Reopening Night

Courtesy HBO

Reopening Night,  a documentary movie by filmmaker Rudy Valdez, gives an up close examination of the Public Theater’s 2021 summer reopening in New York City’s Central Park, subsequent to being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement, which came to a fuller fruition after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May of 2020. 
The show the Public Theater was (and now is) producing is a minor Shakespearean comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, with a radical but relevant adaptation of the 1597 script  by Jocelyn Bioh and with playful direction by Saheem Ali. This Merry Wives is set in current day Harlem with a multinational African cast.
Though Mr. Valdez’s documentary doesn’t provide much context regarding Shakespeare’s play, which in its present iteration seems as much a creation of Ms. Bioh as it is of The Bard, what we do get from the film is the sentiment, commitment, and dedication that underscores the battle cry of theater: The Show Must Go On! 
We meet Jacob Ming-Trent who embodies the  apparently insatiable gourmand Falstaff (and who sports fashionable cornrows) as well as other actors, technicians, and stagehands who suggest the inherent marginalization felt by many Black theater artists with regard to performing or participating in Shakespearian productions, despite Denzel Washington’s acclaimed performance as Macbeth.
Though this documentary on the reopening of the Public Theater (in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, the 1,800 seat open-air venue where admission is free), may appeal mainly to theater geeks and live performance nerds, there is much inspiration to be found for creative sorts of all types in this 128-minute film report on the trials and tribulations of producing theater in this age of pandemic and social pandemonium. 
Reopening Night is currently streaming on HBO.