This tale of lovers lost in the woods has gotten itself turned about.
I made the perilous journey to the distant island of Manhattan to catch the New York Classical Theatre’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Central Park. Its upcoming move to the more elegant environs of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on July 6, will require some adaptations and improvements, but I’m afraid this heartfelt production will still lack an overall artistic vision.
The outdoorsy show sends audience members scampering through the woods to keep up with star-crossed lovers Hermia and Lysander, as they attempt to elope, only to be followed by a jealous Demetrius and love-sick Helena. Soon a group of amateur actors, a gang of fairies, and a misplaced love potion leads to a whimsical and magical escapade through the woods.
Director Sean Hagerty offers a peculiar smorgasbord of traditional Shakespearian storytelling and 21st-century references. The show keeps to a (slightly-trimmed version of) the original text, but includes joking shout-outs to “Hamilton” and to Donald Trump’s wall, which throws the audience out of any attempt to create a consistent world. This muddled setting is reflected in show’s costuming, which sets 16th-century cloaks and crowns alongside skinny ties and slacks.
The attempts to represent current American culture makes the choice to use an all-white cast stand out all the more. With this cast, does the production fairly represent the diversity of the modern world? Not really.
Those new to Shakespeare will probably find this kooky production enjoyable enough. The cast works well as an ensemble, and clearly loves performing the show. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and the audience chuckles along, but those seeking true artistic value can skip this weak and idle theme.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Prospect Park’s Long Meadow [enter at Grand Army Plaza, East Drive at Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope, (212) 233–6496, www.newyo