Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shakespeare in the Park 50th Anniversary Gala

'Tis the season of theater benefits.  It seems like I have been to more galas lately than proper shows...but at this one no one yelled at me or talked about getting stabbed (unless you count Meryl Streep as Juliet).

The Public Theater hosted their 50th Anniversary of the Delacorte Theater with an all star cast performing in a reading of Romeo and Juliet.  Kevin Kline was Romeo.  He performed largely off-book.  And was FANFUCKINGTASTIC.  I saw The Seagull a million years ago but there was something to watching Kline perform a lovesick teen that showed how talented he is.  Without falling into cliched teenage behavior, he found the emotional angst of a fickle teen boy and played it straight.  PLEASE DO MORE THEATER KEVIN.

Meryl Streep played Juliet to Kline's Romeo.  Streep was jokingly referred to as "God" by Oskar Eustis.  I'm not sure this was a joke.  There was a moment where Juliet makes a speech in Act III, Scene II:

Post-Performance Twinkle Lights
Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus' lodging: such a wagoner
As Phaethon would whip you to the west,
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaway's eyes may wink and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalk'd of and unseen.

And I KID YOU NOT clouds actually filled the night sky.  A scene later they were gone.  I'm not messing with Le Streep.  She played a convincing teen and found the giddiest timbre in her voice.  It took a little getting used to but it was not hard to see her as the innocent teen, overcome with emotion, who happens to carry a dagger around when things go badly.

Rounding out the cast was hilarious Christine Baranski as the Nurse (she hit her head on some tree branches upon entering the stage but took it all in stride).  A very funny Jerry Stiller as a servant.  Jeffrey Wright as the mercurial Tybalt (with his velvety voice that made me all tingly).  Sam Waterston as Romeo's pal Benvolio (I will admit to wishing someone else was in this role--I think I have residual King Lear anger).  Christopher Walken as the weirdest Mercutio to ever walk the stage.  He called Romeo, Ro-MAYO, the entire night.  He was on a planet of his own.  Sometimes that can be a fun way to hear the Bard, as one has never heard it before.  But I tired of the gag.  John Cullem was an aging Capulet and Phylicia Rashad was Lady Capulet.  F. Murray Abraham was Friar Laurence. 

In small bit parts were Raúl Esparza (who bit his thumb at David Harbour as sexily as he could--and let's face it with Esparza that's pretty sexy),  Jesse L. Martin, David Pittu, Bill Irwin, Sandra Oh, David Harbour, Stacy Keach, Joe Morton, and Michael Stuhlbarg.

The sport of the evening was watching the gallery of stars in attendance.  In no particular order I spotted: Lily Rabe, Hettienne Park, Ethan Hawke, Laura Linney, Julianna Margulies, Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols, Alan Alda, Paris Remillard, Kacie Sheik, Josh Lamon, Julia Stiles, Kathleen Turner, Chelsea Clinton, Tony Kushner, Cynthia Nixon, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

It was a magical night with fireflies, birdsong, and the rustle of the wind through the trees.  Sadly the Park Raccoon did not make an appearance--either angry that Waterston stole his role or out of deference to Mother Earth Streep.

It was a special evening that reminded me how wonderful New York's cultural institutions are and how some actors can make you believe they are ageless based on their talent alone.  And of course there is something to Romeo and Juliet that makes me believe every time that maybe, just maybe this time Romeo and Juliet will make it and live happily ever after in Mantua.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could have been there! So bad. Sounds like a gorgeous night. Read this account of how Meryl almost died that night at the hands of a stagehand. So funny!