It’s usually not until about a week into the festival that the integumentary layers connecting the whole thing begin to come in to focus, and even then it’s sometimes more a matter of cobbling together a few disparate events into a presumption of a theme than actually finding a common thread, sort of like connecting random dots into a picture of a cow or staring at a cloud until it starts to look like Nigel Redden — at which point you know you’ve got Spoleto on the brain, and bad. A strong drink followed by a nap might be a good idea.

Last year’s festival was all about two things: the crappy weather — nothing but rain for the first week and a half — and the ongoing, entertaining controversies whipped up by master propagandist Lee Breuer over his Mabou Mines Dollhouse. This year, we’re having to work a little harder to find dots to connect.

Tristan & Yseult is shaping up as a clear audience fave — which has many folks expressing unabashed relief, given Spoleto’s theatre choices from the past two years (Dollhouse and, in 2004, The Doctor and the Patient, which critics and audiences yawned over despite its having Mikhail Baryshnikov in the lead). Geisha left a lot of people wanting, though it and Nrityagram’s Sacred Spaces seemed to sate the multiculti urge Spoleto loves to love on. Don Giovanni’s as safe a bet as they come, given last year’s critical raves (despite a few pissed-off purists reported leaving with their noses out of joint this year), and the other opera this year, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, is a great confection of a performance: red velvet cake to the festival’s dinner party.

Which leaves us not quite halfway into the 2006 festival, looking down the barrel of 10 more days of Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto, and secretly (or not so secretly) hoping that Bill T. Jones’ remaining two performances cause as much of a stink as he did last night. And beyond Blind Date, there’s plenty of opportunity for fireworks still to come, of course. Mike Daisey’s Monopoly!, hip-hop impresario Danny Hoch, Daniel MacIvor’s A Beautiful View, more dance from Sara Baras Ballet Flamenco, three remaining programs in the Music in Time series, where anything can happen, and much more besides.