Thursday, July 26, 2007

Boston Shakespeare In The Park

My regular readers know that I've been waiting for this show for a year.  You see, I quite literally work across the street from Boston Common now.  So last year, after less than stellar seats at Taming of the Shrew, I told my wife, "Next year, for one night, I want to just walk over here after work and camp out.  Get myself a nice spot."

Then I found out that the show would only be a week this year, limiting my flexibility somewhat drastically.  Worse, the location they chose on the Common meant that they would be jamming 3x as many people into half the space.  A space, mind you, strewn about with park benches (facing the wrong way), trees,  and a big ol' gazebo.

On top of that, the play is A Midsummer Night's Dream, which most of us have seen more than any other play because it's basically the safest, "all ages" play there is.

Just got back.


Loved the costumes, loved the acting, loved the music, loved everything about it!  I am thrilled to have seen that.  Ok, fine, it was a little "Circ Du Soleil", like another reviewer said.  Everybody was dressed in colors that looked like the play was performed under a black light.   But how is that a slight against it?  The whole idea is that once the main characters have entered the forest, you need something that signifies they've entered a whole new world.  Dressing the Athenians in pure white, and then dressing all the fairies in day glo yellows and oranges, certainly does that.

The bare stage concept worked stunningly well.  Back to basics, as it were.  The fairies carried balloons with them wherever they went, which I am assuming were supposed to represent the trees.   And there was a massive trapdoor right in the middle of the stage from which people could appear as needed.  Puck even managed a trick or two of his own, "disappearing" off the edge of the stage by what appeared to be quite literally just diving off the edge.  Tomorrow morning I'll have to see if I can sneak over and see how he did that, I'm guessing some sort of mat or cushion he was diving onto.

The mechanicals were excellent, but how can they not be?  They're so over the top in their badness that it's almost impossible to do them badly.  Helena stole the show for me, but doesn't she always?  I have to admit I was more distracted than anything else by Oberon, who looked and sounded like a character out of the Lion King (complete with African headdress). 

If I have to pick a fault, I'd have to say that the performance itself was nothing stellar.  Theseus goofed his opening line.  The dancers were not in sync, and the singers were out of tune.  The music was excellent, and the dancing fit well where they put it, I'm just saying that as far as performing goes they didn't come off like professional singers and dancers, you know?

I'm going back on Saturday.



Ian Thal said...

Saw it last night, with less than ideal seating as I went with a friend with kids (and you can't set up two hours ahead of time with kids.)

Mechanicals showed some excellent physical comedy skills-- and showed genuine cohesion as a troupe-- even when pretending to be unskilled amatuers.

The quartet of lovers benefitted by use of slapstick-- which I am becoming more and more convinced is the only way to play them.

The fairies were enjoyable. I discovered only as I sat down and opened the program that my ballet teacher, Anna Myer was thei choreographer (I've been missing class for the last few weeks), and once I pushed thoughts of barre excercises out of my mind, I would definitely say that the choreography served the story: it conveyed the other-worldliness of the fairy-court without over-powering the language.

We're speaking of Shakespeare on the Common-- some spectacle is necessary-- the setting doesn't lend itself to plays that are short on spectacle-- and the reason why this play is so favored is because it is filled with spectacle.

Ian Thal said...

After seeing it a second time, I added my own belated reflections on the same production to my own blog as I had much better seating the second time around.