Shakespearing #42 by Chuck Cannini

New York Classical Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Central Park)

Central Park West’s entrance at 103rd Street welcomed all beneath the gentle glimmer of lampposts as green as the surrounding undergrowth, tree leaves, and shrubs. Manhattan’s brick-walled apartments and rumbling cars ceased to exist. This transition from a city to a forest of an almost otherworldly beauty must parallel what characters Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena experienced when the young lovers fled Athens and into the Athenian Woods.

The artistic director greeted my friend and me minutes before famed New York Classical Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream started. My editor had instructed me to introduce myself to the artistic director. I called him Drew. His name is Stephen.

Drew-Stephen extended a pamphlet to me. Tiny green balls, presumably fairies, dotted over leaves that adorned the pamphlet’s edges. Beyond the leaves, through blackness stared two alluring blue eyes, an invitation to the magic that awaited us.

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A wet spot darkened the back of my nice shirt. My thick runner’s legs screamed mercy. Summer had arrived in New York and the walks and subway rides were long. Out of her bag, my friend whipped out a waterproof shower curtain that lowered onto the grass and dew, which my tired ass welcomed like fresh bed sheets.

Without warning, Stephen Burdman’s voice boomed. The mutters and whispers stopped. All eyes – men, women, children, and their dogs – concentrated on the stage: a stretch of grass beneath a great big tree’s evening shadow, a murky lake as the backdrop.

True to the comedic play’s tone, a lot of strange sights and surprises occurred.

Theseus (Clay Storseth) strutted in Navy Blues, white hat, medals, and all. Philostrate (Matt Mundy) flashed a camera. Modern touches to a 16th-century play.

The devious fairy Puck (also Matt Mundy) popped in one scene earlier than usual. With a flick of his magical fingers, Puck froze the terrified rude mechanicals. With single tugs, the mechanicals’ shirts and skirts flipped inside out to transform the characters in to the hunched and insect-like fairy servants of Queen Titania (also Amy Hutchins).

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Photos by Miranda Arden, © New York Classical Theatre.

Then Puck said, “But there is so much more for you to know, / so deeper in the woods we all must go!”

Our snacks and waterproof shower curtain hastily gathered up, my friend and I followed the crowd on an easy two-minute walk around the murky lake.

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Photos by Miranda Arden, © New York Classical Theatre.

Laughs were aplenty both in and out of the play. When a scene tensed, a dog barked in upset, which Oberon (also Clay Storseth) humored mid-dialogue. I’m not so sure about the children, though. Their faces paled and their eyes widened when a Southern-accented Flute (Montgomery Sutton) danced onto the final scene dressed as a big-breasted Thisbe.

Then, through the legs of the Brooklyn-accented Snout (Patrick Truhler), Flute and Bottom (Ian Gould) attempted to kiss. Flute complains, “I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.”

The innocent children did not understand what made the grown ups burst forth in laughter.

This show is well acted, and fun.

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Photos by Miranda Arden, © New York Classical Theatre.

New York Classical Theatre productions are free, which helped me justify any gnats as magical fairies. A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues from Thursday June 23rd to Sunday June 26th before shifting south to Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, and I encourage any New Yorkers (or visitors) to please treat themselves and support the theatre’s hard (and fun) work. If A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not an option, fear not! The Winter’s Tale will play at Battery Park July 18-August 7 and August 8-14 at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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Chuck Cannini

Chuck Cannini read Shakespeare in high school, then immediately fell asleep. After he graduated with salutatorian honors and a B.F.A. in Creative Writing for Entertainment, he decided to study Shakespeare again.

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