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Shakespeare in the Park is something I try to do every summer. Like killing a summer afternoon on the Circle Line or eating at Carmine’s, I occasionally go out of my way to enjoy NY’s more established and touristy institutions because, well, they’re our established touristy institutions and no one else’s. And where else but the Delacorte Theater can you see Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and other great actors, for free. Doing Shakespeare. In the middle of Central Park.
Last night, the production was “All’s Well That Ends Well,” a comedy I’ve never read or seen produced. Unlike the mood of a crowd before something one of Shakespeare’s darker histories, last night, under a breezy sky, a smiley happy group of theater-goers filed in, seniors who still wear jackets and ties to ‘the theater,’ plenty of students, and that rarest group of folks, those who have all day to wait on line for a ticket. Set in Edwardian-era England, the play opens in the middle of a fancy ball. We meet a sad Helena, a woman who is in love with Bertrand, the son of the Countess who is Helena’s ward. The skies darken. A brash, but cowardly, soldier, Paroles enters the scene. The wind kicks up. We learn the King is ill with…a fistula? I’m sure that’s what they said. Black clouds now completely dominate the sky. Lightning cracks. The skies open. Everyone runs for cover from the soaking summer downpour.
During the 20-minute rain delay, I wonder if the director will keep the lead actors in the play or go to the bullpen; it’s a long season and you have to be careful of injuries. Alas, the play started again, followed by more rain, and with more black clouds on the way, I call it a night. And you know what? For what I spent, it was one of those fabulous, only in New York nights. On the way home, I hear CC was throwing a perfect game. The rain cut short his night, as well.
If you like your theater out of the outdoors, head to Music Box Theater and catch Jerusalem before it closes in about four weeks. Mark Rylance tears up the English countryside with his proud, bigger than life, totally full of it character of Rooster Johnny Byron. A story of fabulous storytelling, of mythology and reality, Rooster Johnny Byron, a distant cousin of Stanley Kuwalski and half of Sam Shepard’s characters, will make you believe a trailer in the woods is the most noble address anywhere. You will believe a virgin can give birth. You will believe in giants. You will believe in Johnny. Jerusalem is a big idea dressed up like a play. This is why I love theater.
Photo Credits: Shakespeare: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times