A Midsummer Nights (Queer) Dream - A Review
Of all of Shakespeare’s comedies, none lends itself to gender bending identity confusion as much as the fantastical Midsummer Night’s Dream. Indeed, for most of the 1800’s, the parts of Oberon and Puck were traditionally played by women.
The play itself is the prototype of today’s sitcoms, and before those, of the English farce, with mistaken identities, misunderstandings and ultimately, happy endings, with the added element of Deus ex machina in the form of fairies.
The play, as you may recall from high school readings, involves three incredibly intricate interwoven plots set around the wedding of the Duke of Athens, Theseus (Samuel Gaines) and the Amazon Queen Hyppolyta (Megan Grace O’Leary).
There are the two story lines set in the mortal world, the first of which involve Hermia (Marissa Parness) who defies her father, Egeus (Ron Bobst) in refusing to marry Demetius (Alan Winner) because she loves Lysander. Demetrius himself has a not so secret admirer in the form of Helena. In the first of the gender reversals, Helena is played by Michael Raver and Lysander by Shira Gregory.
The second story concerns the troupe of actors who are to provide the entertainment at the nuptials, led by Peter Quince (Sarah Kauffman) and Bottom (Kyle Haggerty), who put on the tragi-comedy of Pyramus and Thisbe (Guy Rader).
The third story is set in the fairy world where the king, Oberon and his chief mischief maker, Puck (Chris Critelli), orchestrate a plot whereby the queen, Titania is enchanted and falls in love with an ass. Oberon and Titania are played by O’Leary and Gaines in another gender reversal.
The cast was wonderful all around, but a special shout out to Chris Critelli, superb as Puck/Philostrate, Kyle Haggerty, sharp and hilarious as Bottom, Samuel Gaines as Theseus and especially as Titania, and the shadow puppets of Joseph Jonah Therrien.
It is coincidental that we saw this play the day after Barack Obama publicly declared his support for gay marriage, and this modern staging of a four hundred year old play seemed particularly relevant for this particular stage in our history. In another time and place, the gender confusion may have been provocative, and especially edgy, but today, that role reversal can be played almost without irony, and certainly without shock value (admittedly, though we are in the East Village in New York City).
That the play can remain mostly faithful to the text (with a few minor tweaks) and yet remain relevant to modern mores and provide insightful social commentary is a tribute to the director, Matthew A.J. Gregory, and of course, the Bard.
A Midsummer Nights (Queer) Dream
Theater for the New City
155 1st Ave
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