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.