By Ed Kliszus
There is hardly a more inspiring venue for a Shakespeare stage production than The Players in Gramercy Park. Upon entering the magnificent gothic revival mansion (c1847), one looks in awe at the ubiquitous paintings of stage luminaries dating from the time of one of the greatest “Hamlets” of the 19th century, Edwin Booth. Booth founded The Players in 1888 and was the brother of the famed John Wilkes Booth, who was responsible for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Beginning with stringed incidental music that tastily reappeared throughout the performance, the troupe glided up to the performance space from the back of the theater. Dressed in modern garb with just a few simple props, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was to be performed as a staged reading with a cast from the Resident Acting Company. In “theater in the round” fashion, the cast utilized both the stage and large space in between and in front of the audience.
It took a few minutes to adapt to the visual exhibition of actors reading from scripts and notably some actors had memorized many of their lines. Actors took care to read carefully and articulate the complexity and subtleties of Shakespeare’s verse. In some respects, a staged reading is akin to an audiobook but when performed live, provides an interesting and workable hybrid approach for presenting a play. Our innate gestalten makes sense of the contexts, we can suspend our disbelief, and the play comes to life.
It was delightful to hear actors characterize the poetic verse of the bard and bring his clever and humorous witticisms to the ear and mind. The troupe aptly expressed the story with its twists and turns, plot and subplots, and its sojourn into the supernatural world of the night forest. We were indeed transported into the supernatural moonlit dreamscape of fairies. We experienced the mystical, love potions, and the droll interactions of humans and pixies.
Special recognition goes to Carine Montbertrand as Puck, Luis A. Quintero as Lysander, and Shana Farr as Hippolyta/Tatania. Carine Montbertrand as Puck led as the audience favorite, just as the audience reacted to the many humorous moments and sympathized with the characters.
Runtime: about 2 hours.
Peter Francis James Theseus/ Oberon
Shana Farr – Hippolyta/ Titania
Chris Mixon – Bottom
Duane Boutte – Francis Flute
Andy Paterson – Snug
Ayana Workman – Helena
Dan Daily – Tom Snout
Luis A Quintero – Lysander
Carine Montbertrand – Puck
Louis Sallan – Demetrius
Claire Saunders – Hermia
Todd Conner – Robin Starveling
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Performed by The Resident Acting Co
Directed by Bradford Cover