Midsummer's nightmare

A Midsummer Night's Dream

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jim Elliott
Bottom's Dream Arts
Third Eye Repertory
22 W. 34th St. 5th fl. (502-0887)
Equity showcase (closes May 20)
Review by Julie Halpern

A Midsummer Night's Dream was the third of a Shakespearean trilogy at Bottom's Dream Arts, in a season dedicated to probing the darker elements of human nature. In a daring attempt to bring the baser aspects of the play to the fore, director Jim Elliott set the dual worlds of the court and the forest in a foreboding netherworld resembling a dark basement, complete with wiring and pipes. Elliott also designed the set, which was neither attractive nor inviting but instead evoked an edgy energy ideal for the tightly wound characters of this postmodern Midsummer, which was more erotic nightmare than bucolic dream.

Bottom's Dream Arts is to be encouraged by this innovative production, as well as the growth shown by a number of the members of the young company. Their embracing of non-traditional casting has created acting opportunities that have enabled the development of a potentally exceptional ensemble.

Demosthenes Chrysan excelled in the dual roles of Theseus and Oberon. Chrysan's larger-than-life presence dominated every scene he was in. Chrysan was matched by Rachel Russell in the roles of Hippolyta and Titania. Russell possessed an extraordinary speaking voice and regal bearing, as well as a wicked sense of humor. Keith Allaway's athletic Lysander suffered from occasional mumbling. Jennifer Salmons as his beloved Hermia made the most of Shakespeare's text in an earthy, high-spirited performance. Jonathan Green's calm, focused Demetrius was a perfect foil for Amalia Stifter's intensely vibrant Helena. Stifter's total comfort with the text gave her the freedom to let her talents soar. David Dotterer was very amusing as Hermia's father Egeus. Morry Campbell was a suitably menacing Puck, a true product of his environment. Gina Seghi as Mustardseed and Janna Rosenkrantz as Peaseblossom were carnal provocateuses in their leather pants, fearlessly scaling the screens and grids of Elliott's set. Both had beautifully trained speaking voices, ideal for Shakespeare. The rude mechanicals were portrayed as construction workers, complete with hard hats, lunch boxes, and every piece of hardware imaginable. Rosenkrantz as Starveling, Shannon Haragan as Snout, and Jannelle Schremmer as Snug added a contemporary touch, with Haragan's pregnancy adding a humorous aspect. Troy Schremmer was an adorably befuddled Peter Quince, and Charles Tocantins as Francis Flute was an over-the-top delight in the Pyramus and Thisbe scene. Jonas Abry was an exceptionally intelligent Nick Bottom, free of the schtick that is often seen in this role.

Billy Howes's light design almost did its job too well, with unflattering colors and lights hitting the audience instead of illuminating the set and actors. Morry Campbell's moody, hard-edged punk rock score added to the level of discomfort, and Lydia Thraill's mostly black costume designs complemented the vampirish ambience.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern