Turnabout is fair play

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare
directed by Jay Michaels and Russ Camarda
Genesis Repertory Ensemble
351 East 74th St. (718-932-3577)
Equity showcase (closes August 5)
review by Julie Halpern

Shakespeare's Lovers, Players And Faeries have found worthy interpreters among the talented cast of Genesis Rep.'s current production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Directors Jay Michaels and Russ Camarda are to be congratulated on bringing this extraordinary vision to life. And technical director Sid Hammond, set designers Michael Fortunato and Amy K. Browne (who also designed the costumes), and lighting designer Adam Bair deserve the highest honors for this gorgeous visual feast. The courageous ensemble took numerous artistic and physical risks, and their talent and dedication to excellence is equally praiseworthy.
Set at a Central Park concert pulsing with romantic piano music, the play explodes into an enchanted forest drawing in an entranced audience and holding them in rapt attention throughout the evening's revelry. Known for their innovative take on Shakespeare, Michaels, Camarda and company have reversed many of the lines, most notably between Theseus and Hippolyta, giving Hippolyta the majority of the dialogue and revealing a powerful, dominant woman. Demetrius and Lysander also participate in some turnabout, which initially caused confusion, but ultimately created added excitement.

The lovers were portrayed as New York sophisticates who succumb to the charms of the faerie realm, setting off sparks throughout the evening. Kara Tsiaparas was a warmly regal Hippolyta, possessed of a delectable noblesse oblige. Robert F. Saunders's Theseus was a fun-loving, good-natured consort, in a low-key, focused performance. Michael Fortunato, who excelled in supporting roles last season, firmly established himself as a leading man with his earthy charismatic Demetrius. Aaron Stiles's fresh-faced Lysander radiated youthful energy. Kimberly Ver Stegg was refreshingly passionate as Hermia, and Maggie Ridge's willful, frustrated Helena was loaded with charm. Roy Sorrels was a courtly old-world gentleman Aegeus.

The faeirie realm was presided over by the sybaritic Oberon of Mario Prado- scantily clad and vaguely menacing- and the exquisite Titania of Vicki Baum. Baum had a deliciously wicked sense of humor, particularly in the scene with Bottom. The graceful faeries played by Heidi Hecker, Shay Ansari, Melissa Colon, Miranda Zukowski, and Jessa Moore, sensually clad in Amy K. Browne's diaphanous costumes, glitter, and body paint, executed the balletic choreography by Melissa Colon and Mia Mendicino with an irresistible, swirling energy. James Oligney's glitter-haired, quick-silver Puck electrified the audience whenever he was onstage.

The Rude Mechanicals were a handsome lot of hunky construction workers, with off-beat senses of humor and fabulous (and fearless!) physical antics. James Paul Bowen, last season's Macbeth, did a brilliant comedic turn as Nick Bottom; Douglas Stone's engaging Peter Quince was a Hollywood director out of an old movie; Sid Hammond was wildly funny as Snug; Julian Broughton as Snout, the only reasonably sane member of this merry band, was a poker-faced delight as The Wall; and Travis Taylor's Flute was hilarious as the satin-clad Thisbe.
Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern