Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shakespeare vs. The Hangover

As a few of you might have guessed from the lack of posting (other than the pre-written "Sports Night" piece) and commenting, I took yesterday off to enjoy a day in New York that included Anne Hathaway in "Twelfth Night" at Shakespeare in the Park, plus a matinee of "The Hangover." Some thoughts on both experiences (first Shakespeare, then "Hangover") coming up just as soon as I cross my garters...

Shakespeare in the Park is one of those New York experiences that anyone in the area should try if they have the opportunity -- specifically, if they have the time to wait on the line outside the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, as there's no way to get a ticket in advance. (In recent years, they have added a virtual line, but that's more of a lottery than a guarantee.) The waiting on the line is, to me, half the experience, particularly on a nice day. (And, in an otherwise soggy June, yesterday qualified.) My friend Steve and I showed up at 9 a.m. and the line was already hundreds and hundreds of people long -- so long, in fact, that our part of the line was no longer on an asphalt path, but on a mulchy area. (One of the Delacorte volunteers yelled out, "Hello, mulch people!" whenever he came out to give us an update.) And the line stretched far, far beyond us by the time it began moving near 1 o'clock. In the interim, I got to stretch out, read a good book (Dick Winters' "Beyond Band of Brothers," which some of the posters in the "Band of Brothers" discussion kept mentioning), play backstop for some kids who turned the mulch field into a baseball diamond to pass the time, etc.

And the play itself made the wait worth it. "Twelfth Night" is still in previews for another week, so I shouldn't say too much, but this seemed like the best of the recent SitP productions of it. (It's a crowd-pleaser that tends to attract big -- as in movie/TV -- stars like Hathaway; about 20 years ago, I saw a production with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Goldblum, and only a few years backthey did one with Jimmy Smits, Julia Stiles and Zach Braff.) Hathaway (who plays the cross-dressing Viola) is the biggest outside name, but the cast features some heavy hitters from the Broadway world, including Raul Esparza (Orsino), Audra McDonald (Olivia), Julie White (Maria) and Michael Cumpsty (Malvolio). From the TV world, there was also Hamish Linklater from "Old Christine" (who, as the son of an acting teacher who ran a Shakespeare troupe, has a lot of experience with the material) as Sir Andrew and Stark Sands (Lt. Fick from "Generation Kill") as Viola's sort of identical brother, Sebastian.

Everyone was great, but especially Linklater and McDonald, and director Daniel Sullivan found a way to organically insert some musical numbers so Esparza, McDonald, Hathaway and company could sing.

But here's the thing: even a bad Shakespeare in the Park production is worth seeing in that venue: outdoors, in the round, on the edge of one of the lakes in Central Park. The atmosphere brings up the energy level of the people on stage as well as the people in the audience, and the unpredictability of nature keeps the actors on their toes. There was apparently a scene-stealing raccoon in an early performance of this production, and last night, after the skies being cloudy all day, rain finally began to fall with about five minutes left to go in the play. This conveniently happened at the exact moment David Pittu, as Feste the fool, was singing a song about "the wind and the rain," and the crowd went nuts, and the actors in turn fed off that reaction and seemed especially excited as they worked through the closing number and the curtain call. (Though I wouldn't put it past this cast to be that exuberant at the close of every show.) A fine time was had by all, and as my wife and I walked out of the theater, we could hear a ton of applause and laughter coming from underneath the bleachers, where the actors had retreated after the curtain call.

In between my time on line and my time in the Delacorte, I went to see "The Hangover." Usually, when a comedy like this explodes out of nowhere (sort of; I'd been hearing from friends who saw early screenings that it was going to be huge) and everyone's raving about it, if you don't see it right away, the hype can overwhelm the movie. But "The Hangover" was nearly as funny as advertised. It didn't feel as sloppy as some of director Todd Phillips's previous movies like "Old School" (where the good Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn bits kept being interrupted by the soggy Luke Wilson/Ellen Pompeo romance), Zach Galifianakis is insanely funny as the groom's socially-awkward future brother-in-law, and Bradley Cooper is shockingly, amazingly, absolutely a movie star. (I liked the guy in "Kitchen Confidential," but who would have thunk it back in the Will Tippin days?) And Ken Jeong (aka Mr. Duk from "Party Down") steals the show every time he turns up as an eccentric Chinese gangster.

