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Odd Words: An Indian Summer Night’s Dream Edition October 15, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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The setting as well as the best of the players give us the dream when A Midsummer Night’s Dream unfolds in the Bestoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art. This is a belated review but better than none, as I don’t want anyone who reads this to miss the opportunity of this show. There are still two days left, and it’s not sold out so do not be Demetrius and wait until the last moment to discover your true love but try and get your tickets.

The entry plaza and steps make an excellent stage for the first act (and the small concrete platform in the lagoon another for the last, but don’t go left if the usher suggests it, go right even if its crowded) but the true magic is in the heart of the play and the garden, the woodland action set against a backdrop of trees and shrubbery in the middle of the space. To see the star-crossed lovers and the fairy band from a torch-lit meadow against this backdrop is truly magical.

I just had a conversation with a theater direction on another blog, where he lamented the technical ability of young actors and we discussed the ability to project to fill a space without lavaliers or other contrivances (actors or performers of their own poetry for that matter, who are just another set of player) to project themselves. Not everyone in the cast could carry that large open space, especially if you found yourself consigned to the back when the action and the audience move deeper into the park in Act II.

Francesca McKensie would have been a marvelous Puck beneath a proscenium. Her dark eyes seemed to sparkle in the night with her physical energy, but I often struggled to understand her. Perhaps its difficult to cast someone with the spritely look and manic energy who also has a set of lungs sufficient to the open air. Others players: stately Andrew Vaught as Theseus and Oberon; Emilie Whelan’s masterful Bottom (she might have taught the author’s own players a thing or two about casting across genders); the delightfully ditzy Veronica Hunsinger-Lee, who charmed her way into the audience’s affections as a slapstick, teen-aged, all arms-and-legs Helena; all had no trouble being heard by the cheap seat squirrels. The experienced Martin Covert (just seen in Tulane’s Twelfth Night as Antonio) carried himself well as Egeus the width and breadth of the meadow and over the distraction of the whistling park train. I wish the director had spent some time standing in the back of the space. As simple a thing as a slight adjustment of a mark or a slight turn of the head toward the audience might have made all the difference for the actors unused to such a space.

It is all in all a marvelous setting for the middle action of the play, with characters dashing in and out of the shrubbery as Titania’s bower descends from the park’s old oaks. If the listener cannot quite hear the songs of the fairie band except as beautiful distant voices perhaps it is not a failing but another perfect part of an magically inspired staging.

You still have two nights. I am disappointed this morning that I missed the offered sneak preview staging in early summer and did not quickly get tickets before the first run promptly sold out. I wish this were my second or third trip out to see it, the combination of the magical and comic story, strong players and a brilliant setting is just too perfect. I suggest you reconsider your plans for this weekend and hustle over to Eventbrite to see if you cannot still get a ticket.

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