It was January 8. The New York City was going through the longest spell of freezing days since 1961. Undeterred by the bone-chilling cold, Suparno booked two tickets for Drunk Shakespeare, a Broadway show on the 8th Avenue.
Suparno and I left Caldwell, NJ around 5.30pm. Darkness descended and it was snowing even though the intensity wasn’t severe. Suparno was driving cautiously as his Acura was approaching the 1.5 mile-long Lincoln tunnel. The tunnel under the river Hudson connects Weehawken, New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan. This is where most of the vehicles move slowly because of heavy traffic. Unlike other days, however, Suparno drove through the tunnel without any hassle and reached Midtown Manhattan much earlier than expected.
With temperatures in the single digit coupled with strong wind, New York City was shivering in merciless cold. Suparno had booked his car park online. The car park area was close to the venue of the show. We reached near the car park area but got stuck in traffic. It was 6.10pm and we had 50 minutes left for the show. Sitting inside the car, we saw pedestrians attired in thick warm clothes scurrying for shelter as the wind coming from the eastern Hudson was unbearable.
Time was ticking away and we were worried that we might miss the opening scene. Handing the ticket, Suparno told me to get off the car and asked me to walk down to the 8th Avenue. He would park the car and join me later, he said.
I quickly got off the car and kept walking in that windy and bone-chilling cold. Although I was equipped with heavy warm cloths (can’t remember how many layers I had put on), wind was piercing my face. Even though I had hand warmer, my fingers were numb. I couldn’t walk fast. There were a few pedestrians on the streets and I had a tough time to locate the venue. I was worried as Suparno might reach the venue earlier after parking his car.
I had to ask as many as three guys on the way to guide me to reach the venue. It took about 10 minutes to reach the second floor of the building (777, 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan) where the show was held.
An elderly black fellow at the gate asked me to take the stairs and go up.
Drunk Shakespeare had just begun, I was told. One of the actors helped me take my seat. The setting was absolutely unconventional. There is no stage as such. The room in which the drama was enacted was filled with books. It was as if you were in a library. They offer ‘initiation shot’ for every guest.
It was after about five minutes Suparno walked in.
As one walks through the dark curtains, he will be greeted with a complimentary shot. Stage-side seats were benches. No back to lean against. If you sit on the lower level, you will be right in the epicenter of action. It was an amazing experience. I savored every moment of the show. We were lucky to see the tale of Macbeth. It was brilliantly performed.
Drunk Shakespeare was not just hilarious; there were intense moments, too. What struck me particularly was the actors’ ability to improvise. It was very interactive and the actors brought in the audience to participate. What made it more interesting was that through the show the actors performed a parody of current US politics.
I was overwhelmed by the cast’s graciousness and cordiality. They made me feel that I am part of their team.
“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria,” says Benjamin Franklin.
As I was leaving, I wasn’t ‘drunk’, but I drank Shakespeare from altogether a different cup.