Monday, June 14, 2010

Midsummer Night's Dream: "Thou Art Translated"

If the Henry history plays were the most popular during Shakespeare's time, what does it meant that, in New York, Midsummer Night's Dream far outstrips the bard's other plays in sheer number of productions? Did the financial crash make us dash headlong into the Edenic Athenian woods because all mistakes are fixable and the benevolence of Puck and Oberon's white magic is the order of the day? Or is it the Shakespearean Sex in the City and have our appetites for sensuality and love become so universal that troupes are afraid of putting on anything else? Certainly, it's a great play. But with two more on the roster just for the month of June, it strikes me there has to be a reason for its contemporary popularity.

Mortal Folly Theatre's version directed by Katherine Harte-DeCoux was certainly my favorite of the two. Firecat's abridged production made some curious choices (like having the actors speak all their lines to the horizon and not to one another) but I'm afraid their body paint and jazz shoes seemed to be less tongue-in-cheek than earnest high-school pantomime, though I think David may disagree with this. Check out the cast shot

Mortal Folly's production ("What fools these mortals be" proclaims Puck) was wonderful in the forest. The actors really enjoyed playing, they had a great one-woman orchestra who seamlessly combined cello and kazoo, and they included an adorable child to represent Hippolyta's "stolen" Indian boy, who was entirely left out of the other versions we've seen. The "changeling boy's" presence added an innocent touch to the Rubenesque sensuality of the feathery, ferny, fleshy forest, showing how the theater can be just as bewitching for its actors as for its audience.

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