Wassup Rockers

Twelfth Night @ Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park).

[EDIT July 6: I am getting several hits from people wondering how early to line up for the show. My coworker’s girlfriend had Friday July 3 off so she decided to try for a ticket. She lined up around 6:30, but apparently, about 100 people showed up around the same time… she did NOT get tickets. Since this is the final week, you’re probably going to have a pretty tough time. I’m speculating that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, being workdays, won’t be as bad, and that Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be particularly difficult. I’ll leave you to decide when to show up. I wish you the best of luck!]

For weeks I’d been planning on going to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in the Park on June 18, because it was a week day I had off and before the reviews came out, so I figured the lines wouldn’t be as bad. But when I woke up on Thursday, the weather was just drab. Rainy all day. I watched some of The View; Anne Hathaway was on and all I could think was “Damn… I guess today’s a bad day to go.”

But as the hours passed I kept checking the weather, and by 5 pm I noticed that by 8 pm, there would “only” be 50 or 60% chance of precipitation. So even though I’d spent all day resigned with not being able to go, I decided that a little rain was not enough to keep me away. In fact, I imagined that plenty of people would be hesitant to go to an outdoor theater on a rainy night, so I decided to take my chances and see if I could get a ticket.

Well, the girl at the box office gave me my ticket and all I could do was throw my fist in the air and cry ALLAHU AKBAR! Why? Because my ticket was in section C, row CC: front row, in the best section of the theater. Although it’s sucky to go to the theater alone, the fact is that it’s more likely you’ll get a better seat. I just didn’t expect it to be that good!

I went off and grabbed me some dinner, and then I came back for the show. They opened the doors a bit late, and the show itself started past 8 (not unusual). The theater was about half empty, and I’d guess that a good number of the people there were (1) people who are familiar with the rain policy at the Delacorte Theater, (2) people who, like me, made sure the weather cleared out before they got a last minute ticket. As I waited for the show to start, two thoughts ran through my head. The first was, “Shit, I hope the production doesn’t suck,” and the second was “Muthafuck, I hope this doesn’t turn into some participatory production.” That’s what freaks me out about first row, that maybe an actor will try to interact with you and shit. That just sent me into a panic.

On the first count, I can confirm that the production was good, a solid B. I feel like it was time well spent, and I felt a pang of sadness I didn’t have anyone to share the experience. I’d say the entire cast was pretty good, committed, well-rehearsed. I’d even say that they really embraced their roles and were having a lot of fun, which, in turn, made it fun for me to watch.

It was drizzly the first half hour but the actors soldiered on, and I felt particularly bad for the ladies who wore gorgeous, short-sleeved dresses. The clothes were seriously rocking. I’d peg them very Napoleonic-era (maybe?).

A good half hour into the play, the drizzle finally got a little too hard to bear, so the Voice From God (okay, the dude who does the announcements) said that there would be a pause while the rain passed through. It didn’t take long for the rain to weaken, and so the actors went back to their places, kinda rewound a few lines to remind us where we’d stopped, and just went on as if nothing had happened.

I should mention that, when I first read the cast list, I really hoped there would be singing involved. Now I can say I’ve heard lovely people like Audra McDonald and Raúl Esparza sing to me live onstage. Er, well, the music was fairly good and the musicians were totally right on, but I did feel like the compositions were a bit long and dragged the pacing a bit. So part of me was like, “Damn, these songs are so pretty,” and another part of me was like, “Damn, can we get on with the ~*CRAZY ANTIX*~ already?”

But I didn’t hate this as much as I hated the fool, Feste, walking over to the front row right as the second half of the show started, and putting out his hat for money. Holy shit. I mean, I was totally laughing on the outside but weeping in the inside, and the only thing that made me feel a little better was that he didn’t put out the hat in front of my face, just the people next to me. It was a very close call, though, and lucky for the actor, David Pittu, because the couple sitting next to me was a lot more gracious about the unscripted moment than I would have been. Ack!

Another aspect of the show I didn’t dig too much was that the humor was played very broadly. The thing is that, in terms of execution, the actors did a great job, so my beef is with the directorial choice to deliver the lines with a clear wink and a jab with the elbow. At the same time, I infinitely preferred this more accessible, enjoyable production over last year’s Hamlet, you know? So I ain’t complaining too much on that element of the show.

I have to admit I wasn’t too hot with Esparza in the part of Orsino. He wasn’t bad, but I’d say miscast. Then again, I was basically expecting Pushing Daisies all over again. Sigh! Not only that, he had like, superintense sideburns–they really distracted me. I’d love to see him in another production soon, though!

McDonald was pretty good, though I found her far more watchable in her funny moments than in her brooding ones. Her timing is really good. Anne Hathaway held her own, and it’s probably the most physical thing I’ve seen her do since like, The Princess Diaries. She even gets into a sword fight. The choreography was all right, nothing major, but it’s still always cool to see a sword fight in a live production. By the way, the dude who played Viola’s twin brother looked acceptably similar to Anne Hathaway, but even more eerie, he seriously reminded me of the youngest Jonas brother(!). The actor’s name is Stark Sands (for real…?). Surely it was just from seeing him from a distance, but I was still like, “WHOA… Where’s Miley Cyrus, dude?” That said, I thought he was pretty good in his more minor role.

I really loved Jay O. Sanders in this; he was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream a couple of years ago as the head of the rude mechanicals, easily the best part of a so-so show. Again, he did not disappoint. He has a great voice, too. But I think my favorite cast member was Julie White, who played Maria with mischievous glee. Even though Maria plays a pretty awful trick on Malvolio, I still felt like she was totally awesome, and Julie White really made her a very inviting and sympathetic character.

The play itself is so funny. I had very faint memories of reading it in school and then watching the version with Helena Bonham Carter. I couldn’t remember anything except that there was a mistaken identity plot that centered around cross-dressing and that there was a funny servant lady named Maria but whose name was pronounced Mariah. Also, I remembered feeling more than a little awkward with the weddings at the end because of all the gender-bending. I’m not even gonna consider the political statement that the Public Theater may or may not be making by putting on this show at this moment in American history cos my mind would explode, yeah? But back to the words: there were some hilarious lines, that had everyone tittering and at times howling. Really bawdy lines. The weird thing was realizing how badly I’d needed to have a good laugh, and the production did the trick. All in all, a good night at the theater, especially since it was free.

The show will officially open on June 25, and will close on July 12 to make room for The Bacchae.


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