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A CurtainUp Review
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Much like the course of true love, Taymor's career has not always run smooth. After earning her stripes for Lion King, Green Bird, and the film adaptations of Titus and The Tempest) she hit a rough patch with Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark. But that was yesteryear, and with this A Midsummer Night's Dream (Taymor's fifth production for Theatre for a New Audience) she has just got a wink from Lady Luck again.
Unsurprisingly, this Dream. . . relies on some tried-and-true Taymor stagecraft such as masks, shadow play and puppetry. First polished to perfection in Lion King, she now gives it a new Shakespearean texture with silk sheets that go in every imaginable direction, even right up to the flies of the gleaming Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage.
The colossal sheets, by the by, are as protean as you please. And they alternately serve the dramatic moment as bed linen, Titania's fairy bower, an "abstract" wedding tent canopy for the foursome of lovers, and wispy-white clouds. Those clouds actually whisper and sing, courtesy of Elliot Goldenthal's chameleon-tinged music. What's more, all the stage linen gloriously dovetails with a skyscape at the stage's back wall. This spectacle fades in and out of view, depending on the particularities of the unfolding action. And when it vanishes altogether, you see Es Devlin's set morph into striated black and white patterns, which subtly underscore the harsh realities encountered by the lovers and citizens of Athens. You see love isn't always merry in this Dream! even though it's never visually dreary. Constance Hoffman's costumes are the bees' knees, and with Donald Holder's spot-on lighting, you won't miss any human or supernatural being in her regal or workaday outfits.
But there's more than eye-candy in this Athens and its sylvan woods. The acting is top-notch! No doubt you will be charmed by Lilly Englert's Hermia, dressed in a blush-pink outfit, and beguiling enough to send any suitor over the moon. Mandi Masden's Helena, in a soft-green pleated dress, is every bit as dreamy and just right for her role. Then there's Tina Benko's Titania who has the necessary moxie and sexiness for her fling with Bottom. And, speaking of Bottom, Max Casella is up to this plum part. This do-it-all mechanical has one of the most memorable speeches in all of Shakespeare (a brilliant parody of I Corinthians 2). This good-natured clown anticipates the great Falstaff.
Much ink has been spilled by renowned scholars about the masterful mingling of its four worlds m — the legendary world of Theseus and Hippolyta, the lover's world, the fairy world, and the rustic world of the Mechanicals. the British critic W.H. Auden neatly compared the work to "Chinese boxes" that remarkably nestle within each other, and form a whole.
No matter how you view it, Taymor's new interpretation of Dream blends grace, gusto, and a thirty-plus cast. And so, if you can snare a ticket, get your metro-card out and head to the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, where Taymor is making some very sweet thunder indeed