Monday, June 18, 2018

Shakespeare for the birds.

Saturday night in New York City might have been the most beautiful night since creation itself began. The sun was setting casting a golden twilight. The breeze was calm and cooling, and the temperature was just right for a tee-shirt and shorts.

I was with 2,500 other New Yorkers in Central Park's Delacorte Theater to see the Public's presentation of Shakespeare's "Othello."

I first saw a production of Othello fifteen years ago when I found an old VHS tape of Orson Welles' 1951 interpretation with Welles himself as the Moor and wearing a most politically-incorrect blackface.

Still. Shakespeare. Welles. Holy. Shit.

About ten years ago I saw a small production downtown at a theater at NYU with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the insidious Iago. It was one of the worst interpretations of Shakespeare I had ever seen, with Iago climbing over TV screens playing static to torture the Moor.

Saturday night was in between the two productions. Blackface aside, I'm not sure anyone could play a better Othello than Welles. But Chukwudi Iwuji, though small in stature, rises to the role. Corey Stoll was fine as Iago, but to my mind lacking in unctuousness. 

Perhaps for me the highlight of the evening happened early in Act I. As the actors were going through their lines and setting the setting, plot and characters, as we thrilled to the language of the Bard, a small sparrow flew down from the rafters and settled stage left.

It was a small bird, about half the size of a clenched fist, and being a New Yorker, he felt every-bit entitled to enjoy the show from his particular vantage point. He sat there and looked around and watched, pecked, then watched some more.

Until this point in my 60 years I wasn't aware that sparrows enjoyed Shakespeare. But this must have been a bird from up by Columbia, where Shakespeare, and Marlowe, and even Ben Jonson are, still, currency.

For a while the sparrow sat and took it in. Then he must have had enough--or he heard his girlfriend sparrow calling. He flew up into the towering lights, circled the stage and then off into the night he disappeared.

The show, as shows do, went on.

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