My only major complaint is that the slide show over the closing credits fails to answer the one mystery that we were promised it would: how did Cooper get his concussion?

All in all, a very rewarding, relaxing day that mixed high and low culture -- and a burger and fries at Shake Shack. (Mmm... artery-clogging...)

Feel free to talk about the movie (spoilers are fine), or your own Shakepseare in the Park experiences (or other memorable outdoor theater experiences).

60 comments:

michael b said...

I saw the twelfth night performance on tuesday night. the weather was beautiful and by the show's end the cast was exuberant and the crowd was loving it! the music in the play really added to the energy and at one point i could have sworn i was hearing the decemberists perform!

i got my tickets through the virtual line and it was my first attempt! so guess i'm kind of spoiled. after that being my first shakespeare in the park experience, i'll be waiting on that line next time for sure!

I've never red twelfth night so it was a pleasant surprise. the funny moments were laugh out loud. the dialogue was so quick and witty (go william!) and the emotional moments were very touching especially thanks to the musical cues coming in at just the right time.

Alyson said...

They don't address how the chicken got in the suite either, but that's okay by me. Some questions are just better left unanswered. :)

Alan Sepinwall said...

But Ed Helms (or was it Zach?) never says that the photos will explain the chicken, whereas he does promise they'll solve the concussion mystery.

joy said...

SitP is the one NY thing I've never done in 14 years living in the city. I know I have to do it, I just keep waiting for the right time, the right show, the right folks - always an excuse.

At some point I'll go. I swear. But, thanks for the thoughts about it...maybe I'll try the virtual line, but it feels like I need to wait in the real life line!

Also...maybe should should start a campaign to get David Tennant to do a SitP production.

What?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Joy, my advice is to just try the virutal line on any day when you know you'd be able to go to the show that night if you get the tickets. Waiting on the physical line is a part of the overall experience, but you shouldn't miss out on seeing the show itself -- especially a fun one like this -- if you don't feel you can do both halves.

The play's the thing, after all.

Karen said...

Mmmmm....Shake Shack.

SR said...

Ken seems to steal every show he's in, without fail. If you liked him in The Hangover, check out his role as silver-suited back-up singer in this music video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2v-AkSj260

floretbroccoli said...

I saw the two previous Delacorte productions of Twelfth Night. Jeff Goldbloom performance as Malvolio was one of the strangest I've ever seen. Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio as Viola was electric -- you couldn't take her eyes off of her.

I look forward to seeing this year's production.

Where'd you end up having dinner?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Shake Shack, as mentioned above.

And you're bang-on about Goldblum going to a bizarre place as Malvolio. He would just insert... these random... pauses... wherever he felt... like it. And not even in a Shatner way, where there's some attempt to give the line more weight through the pauses. (I remember at the time wondering if he couldn't remember his lines.)

But you're right that MEM made a great Viola (though she's about as masculine as Anne Hathaway), and I remember liking Gregory Hines as Feste. So even though Goldblum and Pfeiffer (who was stiff) were mostly busts, that was a decent production. This one was much better, though.

Hasan said...

I saw Macbeth in the park a couple of years ago and it was great. I really like the open air theater. I think I'm definatly gonna go to this one again.
Alan, Do you know if Anne Hathaway is in all of the shows or only a select few?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hasan, I believe Hathaway's going to be in all the performances of Twelfth Night, barring illness or something. It's not a long enough run for people to take shows off.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Of course, the last time Raul Esparza did a show with a noted Hollywood actor, that actor had to drop out due to "mercury poisoning from eating too much sushi" (which in turn led Fienberg to dub that actor The Thermometer).

floretbroccoli said...

The only performance I've ever seen that comes close to being as weird as Goldblum as Malvolia was Christopher Walken as Iago (opposite Raoul Julia as Othello). In a leather jacket.

Oops. Missed the Shake Shack mention. I think my brain read anything beginning with Shak as Shakespeare.

