There was a party on stage at the Delacorte this weekend — Big Bird, shirtless capoeira acrobats, horn-players on stilts, a loud four-piece rock band , ballerinas dressed in white, Indian dancers, Urban park rangers; a total of some 200 New Yorkers from all five boroughs — that nothing could spoil — not the raccoon on stage, or the little girl who tottered on from the audience; not the noisy aircraft over head, nor the overly long introduction by Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis….and certainly not William Shakespeare’s text.
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Yes, there were actual scenes with Shakespearean dialogue in which professional actors — most notably, in Sicilia, Isaiah Johnson as jealous King Leontes and Lindsay Mendez as his pregnant queen Hermione; and, much later in Bohemia, Christopher Fitzgerald as the thief Autolycus. But the show was pared down to a scant 100 minutes with no intermission, and much of it was sung – the music and lyrics by Todd Almond. On a night with a full moon, perfect weather, and a stage full of happy dancing New Yorkers, the plot seemed almost besides the point.
Almond also played Antigonus, the character who is (in Shakespeare’s most famous and enigmatic stage direction) pursued by a bear. The bear in this production — like almost everything in this production — was fun, cuddly even. Given everything else that director Lear deBessonet put together in this circus of a show, I was surprised the bear didn’t dance a duet with Big Bird.
(Next up: Muppet Macbeth?)
The Winter’s Tale
At the Delacorte Theater