Published January 14, 2009
Nick goes Medieval
For years, I’d seen the Medieval Manor as I drove down I-93. It’s a roadside curiosity, like a hitchhiker or a hooker, and sooner or later, you’ve got to pull over and ask for directions.
Since 1972, the Medieval Manor has promised a raunchy romp through the Middles Ages. I’m all for bawdy humor, but I’ve never been one for the classics. In school we read The Canterbury Tales, a text pretty much designed for the teenage boy—all farts and sex. I found it mind-numbing. Even the kids who made swords out of PVC piping were bored.
However, I appreciated the tome’s enthusiasm for ale. And as my friends and I settled into our communal table on a blustery winter’s night, we were delighted to learn from our “primary beer wench” that flagons came in both light and dark varieties: Busch Light or Michelob Amber Bock. OK, so there’s no mead on tap. Authenticity isn’t what you’re paying for, a point hammered home when the court jester introduced himself with a penguin masturbation joke and our wench removed the lid from our appetizer: medieval pita pizza.
As we merrily crunched away, the festivities began with a rousing guitar number from the minstrel Bill. (The jester calls himself Squeegee and there’s an oaf named Sponge, but apparently Bill is a proud man.) The show proceeds in stages, as the cast, led by a king dressed regally in black tights, performs songs and skits until it’s time to eat another course with your bare hands. After a winning spot of repartee concerning the queen’s butt, faux dragon soup was ladled from a metal bucket.
“They didn’t have celery in the Middle Ages,” said my friend Casey, suddenly looking for historical accuracy as Squeegee referenced the iPod.
“How do you know?” I whispered.
“I was an art history minor.”
Oh, well there’s no arguing that. Please, have some more of the dark.
It’s all a bit ridiculous, but supping from my own bowl, I found it easy to tumble into the revelry. Save for a group of stone-faced dunces in the front row sipping pink lemonade and looking like serfs who’d lost their cows to famine, we all were getting into the spirit. The king decreed, “Eat, drink and be merry,” and we obeyed.
Still, it’s not all frivolity. The show hits a low point when the wenches gather for an anti-war ballad. If anything, it could have used a sword fight or two. But the formula must be working, as the content and the cast rarely change. I can’t commit to a channel, yet here’s a man who’s spent 19 years as Squeegee, a man who smiled as he shared a post-performance beer with his king and accepted a pickled thanks from us.
“I liked our wench,” said my friend Adam later, as we discussed the show’s merits. “I would recommend it, as a Bostonian, as something to knock off your checklist. But I was looking forward to the old English arts, thys and thous. That was my one letdown.”
I found the omission a blessing and hereby decree: If Chaucer isn’t your thing, the Medieval Manor might be.