Friday, May 16, 2008

Theater Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN, 5/15/2008

I'll admit that I got off on the wrong foot with Shakespeare in my younger years. I had heard of his work when I was very young, maybe three or four. Mostly, just picking out the word Shakespeare from some older kids' conversations about school. I used to listen to them intently as they talked about school. I couldn't wait for my turn to take these classes. I would wait and make due with my Montessori.
This Shakespeare business sounded like a fantastic concept, at least the shaking a spear part. I wondered if there might be a class that involved shaking a sword. I thought to myself, that would be a better fit for me, but spear shaking sounds good too.
I couldn't wait until I'd grow old enough to learn about this spear shaking in school. Well, life's full of disappointments and that was one of the early ones.
Since then I have grown to enjoy a good production of a Shakespeare play. Last night's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, here for no flash, at the Guthrie Theater is no exception.
Midsummer is a fun mischievous and whimsical play. It's a fantastic evening of winding love stories and the intertwining of mythical wood creatures and mankind.
This was probably one of the most literally colorful performances I've ever seen. I say this having been raised with a liberal helping of Andrew Lloyd Weber's productions, having seen the Grateful Dead, Phish, and a slew of other performances in the Day Glo period of the early 90s and that 60s revival period of the mid 90s. Have I qualified that statement enough?
There's some color to this production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The color lives in the forest though, in the scenery and in the costumes of the fairy characters. The fairy characters movements were energetic and playful, beaming full of life.
To juxtapose the brilliance of the woods and the wood characters, the set and costuming for the scenes in Athens are subdued and a drab. This decision makes a wonderful counterpoint to the life and energy of the forest and the forest characters.
Like in The Scarlet Letter, the forest in A Midsummer Night's Dream is a place of refuge from the structure and restrictions of human society. It is a savage place ruled more by emotion, physicality, and sensuality than by reason, law, and sensual denial. The Guthrie production made distinct the separation between these worlds.
I have to mention that this is a reprisal of a production that was originally performed over a decade prior. There was a nostalgic feel to the play that reminded me of the 90s. I think it was the music that tipped this off to me, there was something about it that made me think about Ace of Base and other the mid 90s techno pop. I'm not saying that it was necessarily a bad thing the play kept a few artifacts from that era.
Per usual the acting, costumes, set, technical aspects of the play were superb.
I highly recommend this production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with the following reservations: people who are sensitive to sensual content may not find the play appropriate and those who favor a more traditionalist interpretation of Shakespeare, they are probably best served adding some old BBC productions of Shakespeare's stuff.

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