Saturday, March 15, 2008

warning for the Ides of March - beware a man not of woman born

I discovered a couple of years ago that New York isn't all that far away. Yeah, yeah, I know, they now have these nifty newfangled devices called aeroplanes that can take you to distant places a lot faster than cars can. But generally speaking, New York isn't really a weekend getaway kind of place, at least not from the Left Coast. It takes a little more planning and a little more time and things like taking days off work. In 2006, I was lamenting the fact that I was on the Left Coast and the new musical "Tarzan" was playing on the Right Coast, and who knows how long it would take to make it out here. (Turns out the answer is 3 years.) And then I decided that there was no reason I had to wait for it to come to me - I could go to it, and that was the impetus for our week-long stay in New York in May 2006. Well, I wish it was as easy to make a quick trip out there this May, as another Broadway show is calling to me, though this one is not a musical and nowhere near as light as "Tarzan". The Lyceum Theatre on Broadway will be hosting a limited spring run of The Scottish Play with Patrick Stewart in the title role. The production ran on the West End of London last fall, with Patrick being nominated for an Olivier for his performance. The production has been playing a six-week run to sold-out audiences at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and will continue there through March 22, where it will then move to the Lyceum for performances from March 29 to May 24. I'm sure tickets for its Broadway run will be in high demand, but wow, how awesome would that be to see Patrick.

My most memorable theatre experience actually involves that very same play. Years ago, I went to London on a week-long tour arranged by a local theatre group, and as part of the tour, not surprisingly, we saw a number of different plays and musicals. While we were based in London, we made day trips to Bath (with a stop at Stonehenge, and yes, that was incredible) and to Stratford. Our time in Stratford included a behind-the-scenes tour of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, including looking out at the seats while standing on the stage. That was really cool. In addition, we would be seeing a performance that night. I had been disappointed when I had originally found out that we were just missing Kenneth Branagh in "Hamlet", but I was excited to find out that instead, we would be seeing Derek Jacobi as the title role in The Scottish Play. Because of a mishap where two of us were given a ticket to the same seat, I ended up not sitting towards the back of the balcony as had been originally planned, but instead, I sat about in the 8th or 10 row on the aisle. The theatre wasn't that big so even the balcony seat would have been ok, but from my new seat, I had a complete and great view of Derek. And he was utterly incredible, moreso because he was performing Shakespeare live right in front of me from a not-very-far distance, even moreso because it was at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford with all its history for goodness sake. I can't even explain how excited I was on the bus ride back to London after the show.

I'd already had a respect and appreciation for Derek prior to that, but after seeing him, both grew immensely. As much as I've liked him in various movies that I've seen, my favorite performance of his that I didn't see live in person was from "Frasier". He played a horrible Shakespearean actor - and pulling that off convincingly is much harder than one might expect. His comedic timing was excellent and his performance would have been good even if you didn't know who he was, but knowing his background and talent, his performance was even more amazing. Yeah, I know, I'm gushing, but I'm in good company - he actually won an Emmy for Best Performance by a Guest Actor in a Comedy for that performance. He was even better than Patrick Stewart was in the film "Jeffrey", and I loved both the movie and Patrick's performance in that.

So we come full circle back to Patrick and me not being able to see him this time around. I did have the good fortune of having seen Patrick perform his one-man show of "A Christmas Carol" early in its run, pre-Broadway, when he performed it at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. For various reasons, I had gotten pretty bored of that story, but his show really reminded me of how good a book it is. It was pretty incredible to see Patrick (I was in something like the 5th row, so yeah, good vantage point) performing every single role by himself and dancing on the stage and weeping and everything. Tour-de-force pretty much describes it exactly. After the show, I happened to notice that some of his Next Generation co-stars were in the audience. I think there were at least three of them there, but the only one I remember is Brent Spiner.

Patrick performing Shakespeare on Broadway. And I can't be there. *sigh*

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