It was the end of the first encore of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” The gangsters started walking offstage, then turned abruptly to return to the microphones for the verses of encore #2.
Christopher Durang, as Gangster #1, did a little jig of step, which got a chuckle from the audience. Then he missed a step, fell onstage, and didn’t get up.
He attempted to right himself, but made a wince of pain. He wisely stayed put. The only thing he said that was audible enough for the audience to hear was “Sorry.”
The show stopped, house lights came up, and these words were actually spoken, in all earnestness:
“Is there a doctor in the house?”
This being an audience of Yalies, half a dozen physicians came forth at once, with others waiting in the wings. The performance was paused for about 20 minutes while police officers and firefighters were called to transport Durang to a hospital.
While they were waiting for help to arrive, a stagehand brought gauze and bandages and Durang’s knee, which didn’t seem to be bleeding, was wrapped.
Durang was rolled into a sheet, hoisted in that sheet, placed on a stretcher, and rolled up the center aisle of the Yale University Theater.
Before he was whisked away, a man in the audience loudly and respectfully intoned “Bravo, Sir!” which led to the longest sustained ovation in an afternoon which had been full of them. Christopher Durang smiled and waved, as if he were a potentate being borne on a palanquin.
The satirical playwright Durang is also an occasional performer (often in his own projects, such as Das Lusitania Songspiel, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and Christopher Durang & Dawn). This afternoon he was teamed with Robert Lopez, another comic talent known foremost for his writing—Loez is the co-lyricist and co-composer of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) as the two gangsters whose big number, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” is the “11 o’clock number” (i.e. the second-act showstopper) in Kiss Me, Kate, Cole Porter’s immortal musing on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
Durang and Lopez were part of an all-star cast delivering a concert rendition of a new “critical edition” of Kiss Me, Kate, lavishly recreated by this performance’s musical director and conductor David Charles Abell (Yale class of 1981) from original manuscripts, orchestrations made for the show in the mid-1940s, and amendments made to orchestra member’s scores during the original Broadway production some 65 years ago. The cast also featured Ethan Freeman as Fred Graham/Petruchio, Sari Gruber as Lilli Vanessi/Kate, Lauren Worsham as Lois/Bianca, Bryce Pinkham as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, Bill Kux as Harrison Howell and various small roles, Asa Somers as Paul, Johnson Flucker as Gremio, Terrence Chin-Loy as Hortensio, Zina Ellis as Hattie, and Geoffrey Owens as the Stage Manager. Owens, who also read the stage directions for this concert version, ended up playing his role for real when he calmed the audience and made announcements during Durang’s onstage ordeal.
Once Durang had left the building, the performance continued, with just one short scene left to go.
The audience never got to hear the final verses of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” Here they are:
If your goil is a Washington Heights dream
Treat the kid to A Midsummer Night’s Dream
If she then wants an all-by-herself night
Let her rest every ‘leventh or Twelfth Night
If because of your heat she gets huffy
Simply play on and Lay on, Macduffy!
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they’ll all kowtow, Forsooth!
And they’ll all kowtow… Thinkst thou?
And they’ll all kowtow—We trou’
And they’ll all kowtow!