Youth is overrated. That seemed to be the sub-message permeating the Public Theater’s gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Delacorte Theater, the home of Shakespeare in the Park. And there was certainly plenty of evidence suggesting experience was the word of the hour (or five, as the case may be, it was a looong night), starting with the early bird special dinner itself (5pm call time for cocktails) and the refreshing lack of teeny Gossip Girl starlets, in favor of veteran guests like Bob Balaban, Laura Linney, Julianna Margulies and Kathleen Turner. Though the latter had a bone to pick with the Public’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis.

“I asked him, ‘Why the hell haven’t you called me?’” she griped, half-mockingly, of her absence from any Delacorte Theater productions. “He said, ‘I’m so sorry, I don’t know.’”

Al Pacino was the evening’s honoree and was presented with a sword from his time as Marc Anthony in the 1988 staging of “Julius Caesar.”

“South Bronx guy, that’s what I am…I feel the need to keep going because I have this Robin Williams complex,” he said, adding, “I’m just glad I don’t have to perform tonight.”

That part was left up to other veteran thespians, Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep who played the young lovers Romeo and Juliet, in a reading of the play, supported by a dream cast (including Christopher Walken as Mercutio, Phylicia Rashad as Lady Capulet and Christine Baranski as the Nurse), with an accompanying musical score by Jeanine Tesori. No need for age before beauty here, the two went hand in hand.

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Photo: Steve and Anita Shevett