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Cornelia Street Café Says Happy Birthday to Shakespeare

It’s a good thing that William Shakespeare was born in the spring—April 26—because his sonnets are crammed with sumptuous images of ripe nature bursting its bounds. And for a good many years the Cornelia Street Café has celebrated the playwright’s birthday with a reading of selected sonnets.  

There is a hint of the tavern about the restaurant’s downstairs performance space, so it was well suited to the April 25 performance put together by veteran actor Paul Hecht.

Hecht was joined this year by Rachel Botchan, Barbara Feldon, and Peter Francis James (readers), Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek (soprano) and Simon Mulligan (pianist) providing some suitable Elizabethan airs in intervals between the sonnets.

One planned diversion was a sonnet mash—all four actors professed to liking Sonnet 29 best (“When in disgrace…” etc), so all four had a go at it.

The unplanned diversion was the interruption—during Horner-Kwiatek’s rendering of Thomas Morley’s “It Was a Lover and His Lass,” which has recurring images of bell chimes—of a chiming cell phone in a complementary key. The sympathetic audience responded with a wave of laughter as robust as any that might have been offered by Will’s original audiences.

Listen to selections from the readings at the link above.