by Raphael Badagliacca
Shakespeare is one of those discoveries that you just cannot discover enough — there is always more at every turn, tucked away in every corner.
So faint surprise that turning the corner of Norfolk Street in lower Manhattan (between Rivington and Delancey) you should find
tucked away in a parking lot of all places on a midsummer’s night nothing less dream-like than a play, and that it should be full of magic, and that it should be Shakespeare.
This was my third Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, and the first for me in its new venue. I can’t help but think back to my initial viewing of one of these magically free productions by the Drilling Company – Richard III – curiously close to the time when the actual bones of England’s last monarch to die in battle were found of all places, beneath a parking lot.
This production, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, begins with a dance of fairies and acrobats that drew the attention of passersby as thoroughly as did the gruesome killings in a parking lot at the end of Othello. In a city where peculiar sights are casually regarded, if at all, the idea of something so sublime as a play staged in something so pedestrian as a parking lot stops them every time.
This is the only one of Shakespeare’s plays that has no trace of an antecedent. Not only has the language been invented by the bard, but so has the entire plot. The language is stunning, and so is the premise that what we are experiencing is a dream and that what we are experiencing is a dream. That’s right. I repeated it twice. The play is a dream and whose dream it’s not clear. But so perhaps is all experience our dream, where mysteries like love and attraction have no explanation, unless the dream has cast a spell. Bottom, the protagonist in a play full of protagonists and full of plays for that matter tells us that it is Bottom’s dream and that it has no bottom, in other words, it goes on forever. If any work of art in any medium comes close to life itself it is the art of Shakespeare and the proof is that it even succeeds here, in a parking lot.
I was most taken by the performance of Kathleen Simmonds as Helena, scorned, desperate, wooed, embraced, skeptical, wounded, puzzled, relentless, triumphant, she is acrobatic in her transformations, emotionally and physically, a dazzling display.
Warren Jackson as Oberon is striking and without hesitation. He delivers his character with the utmost efficiency leaving a deep impression. Serena Miller is a spirited Titania. Eddie Shields is a persuasive Lysander.
Jordan Feltner’s Bottom is expansive, unflappable, accepting, irrepressible, as Bottom should be. The nervous attentiveness of Jarrod Bates as Peter Quince comes across as completely genuine. We feel his pain, so to speak, in trying to assemble his rag-tag players into a suitable theatrical company. Well done.
The audience chuckled at references to the Hamptons and Chelsea inserted into the script, and had its unconscious jogged by familiar lines that we didn’t know we knew, like “Oh what fools these mortals be.” I was less thrilled by the choice to make Quince’s players a collection of computer nerds and if anything could be shortened it might be the treatment of the Pyramus and Thisbe play at the end.
But all in all, Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is an experience. If you are looking for a place to park yourself, find a seat at the early bird rate of $0, and silence that perennial complaint about there never being any free lunch. Here you can feast on Shakespeare.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’s DREAM by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kathy Curtiss
Produced by The Drilling Company
With Warren Jackson as Oberon, Serena Miller as Titania, Drew Vallins as Puck, Jordan Feltner as Bottom, Zander Meisner as Theseus, Zoe Anastassiou as Hippolyta, Israel Hillary as Philostrate and Michael Bernstein as Egeus. The Amazons/Theseus’ Guard are played by Jessica Kreuger, Shelby Wong, Stephanie Spector, Andrew Bryce, Israel Hillary and Javan Zapata. The lovers are played by Eddie Shields as Lysander, Brad Frost as Demetrius, Kathleen Simmonds as Helena and Mary Linehan as Hermia. The Mechanicals are played by Jordan Feltner, Jarrod Bates, Javan Zapata, Andrew Bryce, Tbehind tJ Wagner and Dallin Halls. Jessica Kreuger plays Oberon’s First Faerie. Titania’s faeries are played by Shelby Wong, Stephanie Spector, Michaela Lind, Catherina Nonis and Kristiana Jarquin Moreland.
Choreography by Jamila Gordon and Taliek Hill. Contemporary Sound Design by Sara Biesenger.
Lighting Design by the heavens above. Background Sounds by the random orchestra of New York City traffic.
WHERE: the parking lot behind The Clemente, 114 Norfolk Street (between Rivington and Delancey)
WHEN: Thursdays thru Saturdays, 8pm. Runs through July 24. First come first serve. There are seats but you are also welcome to bring your own chair.