The first bad sign at last night’s opening performance of Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare in the Park came when the lighting operators suddenly descended from their rigs in the middle of Juliet’s sleeping-potion soliloquy. Lauren Ambrose as Juliet collapsed on her bed, and then, le deluge. Cut to a thousand-odd slow-moving theater folk, stuck in the open-air Delacorte, trying to flee a downpour in their gala finery. Outside, huddled six-deep under the theater’s awning and waiting to find out if we’d head back for the big finish, Allison Janney told us that when she’d done Taming of the Shrew in the park, the cast had prayed for rain because it was so hot. (Be careful what you pray for, as they say.) Then Oskar Eustis, the Public’s creative director, made a decree: “God decided that tonight Romeo and Juliet will live!” There would be no death-scene finale. But the party was still on.
The rain stopped long enough for the walk up to the Belvedere Castle, then it started again. The buffet literally washed away as the impish D.J.’s played “It’s Raining Men.” Some of the celebs who’d stuck it out through the first batch of rain — Janney, Josh Hamilton, Liev Schreiber — bolted. Idina Menzel, in a poncho, pushed past us on her way out. Marcia Gay Harden was seen running for a cab, dress hiked up to her waist. But Tony winner Jennifer Ehle proved herself to be totally cool, running around in a white tunic dress. Doug Liman danced till he was the last semi-famous person standing. And a delighted Camyrn Manheim, who plays the Nurse, stuck around to videotape the whole thing. Eustis warned that the fun might stop at any moment, either if it started raining again or at 1 a.m. It rained again, but Eustis and the crazy Public kids were too busy dancing in puddles to pull the plug. We thought it was the best opening party we’d ever been to, but Eustis disagreed. “Could have been wetter,” he said. —Jada Yuan