Did all of the replies to your tweeted request for a dinner spot suggest SS, or just 90% of them? (I live in the neighborhood and STILL haven't been to the new Shack.)

DAL said...

Sorry to be a pedant, but the songs are in the original play, as they are in many of the comedies and romances (The Tempest has a bunch of songs too). No insertion going on by Sullivan.

Stollak said...

I believe the music is being performed by the folk-rock group, "Hem," who have a number of CDs and also do the music for those Liberty Mutual commercials

Nate Denny said...

If I recall, the slideshow includes a picture of Cooper in the act of punching Wayne Newton (with bodyguards), implying that the concussion came from the resulting beating administered by said bodyguards.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sorry to be a pedant

Without pedantry, where would our society be?

And a good point. I'm just not sure I remember hearing the songs in previous adaptations, with the possible exception of Viola-as-Cesario serenading Orsino. I guess we could view it as Sullivan choosing to include the songs -- and to get Hem to perform them.

Stacey said...

I loved The Hangover. Enough to see it twice, once with my husband and another time with my sister, who hadn't yet seen it.

And I totally agree with you re: Bradley Cooper. I'll be honest--I went back the second time, mainly to see him again. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think I have gone to see a movie in the theater since Friday Night Lights (which I saw because I was a huge fan of the book), but the hype from The Hanover convinced me to go. Very good, but not the greatest comedy I've ever seen, which is what every review seemed to suggest.

Kate said...

There are lots of songs in the play, true, but they're mostly sung by Feste alone. Oh, and Sir Toby has his own song. The decision to expand the pool of singers sounds like really good idea to me, given the cast.

Thanks for posting about this, Alan. I love Twelfth Night, and can imagine Audra McDonald being a perfectly fierce Olivia ... although Orsino seems like kind of a waste of Raul Esparza.

I hope to see this on Sunday, weather permitting. But the rain it raineth every day....

7s Tim said...

Regarding The Hangover:
I also believe that the Wayne Newton fight was meant to lead to the concussion. That's how I read that. Now, the Galifianakis bit in the elevator made me wonder how "method" his acting is, and really had me laughing. I think the best bits of Cooper's were when his charater would find out about something horrible that he himself had done. That mix of amusement and shame and pride. Like with the tiger as he put it in the car. I think the three of them (coop, zach, and ed) worked really well together and made even random little gags (the beeper bit, discovering a missing tooth) funnier than might otherwise have been the case. And cooper's been great since Touching Evil, especially when playing an jerk

Baylink said...

It seems tothat that describes Goldblum's performance in the second Jurassic Park movie, as well; I've always thought it was just dain bramage... :-)

Alyson said...

I totally don't remember seeing a photo of Phil punching Wayne Newton. Oh well, just another reason to see it a second time!

Karen said...

Haven't done it myself, but unless I'm mistaken, you can avoid the line at the Delacorte by donating a certain amount to the Public - pretty sure my parents have started doing this. Myself, I have fond memories of baking on the Delacorte line in summers past.

Saw Stark Sands in Journey's End on B'way a few years back. Wouldn't have remembered that if his name hadn't been Stark Sands, I suspect.

And since I'm not going to get to see this production of Twelfth Night, I'll give a shout-out to my all-time favorite production, the UK's Globe Theatre's, with Mark Rylance absolutely incredible as Olivia (it was an all-male production). It came through Chicago a number of years ago and am I ever glad we got to see it. Ever since then, I'll see Rylance in anything I can.

So Cal said...

I remember seeing Galafanakis on Conan at least 10 years ago, doing his bit where he plays the piano and spouts hysterical non-sequiters, and i've been a fan ever since. I hope this role is really a breakout for him, and judging from what people are saying, it seems like it's going to be.

Great great movie!

DolphinFan said...

In re the mysterious chicken:

My theory is that the chicken was intended to be an appetizer for the tiger before he got his steak, but the guys were so wasted that they never followed through on this meal plan, and it was simply fortunate for the chicken that the tiger was locked up in the bathroom while everyone was passed out.
Great, great movie.

fantome14 said...

