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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
DC Dream
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2055  Tuesday, 23 November 1999.

From:           Jimmy Jung <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Nov 1999 09:11:08 -0500
Subject:        DC Dream

There is a warning at the entrance to the Shakespeare Theater in DC, a
little sign that pleasantly warns you to turn off cell phones and
pagers.  But what they really need is another sign right next to it,
that warns you to abandon everything you know about "A Midsummer Night's
Dream" before seeing this production.  My first impression was that I
was really going to dislike this production.  It opens with an
off-putting, black and white set and a peculiar stylized delivery of the
dialogue.   My second impression was confusion, when I realized that it
was the wrong dialogue coming from the wrong people, and I started
shuffling through my program to make sure I was in the right theater.  I
discovered that Joe Calarco is credited, not only with directing, but
also "adapting" the play.  In his adaptation Theseus and Hippolitta are
more or less eliminated, Hermia is given a mother, Bottom now appears in
the first scene and is a servant in Hermia's house and the entire
production of Pyramus and Thisbe has been rehearsed and performed before
the intermission.    I'm told that this reworking of the text had at
least two intents.  First to refocus the ending on the story of the four
lovers, by moving the funny, but distracting performance of Pyramus and
Thisbe in the final scene (a notion I kind of agree with).  Second, the
production tries to reshape the events as an actual dream, perhaps
Hermia's, perhaps Bottom's, ending the production with Bottom's line
that he cannot "report what his dream was."
However, if you are going to spend that much time and energy reworking
the text, the assumption is that you some definitive goals in mind; that
the answer to the question, "why?" isn't just, "well we thought we'd try
something different."  But for me, the most discernible effect must have
been unintentional, as it focused me in on the non-verbal aspects of the
performance.  There are two or three scenes which are almost completely
"dance" performances, (including an amazing shower scene) and some
rather extensively choreographed slapstick.  These would seem to be the
strong points of the production; these and a rather amazing set.  The
black and white set of the opening, is Hermia's bedroom, and gives way,
rapidly, to a surreal fairy world, that takes the elements of the
bedroom and radically reshapes them, adding in a few pools and streams.

The highlights in the cast are the three lead fairies, Blair Singer,
Valerie Leonard, and Andrew Long as Puck, Titania and Oberon.  They are
powerful, magical and pretty carnal, as is the entire fairy ensemble.
Rather than double Titania and Oberon with Thesesus and Hippolita,
Titania and Oberon are now doubled with the parents of Hermia.  I would
have hoped that this casting might allow the struggle over the
changeling boy to be illuminated by the parent's argument over Hermia's
marriage, but again I was left wondering if this change served any
purpose than to just try something different.

During a post-show discussion, several of the cast members spoke of the
excitement of performing in "a new dream;" and indeed, if you're into
experimentation and seeing where things can take you, this production
might be right up your alley.  If you do see it, you will find it rife
with water images and a fair amount of wet cast members.  I suggest you
focus on that motif and try and let the production wash over you, but I
must admit, it was quite awhile before I felt that comfortable with the
production.  For someone like me, whose mind may not get as out of the
box so much, this production was as confusing as it was interesting.  On
the other hand, there are a lot of scantily clad youth and fairies; so
it's got that going for it.

jimmy
 

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