We began with drinks at the apartment of Eleanor Alper, who lives just steps away from the theatre. Eleanor's apartment has perhaps the most drop-dead views of Manhattan I've ever experienced and I've been in some pretty fab abodes around this town. Her view--from the Statue of Liberty all the way up the East River, with the bridges spanning the island in several places--is about as good as it gets. She's a marvelous artist, so although it would appear to be gilding the lily to consider distracting one from those views, the art works perfectly, anchoring one's view indoors after you're sated by what's outside the floor to ceiling windows.
But then, there was the play. You may have heard that Phyllida Lloyd is the director and she has made this play a tour de force. A million years ago, when I taught English to high school kids (can you believe I did that? Only a year, but I am sure I learned more than they did) we read Julius Caesar and I can still recite many of the lines by heart. So when I heard of this production, in which all the roles are played by women, and that the action takes place inside a women's modern day prison (yes, a play within a play within a play), I thought the conceit of it all was too much to ponder and almost passed.
These women are truly extraordinary. Their use of the language, of the words, makes this play come alive in ways that surpass just about any other Shakespeare I've seen.
And the irony of imprisoned women--how powerless can you get, right?--playing serious roles in a play that is basically all about power and how one wields it for good or ill was not missed by anyone in the audience. It is so well directed, acted, staged, produced that you simply have to see it. They've extended it a week so run, do not walk if you are anywhere near New York City, to see this marvelous production of classic Shakespeare as you have never seen it before.
I should mention that after that extraordinary performance, a group of us were lucky to be invited backstage to meet the actors. There they were, these women who only minutes before were dressed in women's prison garband playing bigger than life powerful men, looking like girlfriends from down the block, in jeans and boots and T-shirts.
They are having a blast in the most professional way possible. And they all said they fell in love with the language, with the words. You will too. I know I did.
Thank you, St. Ann's, for bringing this incredible production to New York.