Hey, I was there last night too! It was definitely their best offering in ages. There wasn't a false note in any of it.

WildVulture said...

I thought Bradley Cooper got the concussion and beating from Mike Tyson. If the photos in the credits are shown out of sequence (which they seem to be), we can see Bradley Cooper posing over a sleeping Mike Tyson with a raised fist. I took that to mean that Iron Mike woke up shortly after that picture and administered a beating.

LG said...

That's totally my idea of a perfect New York Day. The Hangover is an instant classic in my book. And I've always liked Bradley Cooper, but a little bit of drool might have been coming out during TH. He definitely brought it.

Can't wait to see SitP this season...especially after your endorsement...if it ever stops raining!!

Leslie

Alan Sepinwall said...

WildVulture, if Tyson had woken up, they wouldn't have been able to take their sweet time leaving with the tiger and doing the other stuff shown on the security video.

Grunt said...

Karen, You are absolutely right, you can donate money and you can then get tickets, but, relative to the amount of tickets it is a great deal of money.

You can also get tickets without waiting on line if you are a special group. I went to a performance of The Tempest with Patrick Stewart where a large group of deaf audience members were and they had people doing sign language in the aisles. That was coordinated in advance (I knew one of the women doing the translations, coincidently, as I had waited for tickets).

Finally, they do have "house seats" for all performances but they go quickly. "House seats" are a standard in the industry where the producer holds back somewhere between 2 and 20 tickets for each performance and then 48 hours before the show they release them to the general population. Obviously, if the Delacorte doesn't use the house seats they give them out in the general course of giving out the tickets. However, years ago I worked for Lea Delaria's agent and got a set of house seats when they did "On The Town" there (I also had house seats to Troilus and Cressida which was awful). Most of the casting was lousy but Lea just blew the proverbial roof off the place. She was amazing.

Michael said...

I loved the hangover and I think I have a theory why it is so successful.

For the last two years we have been berated with Apatow directed and produced comedies, or at least movies from his group of people. (and I know how much you love the guy Alan so I apologize for the sacrilege) but all of those coming of age bromance sort of movies have gotten stale (although I think Paul Rudd can do no wrong so maybe I am contradicting myself here).
In the same way that Apatow and crew were a departure from the "frat" pack ie old school and wedding crashers etc... this was a departure from Sarah Marshall and Pineapple Express and 40 Year Old Virgin etc...

I've been a huge Cooper fan since Wedding Crashers where I thought the Sack stole most of the scenes he was in, and when I found kitchen confidential on Hulu I plowed trough a decent but mediocre series in one night. Bit of a fanboy I suppose.

For those that want more Galifinakis, he has a great series on funny or die called "between two ferns with Zach Galifinakis." The Natalie Portman episode is especially great!
http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/5ef1adb57b/between-two-ferns-with-zach-galifianakis

Michael said...

the galifianakis video might be NSFW so proceed with caution

Alan Sepinwall said...

Michael, the one problem with your theory is that Apatow is considered a part of the Frat Pack, in that he's friends with -- and has often produced movies with -- Stiller, Ferrell, the Wilsons, etc. While he and Todd Phillips have never worked together, a movie directed by the guy who did Old School, featuring an actor from The Office in a major role, doesn't seem like that much of a stylistic departure from much of what Apatow and company have been doing for the last few years.

Anna said...

but who would have thunk it back in the Will Tippin days?

Um, me. My Alias friends and I are kind of doing that thing right now where we feel like he kind of belongs to us because we loved him first, and we look down on everyone who's only just now discovering who he is and his greatness.

DAL said...

Thanks for being understanding about my nerdy need to give Shakespeare his songwriting props. I think Trevor Nunn's movie version has Ben Kingsley singing one of the songs at the end. I haven't seen this production but the decision to use a folk-pop band sounds interesting, and maybe he expands the original bitesize snatches of song to a more expansive, musical-like arrangement. It makes sense with the Delacorte, which is as much an outdoor amphitheater as a stage.

erin said...

