O Romeo, Romeo, whaddaya doin' at the Port Authority bus terminal in Times Square?
The play wasn't "Romeo and Juliet," but it WAS Shakespeare.While thousands of commuters hurried to catch buses and subway trains Wednesday evening, hundreds of others raced to grab seats for an in-station performance of the comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
"It was pretty cool, especially in the middle of a bus station," said Ivan Sandomire, 20, a Seattle native and student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. "But at times it was a little tough to follow. You know, the old language - and the noise."
Near Sandomire, who was taking in his first Shakespeare play, luggage scraped over the terminal's tile floor and maps rustled. Cops chatted and commuters counted coins for newspapers or dictated lottery numbers.
It was the first play ever staged at the 48-year-old terminal, through which 180,000 commuters pass every day.
The story of six simpletons who try to stage a play and four lovers whose affairs get topsy-turvy was performed by the 19-member Waterloo Bridge Theatre Company, a Manhattan troupe that also has played at libraries and banks.
Assistant director J. Brandon Hill, who played the role of Bottom, got the idea to perform at the bus terminal after a recent trip to London to study Shakespearean acting. Hill learned that Shakespeare and his contemporaries often put on plays at coaching inns, where stage coach riders rested.
"This terminal is a 20th-century coaching inn," said Hill, "an Elizabethan bus station."
The performance follows recent cosmetic improvements at the terminal, which once was filled with drug addicts, prostitutes and panhandlers. Now Mozart is piped over the public-address system.
"Who would've thought it? Shakespeare at the Port Authority bus terminal," marveled Marcie Hubert, an actress from Guttenberg, N.J. "It's the only place in New York where I've been robbed."
Hundreds of startled commuters caught a few minutes of the 21/2-hour performance before tearing themselves away for their buses. Others, like Hubert, opted for later rides.
"Who would not change a raven for a dove?" said commuter Richard Febs in an English accent. "Who would not change a seat on a bus for a seat at Shakespeare?"