Some of you may already know the story of my botched attempt years ago to attend Shakespeare in the Park’s Twelfth Night, starring Julia Stiles and Jimmy Smits. And pre-megastar Zach Braff, Christopher Lloyd, Oliver Platt, and Kirsten Johnston. For the record, that experience is partially why I strongly dislike Julia Stiles: when the performance was rained out, she did not sign anyone’s Playbill, even though most of the rest of the cast graciously did. Stupid rain. In any case, since then, my love for Shakespeare has only grown, and in my days of theatre withdrawal and post-OSF grief, I have been yearning to go to a Public Theatre show of Shakespeare in the Park.
This summer, they’re doing The Merchant of Venice and A Winter’s Tale. I wasn’t super excited about either, to be honest, since I’m not a huge fan of WT after a horrible viewing of it at a state Thespian conference years ago, and I am not as familiar as I should be with Merchant. But, since I’m in New York and I’ve been wanting to do this for years, I knew one of my goals while here would be to see the show. As it happens, Al Pacino is reprising his role as Shylock.
Tonight, I went to sit on the standby line in the hopes that I could get a ticket. If you’ve never tried to get tickets to a Shakespeare in the Park show, let me just say that when we got tickets before, it was because my mother and I arrived at Central Park at 8:30 in the morning and waited for 5 hours until they handed out the tickets. We were not the first in line. So, waiting tonight for only 2.5 hours wasn’t too shabby, compared to last time. I settled in between an Italian couple vacationing (I was thrilled! So many Italians in NYC, che fantastico!) and a pair of friends who apparently go to SitP all the time.
Walking up to the theatre, I had noticed that there was some sort of event going on, and my linemates informed me that tonight was some sort of gala: press, VIPs, family & friends of the cast and crew would be comprising most of the audience. The box office monkey came out and told us that he had no idea how many tickets they’d be able to give out tonight. I waited. I wasn’t going to leave until I either definitely did not receive a ticket or got into the theatre. It turned out, that was a good idea.
Around 8:04, the line started moving, and they ended up having quite a bit of tickets left over. Not only did I get to see Merchant, I also was totally starstruck by all the celebrities milling about in one place. I saw Jonathan Groff (probably the most exciting person I saw, actually), Naomi Watts and her husband, Liev Schrieber, Kevin Spacey, James Gandolfini, Peter Dinklage, Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson, Lucy Liu and Kate Walsh. I’m sure there were more there, but those were the ones I remember.
It took a few minutes for me to calm down once the show started. I’m not even kidding, I was so excited I was shaking. The production itself was really wonderful. I thought the staging was great, the set was really cool and utilitarian, and the acting was, overall, pretty dynamite. I especially liked Bassanio and Launcelot (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, of Modern Family, if anyone watches that). Al Pacino wasn’t too bad, either.
I have always adored languages, and Shakespeare’s English is no exception. I left the theatre so happy and light I could have flown back to Chelsea. Instead, I took a cab.