A little night magic

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By William Shakespeare
Directed by John Basil
American Globe Theatre
145 W. 46th St. (212/869-9809)
Equity showcase (closes Apr. 9)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

American Globe Theatre continues its tradition of presenting impressive, incredible and innovative revivals of Shakespearean plays. Their current production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was so well-done and guffaw-inducing that the audience was almost in tears by the end from sheer joy.

One of Shakespeare’s most-produced comedies, the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows three different groups of people -- the fairies, the Athenians, and the laborers. First off is the Athenian love drama -- Lysander (Graham Stevens) and Hermia (Sara Dobbs) are in love, but her father, Egeus (Stanley Harrison) forbids them to marry and takes it up in court. He prefers Demetrius (Rob Cameron), who is enamored with Hermia. But Hermia despises Demetrius, while it is Helena (Kathryn Savannah) who is obsessed with him, much to his chagrin.

The couples find themselves in the forest, where Oberon (Terence Archie) commands his servant fairy, Puck (Dennis Turney) to make Demetrius love Helena. But Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and soon Lysander loves Helena instead. Then, he fixes Demetrius to love Helena, and both men try to seduce her, while poor Hermia is left unloved. Meanwhile, Oberon is upset that his wife, Titania (Elizabeth Keefe) has refused to give him an Indian boy she is caring for. He has Puck make her fall in love with a donkey, and then she and her fairy servants (Kimberly McNeese, Jeannette Leslie, and Pilialoha Nathaniel) fawn over him.

That donkey is Bottom (Benjamin Curns). He is a member of the third group -- the laborers. They include the leader, Peter Quince (Rainard Rachele), Francis Flute (Matthew J. Sanders), Tom Snout (Damon Kinard), Snug (Paul Reisman) and Robin Straveling (Stanley Harrison). They are anxiously putting together a show to present for the Duke, which they perform in Act Five after everything gets sorted out with the couples and the fairies.

Director John Basil made an overdone show new and fresh. The staging was spread out, making use of the many facets of the set. The timing, pacing, and energy of almost every line were phenomenal. There were many added gags that enriched the already abundant comedy of the piece. In fact, the production of Pyramus and Thisbe at the play’s end was so marvelously and wonderfully hilarious that it could easily rival the best version to ever be performed anywhere.

The cast was a talented, tight-knit group. The standouts included the following: Stanley Harrision was an animated and angry father at the beginning, while a lovable, senile Moonshine at the end. His every movement was calculated for the utmost comic effect. Matthew J. Sanders was absolutely hysterical as Flute -- yelling and screaming interspersed with attempted gracefulness. Finally, Benjamin Curns completely stole the show as Bottom. If there were Tony Awards given to for Off-Off-Broadway actors, Curns would win one; his every gesture, articulation, and inflection were outstanding. His performance was so amazing that it is just too astonishing to describe in words.

On the technical side, the show excelled as well. Shima Usliba’s costumes were gorgeous and lush. Mark Hankla’s intricate lighting design created the magic and eeriness of the forest with different shades of various colors. Kevin Allen’s set design was white and sparse, with stairs, poles, and ramps creating creative exits and entrances. Finally, Scott O’Brien’s sound design provided a mysterious ambience while helping to produce some fantastical aural magic.

Thus, its impeccable and intricate direction, delicious design, and an enchanting, energetic, ebullient ensemble, made this production a must-see event for those who have the play memorized. The production was indeed as magical as a dream.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh