Solstice sillies

A Midsummer Night's Dream

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Dennis Trainor, Jr.
The Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company
Greenwich Street Theatre
547 Greenwich St. Manhattan (269-4TIX)
Equity showcase (closes June 6)
(In repertory with Vaclav Havel's Largo Desolato)
Review by Julie Halpern

The Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company, a cutting-edge ensemble of beautifully trained young classical actors, presented A Midsummer Night's Dream with a high-energy rock 'n' roll sensibility ideal for Shakespeare's sensual comic revel. Earthy and athletic, the non-traditionally cast production was a performance for the millennium, or at least the 1960s. Pulsing rock music interspersed with a variety of eclectic tunes during the preshow got the audience in the groove, anticipating a lascivious evening of midsummer madness. Their expectations were fulfilled, and then some. From the palace of Theseus and Hippolyta in Athens, to the fairy realm of Oberon and Titania, the action never stopped.

Dennis Trainor, Jr. directed with confidence, using the strong physicality of his actors, giving them the run of the beautiful space, but never losing control amidst all the activity.

LaKeith Hoskin and Tawanna Benbow were an attractive, laid-back Theseus and Hippolyta, presiding over the action with a gentle bemusement. Hoskin had a beautiful speaking voice - perfect for the classics. Benbow complemented him with her warmth and beauty. Aiko Nakasone was a fragile yet surprisingly willful and powerful Hermia. Sara Kathryn Bakker was adorably befuddled as the heartsick Helena. As the object of Helena's affections, handsome Brian C. Homer offered a finely focused performance as Demetrius. Michael Aronov's rock-star good looks and athletic presence made him a most compelling Lysander.

Raphael Peacock was double-cast in the unusual combination of the elderly Egeus and Oberon. Peacock was equally successful at both, moving effortlessly from doddering old fogey to master of the forest. Lovely Shannon Malone was a Titania out of a Botticelli painting, with golden curls and diaphanous garb. A winning combination of Earth mother and beguiled young girl, Malone was superb. Oberon and Titania's cohorts in the forest, Lesley Ann Majzlin, Karen Now, and Rodney To were hilariously cynical fairies.

Matthew Lawler's young, appealing Nick Bottom was a comic gem, resplendent in the ass's head designed by Scott Miller and Broken Mask Productions. His love scene with Titania was one of the high points of the evening. Chris Edwards did double duty as Philostrate and Puck. Edwards' Puck was an erotic combination of flower-child innocence and menacing carnality - a truly magnificent performance.

Bryan Close (Peter Quince), Shelley McPherson (Flute), Jenna Bans (Snout), Kelly Van Zile (Snug), and Dina Brody (Starveling) were all enjoyable physical comedians, bringing sexy energy to the usually dull Pyramus and Thisbe scene.

Scott Clyves's evocative lighting added mysticism and beauty to the setting, heightening the iridescent luxury of Scott Miller's costumes. Dina Mordeno's simple sets gave the spirited cast plenty of room to rock and roll.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern