as hell, and I expect to remain so until Friday, when I depart for Santa Cruz by way of Albuquerque, Phoenix, and San Francisco. (The city’s motto ought to be Santa Fe–you can’t get here from there!) So far I have two deadlines, two dinner appointments, three breakfast appointments, and four operas on my calendar.
Later, in other words.
(Second of two parts)