Friday, July 16, 2004

Much Ado and a Don’t:  Went to see the latest Shakespeare in the Park production recently.  After seeing every show for the last six years, I’m convinced that the comedies work better than the tragedies or histories in  Central Park’s outdoor Delacorte Theater.  The air of summer nights calls out for laughter, especially if you bring along a bottle of wine to drink on the lawn before the show, and another to drink during intermission. 
(Actually, I should offer a word of caution about drinking around the Delacorte.  The lines for the restrooms are horrendous, and if you don’t have a strong bladder you might want to exercise an extra measure of moderation.)
Nevertheless, I didn’t expect to like this production of Much Ado About Nothing.  The lead roles are played by two actors who I don’t really care for--Kristen Johnston (of the horrendous Third Rock from the Sun) plays Beatrice, the Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting character, and Jimmy Smits (who was the worst partner Sipowitz ever had) plays Benedick, the Bruce Willis character.  I also dislike Sam Waterston (Leonato, the play’s patriarch) and was skeptical that his daughter was cast as his daughter.  It was set in nineteen-nineteen Italy, which seemed weird and arbitrary.
Somehow it all worked.  Smits was very funny, and now I know why I hated his NYPD character—he was to serious by half.  His talent is clearly comedy, and the sort of over-the-top, physical comedy that made Chevy Chase funny when Chevy Chase was funny.  Johnston was great as well.  Every line of Shakespeare’s that was meant to be funny was actually funny when she spoke it, which is no small feat.  The setting allowed for modernish dress, pushing distracting Elizabethean era costumes out of the way, without updating it so much that the outrage at the brides alleged infidelity was implausible.  And the costumes were stylish.  I’m going to buy a Tom Wolfe white suit this weekend.
With apologies to Charles Bukowski, there was something about the audience that was exactly right.  The Delacorte draws a younger crowd than is typical for big-time theater, and the laughter of pretty girls in summer is one of God’s greatest gifts to man.

After the show I walked east toward Fifth Avenue, and along the way a small piece of shiny piping caught my eye.  It looked like something that had fallen off a bicycle.  Long ago in college I once gave a Villanova girl a piece of lead pipe which she wore on her finger until she got engaged and her husband insisted she lose the "ring" before the wedding.  It was the memory of this story that convinced me to pick up the piece of junk.  It was golden—made of a series of shiny yellow bands connected in some way.  It was a very ugly ring that reminded me of a miniature Chinese finger torture game.  If not for the memory of the Villanova girl I probably would have flung it into the pond.
Turns out that it is not just golden; it is gold.  Engraved into one edge is the word BVLGARI.  I figured it was a fake and brought it to the Bulgari store.  They told me they sell the ring for $1,100.  It’s ugly as all get out but, you know, cha-ching.  Gadanga.  Hooo-ah.  Whatever.  Money.