I don't know why, but summer always seems to mean Shakespeare. Shakespeare at the park, Shakespeare on the green, Shakespeare in tiny black box theaters, and everywhere in between. And undoubtedly the most popular of Will's plays this time of year is the one with the season in its title, A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are no fewer than six productions of this magical comedy opening this month Off-Off Broadway, but each one promises to be special in its own way. So, as your Puckish guide, I'll give you foolish mortals a brief tour of these Dream productions opening this August.
Almost entirely set in the enchanted Athenian woods, A Midsummer Night's Dream, which tells the misadventures of couples busily falling in and out of love with one another, was simply made to be performed "on the green." Accordingly, both Washington Square Park and Central Park will play host to their own productions. Dream is part of Gorilla Repertory Theatre Company's regular summer season, and this production in Washington Square Park has been a tradition for them for over ten years. The play will be the inaugural production for the New York Classical Theatre and it will be staged at The Pool in Central Park, using the luscious environment, original music, dance, and more to bring the play to life.
Performing the show in a parking lot on the Lower East Side, Expanded Arts creates a very urban setting for the play. Concrete takes the place of the lush forest greenery in this modern vision of Shakespeare's Dream.
Brooklyn's Kings County's 2000 Shakespeare Festival will feature a production of A Midsommer Night's Dreame, but don't let the spelling fool you; it's the same play. Well, maybe a little different. This version is exclusively from the First Folio (for those of you who aren't Shakespeare buffs, there are several versions of many of his plays out there). This production includes a pre-show 45 minutes before the performance, featuring comic scenes from several of Shakespeare's most famous plays.
What makes Pulse Ensemble Theatre's addition to Midsummer madness unique is that their version is set in the 1920s. With original music by Michael Rice, this should be a wild take on the tale, which you can catch at Pulse's space on Theatre Row.
The Blunt Theatre Company's Dream will have a distinctly sexy, fast-paced, and groovy flavor, supplied partially by its hip East Village location. Part of their outdoor theater festival, the production will be performed at La Plaza Cultural, a beautiful community park and performance space in the Village.
The great thing about summer Shakespeare is that it gives companies a chance to try new angles on classic plays, and in turn we get to see these great stories brought to life in new ways. Equally nice is the fact that much of it doesn't cost you a dime. With the exception of the Pulse Ensemble Theatre production, modestly priced at $15, all of the above are free to the public (though some suggest a small donation).
So take advantage of the opportunity. It won't be long before the weather turns cool again and all the local theater companies go back to Shakespeare's troubled princes and murderous kings, ushering in the winter of discontent. Might as well enjoy a midsummer night with Oberon, Titania, Bottom, Lysander, Hermia, and the whole gang at any one--or all!--of these productions, while the weather is still warm, the grass is still green, and there's magic in the air.