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Love's Labors Lost

I have a review of The Nance started for you, but first I HAVE to tell about our adventure tonight.  Because it was a real--if mild--adventure, of the completely unplanned and serendipitous kind, and even while it was happening I didn't quite believe it.

So, it was our anniversary today.  One of them, anyway, the most recent one, the We Got Legally Married in Massachusetts one, with a rabbi and a license and everything.  It was also the day The Fall of the Kings audio book goes on pre-sale before its August 26th pub date, so there was a lot to celebrate.  We chose to meet a friend for a picnic in Central Park, with a bottle of champagne Ellen's brother sent us and a kale salad I made and some pate the friend brought.  We met, we ate, we talked.  We ran into Helen Pilinovsky, her husband and darling son Oberon, who ran around handing us cookies and grinning while we talked.  We had, in short a perfect New York evening.  And when we parted, Ellen said, "Let's go see if we can get into see the play."  And I said, "It's too late."  And she said, "I have a feeling."  So we went and got at the very, very end of the standby line, behind maybe 40 other people waiting to be told if there were any extra seats to be had.  And the play started and it got dark and we could hear the singing from inside the theater, and there were still 30+ people standing patiently, and I was feeling not particularly patient and maybe ready to give up, when this guy in a towering white headwrap and a loose white shirt kind of glided up to us and said, "I was supposed to meet some people here and give them these, but I guess they aren't coming.  You take them."

So we did.  With profuse thanks.  We waited for a few more minutes until there was a "seating break," and then we sat down, maybe 10 minutes into the play--pretty good seats, too, on the side and about half-way up the theater--looked at each other, grinned, and watched the play.

We liked it lots.  We've both seen LLL many times, separately and together, classically presented, reimagined, set in nearly every century between the 16th and the 20th.  But we've never seen anything remotely like this one.  For one thing, it's a musical, with songs written by Michael Friedman of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson fame and an intermittently Shakespearean book by Alex Timbers. For another, while it's not exactly LLL, it's not exactly not LLL either.  The plot is basically the same, although trimmed down to 90 lean, mean minutes of running time.  The characters are all there, although there might have been a pedant missing--I'm not entirely sure.  The King and his gentleman scholars are overprivileged, overeducated recent Ivy League grads.  The Princess and her court are their Seven Sisters opposite numbers in strappy dresses and stilettos.  Their speeches veer from the Shakespearean text to plain modern dialogue to the occasional improv (when the mikes all squeaked and roared and occasionally died during one scene) to Shakespearean song to interpolated number without warning, but with occasional rhyme, and plenty of reason, once I figured out what they were doing.

A lot of it was for comic effect--some of it a little on the cheap side, some of it genuinely hilarious, like when the King and his lads pretend to be German expressionist performance artists prancing and gesturing to a Philip Glassian number.  Some of it underscored issues of class, race, and gender that Shakespeare was indeed playing with, giving them a modern context and a modern intent no citizen of 16th Century England could have imagined. And the end was genuinely heartbreaking.  A year and a day is too long for a play indeed, and the way Berowne said it, I couldn't really hold out a lot of hope for poor Rosalind.

The acting was great.  Colin Donnell, who played Berowne, was in Anything Goes, which I did see, although I don't remember whether I saw him in it.  I do, however, remember seeing Daniel Breaker, who played the King of Navarre, in Passing Strange. He's older now, more solid as a presence and a voice.  I was really impressed.  Rebecca Naomi Jones, who played Jacquenetta, is a Passing Strange alumna, too.  I loved her.  Also Patti Murin as the Princess (who was not in Passing Strange).  It's not an easy part, there not being much personality in it, as much as a series of more or less conventional attitudes and reactions.  But I felt, watching her, that there was a real person there, with a real heart and real opinions.  She was in Lysistrata Jones, which I missed, and now I wish I hadn't.

Seeing anything in the Delacourt, with birds flying by and the moon rising over the Lodge where the King and his lads were on their scholarly retreat and real water in the hot tub, is always a thrill.  Especially on our anniversary, sitting in seats handed to us by a complete stranger for no good reason when there was no way in hell we were ever going to get in.  And the show closes Sunday.  This is the kind of thing that happens around Ellen.  The luck of the Kushners, she calls it.  I just think it's magic. As is she.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2013 10:52 am (UTC)
How lovely! Such a great way to spend an anniersary.

Out here, on the east end of things, I watch the water a lot. We've had gorgeous days lately, and crisp nights. The Mouse King is now working its way into a novel, combining all the storylines. It's not 7am and someone is out fishing in the Sound. Fresh corn, fresh mozzarella, fresh greens. NY license and NY plates on my car. NYC is both a million miles away and something that looms to the west with all its teeming masses, something I have to drive around to get home. (Unless I take the ferry to New England.)

The VA house closes Aug 30, we hope. Two weeks to close out that chapter.

Aug. 17th, 2013 01:01 pm (UTC)
Oh, what a wonderful evening, and on your anniversary too! (Congratulations!) It sounds like a lovely production of LLL, and you're so right about the Princess as very much the eye of the storm whose personality is a blank slate. I really enjoyed Mariah Gale in Stratford a few years ago and she brought some of that energy to her Ophelia, but I think the director must have intervened before the mad scene.

The improv/script combination is fascinating and it feels...well, oddly early modern, if that makes any sense? Jigs and dances and random musical numbers and clowns doing improv while the guy who wrote the play facepalms backstage and imagines a world without clowns...sounds about right to me. ;)
Aug. 17th, 2013 01:20 pm (UTC)
So tremendously lovely, needing that lush overstatement on my part! Thank you for sharing the magic with us.
Aug. 17th, 2013 01:49 pm (UTC)
That sounds like the perfect anniversary surprise!
Aug. 17th, 2013 03:29 pm (UTC)
Congratulations, and mazel tov! And yes, she is, and you deserve every bit of it.
Aug. 17th, 2013 03:37 pm (UTC)
If there is Kushner Magic, the theme seems to be Paper: My grandpa Boris somehow making his way safely across war-torn Russia in 1917 without any papers . . . and then, yesterday, those two little tagboard rectangles - I must admit I stared at them for a moment thinking, "What are these things? What does this weird guy want - what's his scam? OH: These are ACTUAL TICKETS! Oh my."

Well, it was our Paper Anniversary. #9. No kidding.
Aug. 17th, 2013 05:15 pm (UTC)
What a perfect story. Happy belated anniversary to you guys.

The Princess is a very peculiar part indeed. The last time I saw LLL, I was most impressed by how she must do a lightning change and express profound emotion in very few words when she gets the bad news about her father. The woman playing the Princess did an amazing job, very self-contained but with voice, expression, and body language conveying that her entire existence had been turned on its head. It's not at all an easy part, as you say.

Aug. 17th, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
I love what Ellen said, too (on Facebook, although I just noticed she said more two comments above), about this being your paper anniversary. And that you got physical tickets handed to you - paper - and to see a play, which had been recorded on paper hundreds of years ago - and a program with all the names you need to know to write this wonderful blog (not on paper, but still, a facsimile thereof), also PAPER! It just is so perfect.

Bloomin' Faeries, as they say in the 80's movie Legend...

Edited at 2013-08-17 06:40 pm (UTC)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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