Elm Shakespeare Company’s production of William Shakespare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream — now playing in Edgerton Park until Sept. 4 — begins with yipping, barking, and marching, the first signs of a war between Greek soldiers and Amazon warriors that breaks out all over the set. That is, until the combatants freeze, comically, mid-swing, mid-yelp, almost mid-fall, so that an announcer can stride onstage to say the usual thanks and tell audience members to turn their cell phones off.
When she departs, the battle continues, just long enough for veterans of the play to realize that this is the battle in which Theseus (Dave Demke), now ruler of Athens, bests the Amazon Hippolyta (Tai Verley) in combat and then plans to make her his wife.
Both the noisy battle (which isn’t in the script) and its absurd interruption are a sign to the audience that this won’t be an entirely straightforward production of Midsummer. Some liberties, some chances, will be taken. Some interesting choices will be made. Will they pan out?
By the time Hippolytus (Niall Powderly) has wiped two snot and semen-coated fingers on a questionably clean sock, settled into a bed-cum-bathtub filled with trash, adjusted his Burger King crown, and pulled a supersized bag of Skittles to his chest, one thing has become abundantly clear. This is probably not the prince — or the royal family that grudgingly orbits him — with whom you became familiar somewhere between Classics 101 and a seminar on French theater.
Nope. Definitely not. This Hippolytus sneezes, pinches and rubs his unwashed genitals, finds another sock, sniffles, eats more Skittles. Doesn’t wash his hands for any of it. From the wings, there’s the faint, earthy hum of French playwright Racine turning in his grave, Seneca and the Stoics not far behind him.
Three-fourths of the way into Antarctica! Which Is To Say Nowhere at the Yale Summer Cabaret, a decked-out Rena (Ricardo Dávila, in drag) explains to the audience what she perceives as the American way. One, she declares, weaving through the theater with her head cocked high: You have the über-wealthy one percent, who are so afraid of losing their footing with rising taxes that they force those below them to work harder, then harder still, without a reasonable rise in pay or social stature.
Two: there’s a shrinking middle class, working their asses off for the aforementioned über-wealthy.
Three: There are the poor, who can work and work but never quite rise above their circumstances because the system is so deeply rigged against them.
As New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) Maestro William Boughton drew the first airy strains of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from the symphony, a flick of his fingers catching in the light, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye that he hadn’t seen before when running through the piece.
At center stage, another maestro had appeared, scanning the stage for possible boxes and crates on which to balance before a swelling, giggling audience. Already there had been a contortionist, pretzeling herself high above the stage, a great wheel in which a figure spun and balanced wildly. Perhaps, Boughton and the symphony had thought, that was enough excitement for the evening. But there he stood, arms outstretched, feet sure, as he began a series of balances that had the audience — if not also the musicians — at the edge of its seats.
The cherry orchard must sit at stage right, tucked back into a corner. Across from it, Nina Zarechnaya can daydream on the damp grass beside a lake, where the moon flickers and she falls into bouts of deep thought. Moscow University will remain offstage. A birch grove will hang from the rafters; a hospital around center stage. A headstone, marked by brown bread and slowly-evaporating vodka, close to the audience. And the railroad must skirt the edges of town, hugging just one side of it like a locomotive bookend.
If someone handed you a sum of money — no strings attached — what would you do with it? You might know right away. But what if you had to get a group of other people to agree on how the money should be spent? Would you argue for a certain beneficiary? Would you let others call the shots? Would it depend on how much money?
Truth: John Henry was a steel-driving man. He was a cotton-picking man. He was jailed for no good reason. He worked every single day he had on this earth. He was 22 when he died. He was 35 when he died. He was 50 when he died, and weighed 220 pounds. 225 pounds. Over 300 pounds. His wife was Polly Ann. Mary Ann. Julie Ann. Sary Ann. Sally Ann.
There were many versions of him, one more powerful than the next, and all of them have some degree of truth.
Dressed in a form-fitting Annie Shirt and dark jeans, DJ Bucciarelli took 168 York Street Cafe‘s courtyard-turned-stage as Jack, flashing a devious grin at the audience before bringing the mic to his mouth.
When the lights come up on the U.S. premiere of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, on at the Yale Repertory Theatre through June 25 as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, it’s not exactly clear when the play’s promised raucousness is going to kick in.
Hands clasp. Starched skirts are straightened one final time. Ironed blouses glow bone-white from the stage. The first notes of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Lift Thine Eyes,” sung in seamless harmony, float out across the audience. A pin could drop in the pregnant silence between verses.