The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0734  Friday, 19 March 2004

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Mar 2004 16:23:01 -0500
Subject:        'A Midsummer Night's Dream': Bending Genders in Midsummer Dreams

Theater Review | 'A Midsummer Night's Dream': Bending Genders in
Midsummer Dreams

March 18, 2004

Away with lyric fairies and winsome sprites, with love-struck youths and
maids who bleat and moan incessantly. Enough of the playful sweetness
that coats even the meanest acts and goads people who have endured many
an amateur and professional production to swear that if they depart this
life without ever seeing another "Midsummer Night's Dream," they will
depart satisfied.

The audience trod wearily into the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Tuesday
night for the opening of the much-touted Watermill Theater-Propeller
production. (All-male! Puck wears a tutu!) Hours of snow had made us
cynical: right away there were complaints about the smoke drifting up
from a stage bare of everything but tall white ladders with white sheets
draped over them. Another white sheet hung hammock-style from the
ceiling, and another covered the pointed roof of what looked like a
dollhouse center stage.

And then the play - rambunctious, cruel and unpredictably tender -
began. The roof of the dollhouse rose. The sleek blond curls of Puck
(Simon Scardifield), right-hand sprite of Oberon, the Fairy King,
emerged. This Puck was a circus ballet boy in red and white tights, red
ballet slippers and red bow tie. Suspenders held his white tutu up.
Then, with a shake of each hip, he exited, leaving us in Athens, where
Theseus, the duke, was about to wed Hippolyta, the Amazon Queen.

In Shakespeare's time, all women's parts were played by boys and men.
The Propeller Company men are full grown.  Some are small, some have big
broad limbs; some are balding, and there's plenty of chest hair. The
director, Edward Hall, says that these gender anomalies make us listen
closely to the text, watch and assess the love games and power moves of
this triple-tiered kingdom where fairies, aristocrats and peasants cross
paths and fates.  It's true, thanks to the daring, the dazzle and the
pure craft of this company, and it's absolutely exhilarating.

[ . . . ]


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