Very amused that you saw SitP in NYC, as I went to SitP in Charlotte, NC last weekend and saw Twelfth Night myself! No big stars, of course, but the production was really terrific. My faves were our Malvolio (hysterical) and our Sir Andrew (who was actually played by a woman--she sold the drunken performance anyway). And no rain! And no wait! It was a lovely night.

Haven't seen the Hangover, but hope to this weekend. I've always loved Will Tippen, but I love his bad boy roles even better (kind of like when Hugh Grant went for the naughty rogue roles like About A Boy and Bridget Jones's Diary). Cooper was such a scamp in Nip/Tuck and so funny. Can't wait to see this movie!

Bryan Murray said...

The two separate conversations here are pretty hilarious to read interspersed together. Was Shakespeare the Judd Apatow of his day? Maybe Apatow/Scorsese/Ambrose rolled into one.

My guess on the elevator scene: prosthetic.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree at all that the huge success of "The Hangover" has anything to do with Judd Apatow. Nothing good and nothing bad.
The only possible point of comparison is that Apatow's two huge directorial hits, 40YOV and Knocked Up, combined raunchy material with intelligence and heart. Films from the Apatow tree have been successful because they are comedies that actually make people laugh, during a period of time where the non-animated comedic options often seem to begin and end with movies from the guys who created "Dave Movie/Epic Movie/Disaster Movie".
And no movie berates anyone, that was a bad choice of words. You don't want to see a movie in this country, you don't have to. Anyone who has a problem with movies they don't like being advertised can turn the channel, close the web page, ignore the Twitter etc.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My guess on the elevator scene: prosthetic.

Galifianakis has said in several places that it was a prosthetic.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My Alias friends and I are kind of doing that thing right now where we feel like he kind of belongs to us because we loved him first, and we look down on everyone who's only just now discovering who he is and his greatness.

Honestly, you thought from watching him on Alias that he was a future big screen leading man? Cooper was good on Alias, don't get me wrong, but aside from a couple of episodes near the end of his run (and especially the one where Sydney had to pull Will out of witness protection to go on a mission with her), he never got an opportunity to play the star kind of part.

John Tegan said...

Um, me. My Alias friends and I are kind of doing that thing right now where we feel like he kind of belongs to us because we loved him first, and we look down on everyone who's only just now discovering who he is and his greatness
Three words, Anna: "Jack and Bobby"

marcus said...

Re "The Hangover": I think the concussion was due to Cooper getting shot with the cop's rifle while wearing the bullet-proof vest. There were a couple of pictures with him wearing the vest and someone holding the rifle, if I recall correctly. My guess is that they didn't want any copy-cat problems so either no pictures explicitly showed him getting shot exist or they were edited before distributing the movie

Alan Sepinwall said...

Marcus, you need a head injury to get a concussion.

Liz Coopersmith said...

You can get a concussion if you hit your head on the ground hard enough. Although really, after all the stuff that happened that night, the question should be, how didn't he, or any of them, not end up in the hospital??

I wouldn't say it was the best comedy ever, but I do know I haven't laughed that much since Tropic Thunder. And that's good enough for me.

My Alias friends and I are kind of doing that thing right now where we feel like he kind of belongs to us because we loved him first, and we look down on everyone who's only just now discovering who he is and his greatness.

Honestly, you thought from watching him on Alias that he was a future big screen leading man? Cooper was good on Alias, don't get me wrong, but aside from a couple of episodes near the end of his run (and especially the one where Sydney had to pull Will out of witness protection to go on a mission with her), he never got an opportunity to play the star kind of part.

Nah, I saw it, too. I always thought he had the potential - he's cute, he's got personality, and you know, the hair. I wish my hair looked as good as Phil's too. This movie really gave him a chance to shine.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I blew water out my nose when I read your response to Marcus...

Saw The Hangover a month before it popped into theatres. I think one of the reasons why it's remained number one on the screen for two weeks in a row is because of the heavy amount of early screenings the marketing machine held. That generated a lot of rumours, as I know I wasn't able to shut up about the flick until it was released.

Interesting to see Heather Graham back in a big movie. Am I the only one who thinks she disappeared from existence after Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me?

