Some Smart and/or Hilarious Things that Happened at the No Man's Land Talkback

So...No Man’s Land/Waiting for Godot are still repertorying out at the Cort Theatre (until March 30th). And this past Thursday night, director Sean Mathias and the cast - Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley - kicked off their Thursday night talkback series, with a talkback slated on Thursdays into February following that evening’s production of No Man’s Land. Understood? Good. Is it awesome? OH YES. I was in attendance last week and I have plenty to share.

But first, can we talk about this actual production of No Man’s Land? Because I thought it was one of the highlights of the Fall and propelled the season as a whole into being uncommonly great, On and Off-Broadway. I like Harold Pinter’s style and language in NML...ambiguities, confusion, mystery and all. Mathias really knew his stuff and I was swept away trying to process everything and decode each word and moment of silence and find meaning in this world that seems desperate to elude it at all costs.

Anyways, some chatter during the talkback...I know why you are reading this:

- In terms of an American audience understanding certain British terminology, McKellen was curious if anyone picked up on the Hamstead Heath reference. Located in London, it used to be a place for "gay cruising." The fact that this came out of Sir McKellen's mouth means I could die happy now.

- The trick to helping youths/students process NML? According to Stewart, have them perform it. All four actors attested that the show is not meant to be read or studied, but acted out. While I don't refute the suggestion, the idea of a bunch of youths doing a Harold Pinter show sounds kind of insane. So naturally, I’d see it. Multiple times perhaps.

- To go off that, Billy Crudup retorted, “I don’t read” and the audience burst out into laughter and applause. Oh, you with your dead-pan, comedic timing Mr. Crudup.

- Another moment of unforeseen hilarity happened when Patrick Stewart was looking out into the audience and he interrupted his own train of speech. As it turns out, he was thrown a bit when he recognized two members of the audience - Joel Leffert and Colin Ryan, the two understudies for both productions. Random, but hilar nonetheless.

- Your fun fact of the week is Mathias disclosing that he initially planned to cast McKellen and Stewart in each others roles in Waiting for Godot. I mean, could you imagine? I propose - because clearly this ensemble could do anything they want to and are not bound by the limits of reality - that a production of NML or Godot features reverse role-casting. Especially the idea of Shuler Hensley doing a take on Lucky - I’d pay top dollar for that.

- While some intelligent, talkie stuff was flowing out of Sir McKellen’s mouth, he let it slip that in the relationship between Spooner and Hirst, the former is the ’superior’ one. In that moment, Patrick Stewart was not having any of that shit - he did the slow head-rotate and followed it up with some side bitch face. But not just any ole side bitch face…like, on a scale of one to Laura Benanti, it was a solid 8.4. In fact, wherever she was, Laura herself interrupted what she was doing to applaud Stewart’s poise and technique on bitch face-giving. And let’s face it…she would know.

- Not to be outdone by his talented comrades, the very-talented gent himself Mr. Hensley got to bask in the glow when an audience member, mid-question, mentioned that Hensley was singled-out by NY Mag for "Stage Performance of the Year” in 2012 (for Hensley’s performance in The Whale, completely well-deserved). YOU BETTA BASK, Shuler! I want him to be my cool, fun uncle whom buys me FroYo and delights me with stories about working in the biz.

- And sending us off back into the real world, Hensley made a comment as to why he chose to do these productions. “Think about who you are doing this with.” Enough said. *Everyone nods their head in understanding because reasons*

Ticket provided by the production

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus


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