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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  LATEST NEW YORK NEWS

at Central Park

By David Lefkowitz
Published February 8 2008

  Michael Stuhlbarg/Ph:Monique Carboni

Groundhogs aside, one of the earliest signs of spring is the annual announcement of The Public Theater's schedule for Shakespeare in the Park. A New York tradition since 1962, Shakespeare in the Park generally presents - free of charge - well-known actors in classical plays as well as in the occasional musical.

Last season's lineup featured a pair of Shakespeares - Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, but 2008's slate will balance the Bard's Hamlet with the 1967 musical, Hair. Michael Stuhlbarg, a Tony nominee for The Pillowman, will assay the droopy Dane, opposite Richard Easton's Polonius, under the guiding hand of Public Theater artistic director, Oskar Eustis. It's the first time Hamlet's been done in Central Park since a pre-judicial Sam Waterston tackled the lead role in 1975.

Following Hamlet's May 27-June 29 run at the Delacorte, the corpses are cleared out in time for the hippies to converge, July 22-August 17. Originally staged by the Public as the first production in its current home on Lafayette Street, Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical has been produced around the world, become a movie, and even been revived on Broadway (in 1977), as well as concertized in a one-night-only Broadway benefit in 2004. Despite abridgements and tinkerings with the book, the James Rado/Galt MacDermot/Gerome Ragni tuner has never quite recaptured the success of its off-Broadway premiere and four-year Broadway run.

Hopes are high for this go-`round, however, since it sprang out of last year's 40th anniversary concert staging of the musical by Diane Paulus, best known for directing The Donkey Show, as well as Swimming with Watermelons and The Karaoke Show. Her Berger and Claude will be Will Swenson, who had a minor role in the Audra McDonald 110 in the Shade revival, and Jonathan Groff, Tony nommed for his Melchior in Spring Awakening, a role he's still playing on Broadway.

That Hair boasts a song called What a Piece of Work is Man, taken from a line in a Hamlet soliloquy, is not lost on artistic director Eustis, who said in a statement, Both Park shows this year center on idealistic brilliant men as they struggle to find their place in a world marred by war, violence, and venal politics. They see both the luminous possibilities and the harshest realities of being human. In the end, unable to effectively combat the evil around them, they tragically succumb."

As always with Park shows, the gratis tickets go on sale the day of the show, both at the Delacorte and at the Public's downtown home.


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