-RB

Anna said...

Honestly, you thought from watching him on Alias that he was a future big screen leading man?

Absolutely. Well, we thought he deserved to be, anyway. He's got way more charisma than Michael Vartan's ever had. So we were so excited when he got Kitchen Confidential, and I think we were proven right.

Three words, Anna: "Jack and Bobby"

What do you mean, John Tegan? Jack and Bobby started three years after Alias.

John Tegan said...

What do you mean, John Tegan? Jack and Bobby started three years after Alias.

That just proves one thing: I'm an idiot!

Anonymous said...

My friends and I went to the performance last night, too. (And to the Shake Shack, actually.) The rain was perfectly timed, but the whole day was just way too cold for June. But I love Shakespeare in the Park in all its variable glory - the rain, the stray cats that wandered under the stage during the performance, the diehards curled up in sleeping bags in the front of the morning line.

Febrifuge said...

I got to see Twelfth Night a few years ago in San Diego, at the Old Globe. Harry Groener was Feste; Paxton Whitehead was Malvolio. It was amazing.

And I agree on The Hangover; the concussion wasn't super-well explained, to me. The fight with Wayne Newton makes so much sense, in retrospect, but I was... distracted... by the elevator thing. It's been a long time since a movie made me blush. I'm not sure, but I might have even been scandalized.

marcus said...

Alan, Cooper's character had bruised ribs and a mild concussion. I would think taking a rifle shot to the chest would generate enough power to knock somebody to the ground hard enough to cause both injuries....but I could be completely off.

And it was Helms's character that fought Wayne Newton- Cooper's character pretended to punch Tyson as he was sleeping.

ninaruth said...

It's interesting that so many posters have beyond-the-norm fond memories of one Twelfth Night production or the other. Maybe it's because it offers so many opportunities for outrageous takes on the characters.

My favorite production--of anything, anywhere, ever--was the Chekhov International Theatre's all-male all-Russian production in 2006. It played in New York and then came to Berkeley where I saw it. The theatre was filled with Russians; the woman next to me explained that the song translated as Shakespeare's in the supertitles was in fact a famous Russian Revolution anthem.

Gayle said...

Saw Twelfth Night years ago at Lincoln Center with Helen Hunt and Paul Rudd. Memorable for Paul Rudd half naked, bathing on stage and how surprisingly funny--laugh out loud funny--the play was.

Also saw The Hangover--another Bradley Cooper fan from his Alias days--and LMAO throughout. Especially the slide show.

jcpdiesel21 said...

I'm glad to hear that you liked The Hangover, Alan! I really enjoyed it as well, and Ken Jeong was my favorite part of it. I'm thrilled to hear that he's a part of Party Down, which gives me more incentive to watch that show.

I also ate at Shake Shack when I was in NYC last week! Good burgers, good fries, good shakes. Mmmm. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Anonymous said...

Nah, I saw it, too. I always thought he had the potential - he's cute, he's got personality, and you know, the hair. I wish my hair looked as good as Phil's too. This movie really gave him a chance to shine.

In the first season of Alias, Cooper had to dye his hair ash blonde because "the network" thought that he & Vartan looked too much alike & viewers wouldn't be able to tell them apart. The hair as we know it today finally got to shine in season two.

pmaha said...

I was at the same performance and experienced much of the same delights. I did the virtual line, though. I wrote my own review here. http://pmaha.blogspot.com/2009/06/shakespeare-in-park-twelfth-night.html

ashok said...

This is a somewhat irrelevant question but when does the performance of Twelfth Night end? I ask because I have to take a train back to Short Hills, NJ from Penn Station and wouldnt want to be stuck in the city!

Alan Sepinwall said...

If there's no rain delay, it'll end around 11 p.m.

Melissa Holst said...

He go the concussion when Wayne Newton beat him up. There is a picture of him hitting Wayne, then a picture of Wayne preparing to hit him.

Selamii :) said...

re: the hangover - loved it too! Cooper's concussion might have been from Newton's punch, maybe?

what i dont get (and is still sooooooooooo funny to me) is how the chicken got there?!!

can't wait to watch it again!