Wednesday, May 07, 2008

midsummer night's dream at the guthrie

It was completely over-the-top and in-your-face. It was sexual rather than sexy. Aggressive and loud. Crass.

I loved it.

The setting was contemporary and there were constant pop references. Theseus and Hipployta were reminiscent of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (if you can picture Hillary in a Russian fur hat) complete with secret service sporting sunglasses and earpieces. Other characters, like Egeus and Demetrius, wore military garb. The fairies were wildly punk--those were my favorite costumes. Oberon even had a touch of Maori. Quite a few speeches are put to song of varying styles, including R&B, rap, bee bop, and something faintly Disney-ish. There is a lot of dance too, even some Irish dance!

The tradesmen who do the Pyramus and Thisbe play were such a motley crew that it was hard for me to buy them as a group of people who would hang out together or in fact have anything to do with one another. But their play was very appealing to the Guthrie crowd--lots of slapstick milked for everything it was worth.

I wondered how appealing, however, the rest of the play was to older Guthrie patrons, of whom there are many. I would say close to half the audience was upward of sixty. This was a pretty edgy, sexually agressive performance. The costumes were skin-tight and in some cases, barely there. Some of the dance moves were suggestive. If there was an opportunity to exploit a double entendre, they went for it big time. When both Lysander and Demetrius had fallen for Helena they were practically writhing with lust. At one point Hermia hugs Helena and Demetrius mutters throatily, "That's so hot." At another point we overhear the goings-on of the literal Bottom and Titania in Titania's bower while Oberon hovers nearby enjoying it. I didn't need that.

I do admit that this version is a sad commentary on what our society has become. But I still enjoyed it. Why? One reason is I suppose I liked seeing how radical Midsummer can be and still mostly work. I've read the play many times and imagined it different ways. I've seen a couple versions on film--this is the first I've seen on stage. I liked it as an extreme interpretation. If you're looking for subtlety or nuance, this would not be the one. But seeing it this way made me look anew at some of the themes.

I thought the performances were wonderful. I especially liked Valeri Mudek as a hilarious Helena and Erin Cherry's singing and dancing as First Fairy. I loved the set. Titania's enormous conch-like bower was amazing.


Karen said...

I saw the production a week or so ago, and it's funny - I was as aware of audience reaction as you were but for the exact opposite reason - I went to a matinee, and there were a lot of kids around me. I kept wondering what they were thinking, and what their parents were thinking.

I agree with your summary and opinions pretty much completely! And I want a clam-conch-shell-whatever boudoir, too - it was so magical-looking!! Best piece of the set, hands-down.

Ballerina Girl said...

Wish I was there to see this! Sounds like an interesting take on it...

Gabriela said...

sounds interesting! I love Midsummer night's dream.

Calandria said...

Karen, G went to see it last week with her class. She really liked it and most of her friends did too. I'm glad I saw it so I could talk with her about it. As I watched it I wondered if other parents would be comfortable letting their 7th graders watch it if they knew what kind of Midsummer was going on there. :-) And then I remembered that most parents let their kids watch just about anything.

Ballerina Girl and Gabriela, I guess you two will have to content yourselves with your Havaianas. ;-)