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Monday, November 4, 2013

Julie Taymor's Midsummer Night's Dream

Over the weekend, I went to see Theatre For A New Audience’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Julie Taymor.
It is truly amazing!

You must go see it! It runs through January 12, 2014.
You can get more information and buy tickets here:
I am not a professional theatre critic, but I do want to share some of my thoughts about this wonderful production.
It is entirely unlike any Midsummer I have ever seen, and I doubt I will ever see one so beautifully produced. It is very dreamlike and I can’t imagine I will every forget it.

David Harewood as Oberon, Tina Benko as Titania and Max Casella as Bottom

Ms. Taymor is famous for having directed film adaptations of Shakespeare’s Titus and The Tempest. She also directed the Lion King musical, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark on Broadway, and has adapted Shakespeare on stage before.
She is one of the most inventive and creative minds I have ever seen in film and on stage. I especially love her film Across the Universe, which is based on the songs of the Beatles.
She is a fascinating artist, and I had the pleasure of seeing her give a talk earlier this year at the Pearl Theater in New York City.

David Harewood, Julie Taymor and Kathryn Hunter

What she does with this theatre space is visually fascinating, funny, and very playful. Every scene has almost an entirely different look and each one seems to outdo the last. I especially liked the trees that responded to Oberon’s anger.
What I most enjoyed was the playfulness. This was a lot of fun to watch, and it was clear that the actors were having a great time performing this play. This fun was very infectious, and I was smiling the whole time.
I absolutely loved the fact that there were 20 children in the cast. They did everything from play fairies and spirits, to playing hounds and grazing deer, to creating the forest into which the Athenians get lost.
It is a brilliant idea to have them play such an integral part of the production -- it made the play so much more fun. The energy these children brought to the production was enormous.
As great as the production is, and as great as the other actors are, the real stars of this show are the children. 

David Harewood with some of the children 

The rest of the cast is excellent.
Kathryn Hunter as Puck is amazing. She is completely unforgettable. She has done some remarkable stage work, including having performed the role of Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and I really felt as if I was witnessing a rather special moment in theatre history as I watched her.
Every choice she made on stage as Puck was unusual and entertaining -- from the way she moved, to the way she listened to the other characters, to the way she ran from the stage without ever going anywhere! Truly amazing.

Kathryn Hunter as Puck with David Harewood as Oberon

I can’t help but think that David Harewood and Tina Benko were born to play Oberon and Titania. They looked so perfect for the roles, and they performed them with such authority. You have to see them to really understand what I’m talking about. Pictures of them in costume don’t do them justice.
Max Casella was great as Bottom and he perfectly communicated the humor in the scenes with the Rude Mechanicals. I always look forward to hearing the actor playing Bottom laugh like a donkey, and Mr. Casella’s braying is impeccable.
The Athenians were all very good. 

Zach Appelman, Mandi Masden, Lilly Englert and Jake Horowitz

It was fun to see Zach Appelman again. I saw him play Henry V at the Folger Shakespeare Library earlier this year
He was an excellent Demetrius, and he clearly had a lot of fun with Mandi Masden as Helena, Jake Horowitz  as Lysander, and Lilly Englert as Hermia.
The quarrel between these four lovers is especially funny -- and all of them really give it their all.
I hope you get a chance to go see this production. It is truly something very special, and you won’t be disappointed. Also, some of the bawdiness is toned down, so you should consider taking your children. I think they would enjoy seeing the play, and watching other children perform.
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