Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream (The SOB Review)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (The SOB Review) - Wurtele Thrust Stage, Guthrie, Minne-apolis, MN

** (out of ****)

Nearly every evening over the past few years, my nightly dreams have become extraordinarily crazy, yet incredibly vivid. Almost every single one is typically nonsensical, brimming with one non-sequitur sequence after another.

Why, just last week, I endured a doozy. One moment, there were Cirque du Soleileque aerial artists swinging on ropes in form-fitting, fluorescent-colored spandex, swinging on ropes.

The next moment, the daughter of a modern military-minded king was pleading with her father against the would-be union he had arranged for her.

That gave way to a bon vivant bunch of vaudevillians practicing their latest act.

Then there was this freaky earthen ball, which opened with a phantasmagorically lusty goddess, ready to reel in her latest prey.

My dream nearly turned into a nightmare as all these elements came swirling together at once, with a dash of disco music and other strangely incongruent intersecting musical pieces.

And on top of all that, I could swear I dreamt a little something sounding a bit like William Shakespeare’s brand of Olde English being spoken well beyond its freshness date. Like every similarly interminable dream I have had like it (and I have way too many), I couldn’t help thinking to myself, is this really a dream? As I was dreaming, I was hoping beyond hope I’d simply wake up.

Oh wait! That wasn't a dream?

Well, not in the literal sense. It was the new unfortunately unfantastic fantasy revival of A Midsummer Night's Dream directed by Guthrie’s ever innovative Artistic Director Joe Dowling.

The pieces meant to dazzle -- especially John Stead and Joel F. Harris’ cirque-lite wire activity that’s only intermittently thrown in, and rarely to any captivating effect -- just prolong the ability to effectively tell this already convoluted tale in less than three-plus hours. It doesn’t help that designs, including Frank Hallinan Flood’s set and Paul Tazewell’s costumes have a cheap look to them. Think small-time Indian casinos trying to ape their more vibrant Vegas contemporaries.

It’s almost as if Dowling has determined in advance that the rickety plot points can’t sustain our interest on their own. So he has instead manufactured a mini-spectacle for today’s ADD generation, obfuscating the weakest links, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s younger cast members. The glaring exception is William Sturdivant as Lysander, who stands alone among the young lovers in comfortably conversing in Shakespeare-speak.

Fortunately, that merry band of vaudevillians mentioned above -- primarily comprised of Guthrie veterans Stephen Pelinski (Nick Bottom), Jim Lichtscheidl (Peter Quince), Stephen Yoakam (Snug) and Sally Wingert (Robin Starveling), along with relative newbie Randy Reyes (Francis Flute) (other Guthrie vet Richard S. Iglewski was out during my performance) -- upstages the primary story line and ultimately lifts the spectacle into some semblance of what one would likely hope for when taking in this revival.

Dowling deserves enormous credit for his ever-evolving vision. After all, trying to breathe new life into an old Bard classic isn’t easy. I also applaud him for dreaming up new ways to attract a new generation of theatergoers to Shakespeare.

But don’t lose any sleep over missing this Dream.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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3 Comments:

At 31 January, 2012, Anonymous UK said...

Shakespeare annoys me a bit, but this is a great comedy. For actors, so many different approaches can be used for this story. Shakespeare creates a dreamy, whimsical world that I really enjoyed reading. Very good.

 
At 07 April, 2012, Anonymous Brasil said...

This is probably Shakespeare's most delightful comedy, and I'm glad I have read it in several editions and seen various versions of the play on large screen, small screen, and stage. I wish schools would teach this instead of trying to get the kids to understand Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. Even if they don't understand this one, they can tell that it's fun and somewhat vulgar, with Bottom running around in an ass's head and the Queen of the Fairies falling in temporary love with him.

 
At 07 April, 2012, Anonymous France said...

Okay, so maybe I'm not the world's greatest living expert on Shakespeare, considering the fact that, other than this, I have only read Romeo and Juliet. But hey, I thought it was great. Characters like Bottom and Robin Goodfellow were hilarious. Shakespeare seems to know how to make a tangled mess of everyone's lives very well. It amazes me his power to make that seem funny at times and then seem incredibly sad at others. I have to say, I really enjoyed this comedy better than his tragedy.

 

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