A Midsummer Night's Dream
If I say that Midsummer Night’s Dream is this writer’s favorite work of Shakespeare, then it might come as no surprise that I enjoyed Smith Street Stage’s production of it. I mean, what’s not to like about a free performance of such a great work in a lovely neighborhood park on a beautiful summer’s eve?
But let me tell you why this production earns all five stars:
First off, it is perhaps the darkest rendition of the play that I’ve ever seen. Never before have I felt such scorn in the relationship between Oberon (Brian Lee Huynh) and Titania (Beth Ann Hopkins)—and I wonder, why not? Never before has Puck (Patrick Harvey) appeared to be not just mischievous, but malevolent. Never has Hippolyta (Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy) looked quite so displeased with Theseus’ (Pete McElligott) siding with Egeus (Justin Gillman). And never have I ever more expected fur to fly between Hermia (Nowani Rattray) and Helena (Baize Buzan)… although I’ll leave you to discover for yourself the details of how that plays out.
At the same time, this is also the most comedic rendition I have ever witnessed, culminating with Bottom’s (Corey Whelihan) Pyramus dying every which way but in a car accident, which had everyone in the audience not just laughing, but in stitches.
All of this is not to say that Smith Street’s is my absolute favorite production of this story—that honor goes to Guerrilla Rep’s high-energy version in Washington Square Park, where the actors run from location to location without even waiting for the audience to catch up. But unlike Guerrilla’s version, in which the uninitiated might have a hard time following the story, Smith Street’s production is by far the easiest to understand. Director Jonathan Hopkins forgoes the feigned Early Modern English accents that make listening to Shakespeare difficult for contemporary ears, and implores his cast to speak loudly and clearly so that everyone—from Carroll Gardens’ newest toddlers to the most long-time residents—enjoys every single moment without a second of confusion.
I wish every production of Midsummer Night’s Dream was as easy to enjoy as this… and enjoy it, you will—I’m confident of that. So check it out, then come back here and tell everyone what new nuances you picked up on. Because your reviews help others decide whether they should attend, and your ratings help us help you discover performances you’ll be glad you didn’t miss—to make the most of this summer and all year long!
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