Last night I got to see The Public Theater's wonderful production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Central Park. While it seemed to me like it wasn't that long since the last time the Public did the play at the Delacorte (actually, it's been ten years), director Lear deBessonet's exquisite rendering made me very glad for its return.
The standout performance comes from Annaleigh Ashford, whose awkward, wacky, and ridiculous Helena threatened to steal the show. Fortunately Shalita Grant as Hermia turns up the dial to 11 after being scorned by Lysander (played by Kyle Beltran). The fight between Hermia and Helena is always one of the highlights of the show, but I don't think I've ever seen it done funnier than it was by Ashford and Grant.
Phylicia Rashad lends her star power to the role of Titania, but Richard Poe holds his own as Oberon. While we all recognize Rashad as one of TV's most beloved Moms, Poe has a long history as a talented character actor, appearing on Broadway in such shows as All the Way and Journey's End. The rest of the fairies appear as older people wandering around in their pajamas, the opposite of the Public's last Midsummer in the Park, when the fairies were creepy little kids in Edwardian clothing. The two extremes have the same effect, though, making the fairies seem otherworldly.
I have to give a shout out to my favorite of the fairy court, Warren Wyss as Mustardseed. He's a fellow Charles Dickens fan, and I was delighted to see him up there on stage.
Midsummer is only playing until August 13th, so see it soon! For more information go to:
Shakespeare in the Park