Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Julie Taymor's new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is full of wonders, yet it is not quite wonderful. Actually, there are two shows here. The first, the one by Taymor and her creative colleagues, is a glorious pageant, full of color and light, undulating shapes, magical appearances (and disappearances), fascinating costumes, and kaleidoscopic orgasms. This show offers a candy store's worth of eye candy, and proves once again--not that it needs proving--that Taymor has one of the most fecund imaginations around today, or possibly ever. This show is a thrilling treat. (The scenic designer is Es Devlin; the costume designer is Constance Hoffman; the lighting designer is Donald Holder; the sound designer is Matt Tierney; the projection designer is Sven Ortel; the choreographer is Brian Brooks. All contribute brilliantly.)

Tina Benko, David Harewood
Photo: Es Devlin
And then there's that other show, the one that Shakespeare wrote, the one that Taymor treats as an afterthought. It's the least interesting Midsummer I've ever seen. The cast is uneven and the book scenes are directed haphazardly. Of the four young lovers, only Mandi Masden as Helena provides a full performance with real emotion. It's easy to see why Taymor cast the others, since they are beautiful and look good in their underwear, but their performances lack dimension and emotion. In this show, it rarely feels like anything matters.

And sometimes the design elements get in the way. For example, when the Rude Mechanicals perform Pyramus and Thisbe, the excellent Max Casella is overwhelmed by his wig, makeup, and costume. It doesn't make sense that he seems more real as an ass than as a human. (I also wish that Taymor had used her prodigious imagination to come up with something better--and less annoying--than the gay and fat stereotypes among the Rude Mechanicals.)

Perhaps Taymor should have jettisoned the text and relied solely on her gorgeous visual language and movement. She could have presented a sort of "variations on a theme by Shakespeare." Instead, the two shows on display don't mesh, and inmportant scenes are reduced to interruptions of Taymor's cavalcade of marvels.


Some Notes on the Polonsky Shakespeare Center
I was excited to be going to a new theatre, but I found it disappointing.

The lobby is shallow and bland. The ladies room is awkwardly set up and it is not easy to tell which booths are occupied.

It's very weird to have to bend over in the middle of the line to the men's room to use the water fountain.

There is only one staircase going to the auditorium, and it is not wide enough. Also, it feeds directly into the audience-right doorway, causing a logjam at the top of the stairs. (If your seat is audience-left, consider using the elevator, which bypasses the crowd.)

While I did not experience this personally, I have heard complaints that the stage lights block much of the view of the people sitting in the balcony.

On the other hand, in the orchestra center, the seats are comfortable and there is a reasonable amount of leg room.

(press ticket, third row center)

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