Central New York Playhouse’s ingenious manufacturing of A Midsummer Evening’s Dream (by means of Saturday, Might 18) takes William Shakespeare’s fantasy comedy in new instructions. The scene is Athens, New York, someplace within the Hudson Valley, adjoining to the Catskills. It’s within the 1930s, as we inform instantly from Diane Bates and Simon Moody’s one-of-a-kind costumes. Add to that, interval music like “Moonlight Serenade,” making wordplay on Shakespeare’s title.
When a gaggle of working stiffs, led by the fussbudget Peter Quince (a fastidious Unusual David Fuller), get collectively to placed on a manufacturing of the traditional Pyramus and Thisbe, they forge forward beneath the Works Progress Administration-sponsored Federal Theater Undertaking. Such is the directorial wit of William Edward White’s staging. With a status for top requirements and risk-taking, in addition to endurance, White has assembled a powerful staff each on the stage and behind it.
The manufacturing encourages confidence from the get-go, beginning with scenic designer Navroz Dabu’s set, assisted by Karen Greenfield, with its diaphanous hangings separating the world of actual and the metaphysical (right here known as “Enchanted”). These six Enchanted, clad in a few of Diane Bates’ finest costumes, are choreographed by Lauren Puente, whereas battle choreographer Deus Joseph Petrelli Liszcak retains the fists and ft flying between the misled and disputing lovers.
In a program be aware director White says he has been interested by A Midsummer Evening’s Dream for 50 years, since he was eight years previous. It’s most likely not an empty boast. Nowhere is his prolonged cogitation evident than within the conception of the all-important changeling youngster, Puck (Binaifer Dabu). In a play stuffed with scene-stealers, nobody pulls off a terrific heist. As Puck is the one who introduces all these magic love potions, White makes this incarnation a shyster medication man in patched trousers, whose tattered valise reads, “Goodfellow & Puck.”
Dabu, who has performed a few of her finest work with White, is the shortest member of the solid, and wears an ill-fitting formal coat and a derby. It might be tempting to think about her Puck as Chaplinesque, and the usage of the track “Smile,” from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film Fashionable Instances, may encourage this. However not so quick. The derby was typical for Puck in 19th-century productions, and this Puck is available in whiteface, just like the Emcee in Cabaret.
What White and Dabu have performed is to create an authentic character, elegant and conniving, with solely hazy antecedents. Moreover, with at the very least 20 variations of Midsummer obtainable on video, this manufacturing appears to be like to have spurned all of them and making all of it new earlier than us.
“Ill met by moonlight” is what Oberon (Simon Moody), king of the fairies, says when encountering his queen, Titania (Leila Dean), whose friction with each other units a lot of the motion in movement. Moody, who typically appears extra at dwelling with Shakespearean diction than that of Arthur Miller or Agatha Christie, is solid in a job to let his abilities soar. His Oberon is a extra abrasive king, however he additionally needs to trigger mischief.
Leila Dean boasts loads of sulfurous attract. Her personal hair (not a wig) has been dyed purple and thickened into Medusa-like spikes. Prudently, Dean has not lined the tattoo on her proper bicep. If Oberon needs to trick Titania into moving into mattress with a beast-headed working man, the duo might have simply set the sheets on hearth.
That bed-partner is, in fact, Backside (Ben Sills), considered one of Shakespeare’s nice theatrical in-jokes, the self-deceived schlump who continuously overacts. Laurence Olivier as soon as quipped that the 2 most demanding and rewarding roles in Shakespeare are Hamlet and Backside. With Sills’ incarnation, Backside can be essentially the most profitable laugh-getter, beginning along with his in-your-face declamation; sort of like Florence Foster Jenkins, he’s good at being unhealthy. Syracuse New Instances Syracuse Space Reside Theater (SALT) voters have a lot to recollect on this manufacturing, with Sills’ jackass chuckle on the high of the guidelines.
None of which means that the love story has been underplayed. Theseus (Alan Stillman), the mayor of Athens, New York, hears a criticism from native bigwig Egeus (blustery John Brackett), who needs his daughter Hermia (lithe Hali Greenhouse) to marry husky, knuckle-cracking Demetrius (Chris Lupia). However Hermia prefers the leading-man appears to be like of Lysander (Tyler Ianuzi). Egeus needs Hermia punished for flouting his command, however the cooler-headed Theseus says wait till all of that is resolved when he marries his stunning and articulate fiancée, Hippolyta (Lisanne Petracca). That is Hermia and Lysander’s sign to run off, taking them to the realm of enchantment, presumably within the Catskills.
They inform Hermia’s buddy Helena (comely Bella Calabria) what they’re doing. As soon as engaged to Demetrius and nonetheless having the hots for him, though jilted, Hermia understandably feels a bit downcast. Having noticed Demetrius deal with Helena relatively badly, Oberon instructs Puck to unfold round a few of that love potion for the eyes, however — oops! — not all of the functions are on the fitting faces. This system might be Shakespeare’s touch upon how capricious “love at first sight” could be. Within the quick run, it makes for a lot motion on stage, requiring the eye of a battle choreographer.
In the meantime, what had regarded like a comic book subplot takes over middle stage, with a give attention to Peter Quince and the Federal Theater Undertaking stage work. Ben Sills’ Backside would be the Greek lover Pyramus within the present, and in a masterpiece of miscasting, the position of Thisbe will likely be taken by Francis Flute (Zach Grey). Not solely does Grey carry the biggest physique within the solid, however he has a thick darkish beard and wears fight boots. Nonetheless sport, he achieves a high-pitched falsetto. Phil Brady additionally turns up as Comfortable the Joiner, enjoying a flea-bitten tiger.
If Shakespeare have been all the time this a lot enjoyable as this mounting of A Midsummer’s Evening Dream, the children would demand to see it.