Lou Reed at BAM last night.Photo: Getty Images
There are the times you go to the theater. And then there are the times you go to the theater and look over and discover you are sitting next to Lou Reed. Now, we are a celebrity journalist, and this was BAM’s gala benefit for the opening of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart. But usually we’re used to at least a few rows separating us from the famous ones, for their comfort but also, as it turns out, for ours, since it’s really hard to concentrate on Shakespeare when you’re simultaneously trying to concentrate on how Lou Reed is reacting to the show.
When the production — set in a Stalinist-like regime and filled with musical chanting from the witches, thundering, screeching sound effects, and great, vomit-inducing flashes of video on the wall — began, we were sure this would be Reed’s bag. But by sometime in the middle of the first act, we looked over to find his eyes closed. Soon, he was out, his chin resting gently on his chest, until he woke with a start at the arrival of Banquo’s ghost. He did not snore. After an intermission spent communing with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Reed gained a second wind. He sat upright and attentive for the entire second half and even gave a reluctant standing O at the end.
As he stood to leave, we finally worked up the courage to approach him. How did he like the play? “It was worth the price of admission just to hear him speak, ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,’” he said. “I’d been waiting to see how he would do it, and it was just magnificent.” Then Lou Reed turned to us and grinned, and recited:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
We had to grip the rail of the stairwell to stay standing. We attempted to maintain small talk. Did he have trouble getting there in the weather? “Everybody did.” What did he like about Stewart’s interpretation? “Please don’t do this to me.” And then he was gone. The last we saw of him, he was trekking through the slush with Laurie Anderson, wearing a brown, down floor-length hooded parka big enough to house him, a drum kit, a bassist, and perhaps a small cot, useful for spontaneous napping. —Jada YuanLou Reed Knows the ‘Sound and Fury’ Speech From ‘Macbeth’ by Heart