Sunday, August 1, 2010

The OTHER Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park, brought to you by the Public Theater, went back to a wonderful and often unattainable conquest: Rep. Most of the actors perform in both Winters Tale and A Merchant's Tale. Ted and I saw both shows at the Delacorte Theater this summer: Beautiful, ethereal, clever, starstudded...
...and sanitary.
Call me crazy, but I like my Shakespeare (and most theater, for that matter) more hands on, more about human contact and imperfection. So when I went to see New York Classical Theater's production of Much Ado About Nothing (starring my longtime friend and onstage husband, Company, Fred Rose) Saturday night, I was, at long last, sated.
And yes, I am blogging about both because they are free to the public (with a suggested donation, of course) and they are at the top of my list of New York summer adventures, but I have to admit, when I heard that I'd have to sit on the pavement to see Much Ado and then get up and move around to various locations all around Battery Park with a hundred other various strangers, I anticipated the grumpiness that only a long time New Yorker who avoids events like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting and Macy's Thanksgiving Parade trully knows.
But at least until the word gets out, there is no standing in line starting at 6am for a New York Classical Theater Shakespeare play. Once you know where to meet for the initial scene, you just jump in with the crowd and don't get too comfortable. Which I found to be, unexpectedly, the beauty of this concept.
I joined Benedick, Beatrice, Hero and their friends in Castle Clinton, along with 150 other people of all ages, shapes, colors, and species (Duffy the dog was mezmerized by the fight scenes). Each theatergoer was respectful and eager to find out what happened at the next location (kids ended up in a race), all of which served as a great background for the 1940's seafaring concept.
When the sun went behind the horizon (Battery Park sunsets over Jersey City and the statue of liberty are pretty spectacular) the same assistants that ushered the crowd to the next location held flashlights as spotlights. Occasionally, ambient noise competed with the dialogue, but the actor's vocal work was impressive and the audience seemed to hang on every word of the abbreviated script. The acting and directing was strong and the story prevailed. And I never had a chance to sit and tune out. We were all a part of the experience.
As of next week, Much Ado moves to Central Park at 103rd Street, the exact location is listed on the website. Bring comfortable shoes, shorts/pants that you don't mind getting dirty, something to sit on that you can easily carry from place to place, and friends.

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