Is that all there is?
Rumor has it that Labor Day is just around the corner, but I’m having a hard time accepting that as anything other than “fake news.” Last I looked, there were fireworks lighting up the sky and the lazy, hazy days of summer stretched out in front of us, beckoning with promises of fireflies and barbeques, tubing on the river and sultry afternoons that promised to last forever. While walking the pooch this morning, I saw a leaf flutter to the ground and upon closer inspection became alarmed to see red and gold amidst the green. “Say it ain’t so!” I wailed, shaking my fist at the clouds scudding overhead. Prying Dharma away from some freshly unearthed dead treasure, I scurried home to look at the calendar.
Sure enough, August looks like a goner. Reading the fine print, I noted that catching “Mamma Mia” at the Forestburgh Playhouse was on my agenda, along with something called “Wooden Boatstock,” which had its maiden voyage last year without me. Recalling an online message from pal Maureen Neville reminded me that she would not only be there, but was planning to bring her water-bike that had literally washed ashore, after years of being adrift, begging to be reclaimed and lovingly restored. “Hey Jonathan,” the email read, “You should come to Wooden Boatstock [sic] in White Lake, with your camera, of course. Joe and Zeke are going to be there, too,” she added, “and they’re bringing some very cool boats!”
Sure enough, I spotted “Beechwoods Yacht Club” members Joe Freda and Zeke Boyle rowing toward shore near the Fat Lady Café, so I parked and headed for the docks, noting more boats on the lawn. “Oh, you came!” Maureen exclaimed, but of course, she was talking to the dog. “Excuse me,” I called out, “I’m here too, ya know.” Waving and laughing, she gave me a perfunctory nod and went back to petting the pup. “Well, of course you are,” Maureen acknowledged. “The dog can’t drive.”
Pausing to snap a few photos, I surveyed the scene, which included Elise Freda sporting a wide-brimmed hat off in the distance, in what appeared to be a wooden canoe. “It doesn’t really count,” Maureen whispered in my ear. “There’s more fiberglass than wood on it, but Elise looks like she’s having fun, doesn’t she? Have you seen my water-bike yet? I love it!”
The poster promised “A day of peace and boats” and suggested that folks “BYOB” (bring your own boat) and “rendezvous at the restaurant docks on Kauneonga Lake to celebrate the beauty of wood!” They were, indeed, beautiful, and Joe answered some questions while I took photos. “It’s doesn’t weigh much, only 23 pounds,” he said of the cedar-strip racing canoe I was asking about. “I helped my friend Al Camp make it from plans. It’s a classic,” he said, “like that one over there.” Pointing to another gorgeous example of craftsmanship, I noted that it was built by Art Peck, founder of Peck’s Markets. “We are pleased to include one of his creations here today,” the information read, “honoring the man (1931-2014) as well as an example of the passion we have for wooden boats.”
There were no boats to be seen onstage during “Mamma Mia” later that day, but they were mentioned once or twice, as characters arrived on the Greek island where the musical tribute to Swedish pop group ABBA takes place. With more than 20 chart-topping songs (“Honey Honey,” “Take A Chance On Me,” “The Winner Takes It All) on the roster and disco balls spinning overhead, the enthusiastic audience was on its feet repeatedly, dancing, clapping and singing along. The goofy (IMHO) plot is designed simply to keep the hits comin’, and judging by the ovations from the packed house, “Mamma Mia” satisfied even the most rabid of fans.
This local production made history, as the first show at the playhouse to be completely sold out before the curtain rose opening night. As a result, Dharma gave up her assigned seat in order that one more ABBA fan not be turned away. I don’t really get what all the fuss is about, but millions of fans can’t all be wrong. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a bit of frothy fun, but I left the theatre perplexed. “Is that all there is?” I asked the dog. “What’s wrong with you?” she growled back. “Who doesn’t love ‘Dancing Queen’?”