Patrick Stewart: Captain Fantastic
Credit: Photograph by Mark Seliger

The next afternoon the rain is pissing down in New York while Stewart is upstairs in his hideaway preparing for his final performance of No Man's Land. Outside his window there is nothing, just gray and heating ducts. He counts the hours until he leaves for Spain.

"This is my first full New York winter," says Stewart. "We haven't left once."

The curtain goes up.

It's a bit startling to see Stewart playing Hirst, an elderly alcoholic writer, in a blond wig. Hirst has met McKellen's Spooner, a literary-gadfly-grifter, down at the pub, and has drunkenly invited him to his stately Hampstead Heath home, where he alternately endures and condescends to Spooner as both characters grapple with the passing of time and the bottle. Stewart's Hirst whispers before shutting his eyes: "No man's land does not move or change or grow old. It remains forever icy, silent."

In the morning, Hirst has no memory of the night before. Spooner turns the tables, taunting Hirst for his vanity and pretense, and mocking him with his own words: "You are in no man's land. Which never moves, which never changes, which never grows older, but which remains forever icy and silent."

Stewart's Hirst responds with faux bravery: "I'll drink to that!"

The curtain falls. Hirst may have been Stewart a few years ago, during his Macbeth, scotch-drinking phase, but he is not that man anymore. The audience stands as one, and Stewart and the cast take a bow. There are tears in his eyes. Is it a farewell to Hirst or a realization that Hirst is a ghost that he has slain? There's no way of knowing until the applause dies down. Patrick Stewart exits stage right. There's a triumphant smile on his smooth face.