nytheatre.com review by Wendy Remington Bowie
June 13, 2010
Come on, admit it. The lovers are not why you go see A Midsummer Night's Dream—a fiery fairy tango love story, pure mischief, buffoonery and bombast—the fairies and the mechanicals are the true joy of that play. PLG Arts' annual performance of Daydream, playing in Prospect Park's Imagination Playground, cuts Midsummer to a sparse 45 minutes by focusing on Oberon, Titania, and the company of mechanicals to reach out to a diverse neighborhood audience, particularly kids. Imagination Playground is cleverly transformed into an enchanted wood with draped fabric and greenery. In addition to the cast of actors, delightfully designed puppets take on the roles of Puck and some of Titania's fairy crew.
Daydream is a great venue for kids to first experience Shakespeare. The performance is short and sweet, has a story that kids can follow (or if they're too little to follow, at least enjoy watching) and the venue is completely welcoming and allows for wiggles and kid energy. A given of the space is that the actors are all around and it was fun for my daughter to get to see them offstage. Following the performances, the company hosts art projects for kids. There are some benches to sit on, but they don't have the best view so bring a chair or a blanket if you will be uncomfortable sitting on concrete.
If you are looking to see a nuanced interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, this is not the show for you. Granted, I have to admit to being boring about my Shakespeare—I prefer it with a really light touch. And in the performance we saw I didn't find much subtlety (although, added to the givens of outdoor Shakespeare for kids—the playground noise, the active audience—the company was also fighting impending rain). In my opinion, some of the design choices and the jokes inserted to make sense of missing characters were heavy-handed and convoluted. Though the puppets were beautifully designed and irresistible and instantly accessible to the children, personally I missed the joyous mischief that occurs in the interplay between Oberon and Puck.
That being said, my kid LOVED every second of it. The children in the audience were rapt with the fairies, totally went there with the puppets, and were roaring in the aisles at the buffoonery of the mechanicals. I saw several younger children (mine included) impulsively stand up to see more, more, more and get closer to the show. And at the end of the day, a faithful interpretation of the play isn't their point. There is absolutely no question that the company achieved its goal of expanding the reach of Shakespeare's play and bringing it directly to their neighborhood, particularly those littlest members.