Hudson Warehouse’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a fantastical romp in Riverside Park. This is a traditional production accented with clever modern touches. The performance makes for a very worthwhile night out, one spent enjoying the summer air rather than the interior of a more traditional theater. The production takes advantage of its outdoor setting. Actors run up and down the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and traverse the park’s scenic grounds encompassed within the playing space. Through the imaginations of performers and spectators alike, the space easily and fluidly becomes whatever location the play’s text dictates it be. The actors interact with the surrounding crowd, keeping viewers engaged and entertained.
One unique aspect of this production is that the actors perform in costumes constructed of a mix of both modern wardrobe pieces and elements indicative of the characters they play. This allows the actors the freedom and comfort to play within the space while still making it obvious who they are portraying at any given moment. It also makes the production seem a logical part of the modern world, rather than a stodgy, dated period piece.
The production is fairly accessible to audiences of all ages. It is designed both to make small children squeal with delight and to provide food for thought for seasoned Shakespeare fans. In some instances, the presentation of the play’s various storylines becomes a bit muddled; there is the sense that an assumption is being made as to the viewers’ familiarity with the tale’s major plot points. In addition, the actors speak quickly and there is often a lot going on onstage at one time. Some of the stage business is a tad over the top and detracts from the play’s natural humor.
All in all, however, this is a charming work of theater. Every actor in the play seems to be enjoying what he or she is doing, adding to the audience’s enjoyment of the work at hand. The energy is high and the spirit of the play is almost infectious in this intimate – albeit outdoor – locale. Peter Quince and his band of players are a particular delight. Their play within the play is a highlight in the evening’s entertainment. It is equal parts laugh-out-loud physical comedy and clear manipulation of the Shakespearean text. It still works as a relevant commentary on theatrical production.
This Midsummer Night’s Dream is a very enjoyable and highly pleasant production. Add to that the natural thrill of an evening spent beside the river as the sun sets and you have a recipe for a truly special New York theater outing.