Get Your Culture On: A review of “Romeo and Juliet” in Central Park
On Saturday the 23rd of June, ETL & I adventured. It began as our adventures so often do, with me freeloading on her couch to get an early start, in this case, an early start of 5:14am for me, slightly earlier for ETL.
We prepared for the day, gathered our provisions and gear, and drove into Manhattan, arriving slightly past 6am. Amazing, free, legal parking was found and secured on East 79th street, and we headed into Central Park for our chilly 7-hour picnic. We laid out our camp happily near to the head of the line, (ETL estimated about 40 people ahead of us), and settled in to wait. And waaait… And waaaait.
We chatted, napped, ate, chatted. At some point, we realized we failed to pack forks for the salad, and so asked our neighbors who were ordering food from a nearby Deli that apparently specializes in feeding line-sitters to ask for some forks for us. I very clearly heard her ask for additional forks, but when their order arrived, they failed utterly to mark our existence or to provide the forks they surely had.
We were supposed to be joined by another of ETL’s friends, but she bailed out on us, claiming that she had to pack to move. Laziness! Well, we ate the sandwich we packed for her and thoroughly enjoyed it, and told her so in an SMS message.
People in front of us. And the wall of the theater! Amazing!
Line for tickets. Follow the red arrow for full effect since it goes on for some time.
More time passed. The line was 300+ strong by the time 1pm rolled around and finally our patient efforts were rewarded with 4 tickets to Romeo & Juliet, section L, row Q, (this is of course far in the back.. But centrally located and not too bad overall). After we
were freed from the line, we returned to my car and deposited the camping gear, and then continued on to Coney Island for the annual Mermaid Parade.
The Mermaid Parade
I think I’ll leave up to ETL the complete review of the parade, and all I will say here is that clothes were developed for a reason, and that reason is to cover up things other people do not want to see. We left hideous Brooklyn, returned to familiar Manhattan for lunch, and finally set off for the Delacorte Theater for the 7:45pm seating call.
Starcross’d under the Stars
The set for Romeo and Juliet is a wooden bridge built on a pipe-scaffolding base, spanning a shallow circular pond. The pond is ringed by a rotating wooden boardwalk, which was turned during the performance to afford different views of the set, depending on the scene being acted. The wooden bridge separated in the center to create two ledges or “balconies” as required. The set is always spare for Shakespeare in the Park, instead preferring the audience to imagine their own embellishments, and using every item and device in clever ways to provide the necessary props– Even the water in the pond became a sketchpad for Mercutio’s lascivious imaginings of Rosalyn.
The Delacorte is an open-air theater, and the natural backdrop provided by the perfectly landscaped Central Park is enhanced by the presence of Belvedere Castle peeking from behind the trees to the right. Our Earth’s very own Moon presented herself for inclusion in Romeo’s soliloquy on Juliet’s beauty, and our stars paled in his view when compared to Juliet’s eyes.
The play was delivered in the original Shakespearean English, and was, simply put, incredible. I will not provide a synopsis of Romeo & Juliet here, but know that the acting was uniformly impeccable. The only actor whom I recognized on sight was Lauren Ambrose, who played Juliet (she played the daughter, Claire, on HBO’s Six Feet Under). The rest of the troupe had impressive resumes involving various theatrical and televized appearances as per the Playbill.
Mercutio’s performance as a bawdy and loquacious rake was fantastic, and I agreed with ETL when she commented that for the first time, she was saddened by his death. Romeo and Juliet were of course excellent fools, while the Nurse and Friar smoothed and paved the road of good intentions. In the final scene, the tomb (three simple shrouded biers set down in the pond and dimly lit), was unsettling and oppressive–Juliet’s earlier terrors still echoed in my mind as Romeo descended the stairs to find her, seemingly lifeless, among the dead. As with Mercutio, the deaths of the lovers were poignant in a way I had never felt before; I feel lucky to have finally experienced what the classic tale was really meant to be.
This performance reinforced the clear necessity for plays to be studied as plays and not simply read as books. Reading Romeo & Juliet versus seeing it performed well are such incredibly different experiences, that they might as well not be connected at all. Another first: I teared up at the end– something that reading the lines, “for never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo” can never accomplish.
Copyright © 2007 to d42
For more information about attending Shakespeare in Central Park check out Public Theater’s website.