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).