A Midsummer Night’s Dream
This adaptation or “filmed play” of Julie Taymor’s is tricky to review. It is not quite a movie, and yet it is extremely positive to see the film receive a theatrical release.
Essentially the review boils down to one statement: go and see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Because Taymor is so inventive, so creative and presents such an inspired take on the material, that even the missteps fit perfectly within this cornucopia.
For those unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s play, it almost seems like self-parody. There are two sets of lovers, Hermia and Demetrius, Helena and Lysander, who are mismatched and pine to be with someone else (or each other). Then there are Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, his Queen of the Amazons, who seem imported from Ancient Greece. There is another set of lovers, the King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania and the Fairies themselves. Finally, there are the Mechnicals, sort of working class men who strive to put on a play-within-a-play and the character that moves throughout these worlds, Puck. Puck is the trickster figure and the nominal star of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The play itself can be difficult to stage because although it is light in tone, some scenes are deadly serious, some comedic and others a mix of both. The staging by Taymor is riotously funny, building off of the humour suggested by the author and ratcheting up the jocular spirit, (a scene with the stripping lovers is a particular standout).
The greatest decision that Taymor makes is to ramp up theatrical elements that play exceptional well in the film. One can only imagine how the audience in Brooklyn get watching such a production, (crowd noise is minimal). The neatest trick is the flashlights of the fairies, and their scenes quickly become the highlight. That is, until the Mechanicals come on, because they steal every scene in which they are involved, no small feat, considering that Max Casella’s Bottom and the other actors playing actors are made to be intentionally anachronistic. A Brooklyn Nets hat, anybody?
But yet somehow it all comes together perfectly, (Jacob Ming-Trent’s portly Snout, with screamed expressions and constant eating is a highlight, as is the aforementioned Flute, wearer of the Nets hat, played to the brink by Zachary Infante). But the play works for more reasons than Mechanical, the watchers of the play, (the rest of the cast) positioned within the audience has Taymor bring a clever theme to the forefront, that in this Dream, watchers are always watching the others.
But surprisingly, Kathryn Hunter’s Puck is often not revelatory, (the actress is quite small and older, but Puck’s been played by women before). The casting almost seems like a sleight of hand, because the play and the filming of it make it a sight to behold, a watch suited for the start of summer.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream screens June 20th within Cineplex Front Row Centre Events