Can you think something is fun but still not like it? Lady says no, but I think yes. Think of roller coasters: they’re fun, but I don’t like them. Ditto for cotton candy.
Well, that’s my review of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona: A Rock Opera.
I’m probably supposed to like it: It’s a musical based on Shakespeare’s play. The original Broadway production (in 1971) won the Tonys for Best Musical and Best Book. The Public Theater revived it in 2005 — and I saw that production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park right after starting law school.
But I just don’t like it. There are some funny moments, but overall the show feels very 1970s to me: It’s poppy and brash, heavy with political aspirations (lots of feminist and racial awareness and one cynical Vietnam-era anti-war number). In the end, it amounts to nothing more substantial than the empty calories of a Sprite.
This production didn’t help itself by being a “concert staging,” meaning that instead of doing a full-on production of the play, all they did was put the orchestra on stage with actors who’d spent nine days rehearsing and had just enough blocking to sketch out the scenes — while carrying scripts! Quelle horreur. Maybe if I’d known ahead of time that they weren’t going to be off-book, I wouldn’t have minded so much. But it surprised me, and I spent the whole time feeling distracted by the fact that the leads were declaring undying love with their nose in a stack of papers. Then when they tossed their scripts (which were looseleaf) in the air during a moment of passion, all I could think about was HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FIND YOUR PLACE AGAIN WHEN YOU FORGET YOUR LINE? Very stressful.
I’ve never yet walked out on a live performance. Other members of the audience weren’t so patient. Part of me wished I’d gone with them.
Dinner beforehand, however, was lovely. I finished work around 6:00pm with plenty of time before the 8:00pm curtain, so I headed over to the newly opened Le Pain Quotidien down the street. For those who aren’t familiar, this is a Belgian cafe chain that I came to love in Brussels (they had this thing called a “bombe au chocolat” that was awesome) and which has since crossed the pond. They started opening cafes in New York while I was there for law school, and now they’ve made it to DC. I settled in with my new biography of Catherine de Medici (who, by the way, is fascinating) and had a wonderful dinner until it was time to walk over to the theater.
|Tartine with Paris ham, aged Gruyere cheese
and three mustards
|Shakespeare Theatre: Sydney Harmon Hall|