Familiar characters from the fairy world of Will have a modern edge with Jersey accents and Frank Sinatra tunes. Director Chris O'Connor's adaptation transports the play from early Athens to 1950s Hoboken, where the only thing "Athenian" about the bobby-soxers, dock workers and sea fairies that converge in this version are the sandals on the fairies' feet.
The adaptation is cut to get to the meat of the story and runs a short 90 minutes.
Though purists might cringe to hear Hermia declare her love for "Lysandeh" and desire to flee "Ahttens" in an impeccable Hobokenese, the players pull it off with talent and charm, adding another level of comedy to the play. Using little more than a wooden pier, fishing nets and the New York City skyline for a set, the production, which runs at Sinatra Park through this weekend, is a novel and witty take on one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies.
The play is both intricate and simple, and the company portrays it that way, making it family-friendly. The script's colorful characters, enhanced by Ellen Pittman Stockbridge's bright and playful costumes, add to the production's appeal to all ages.
This marks the first Shakespeare production at the waterfront park for MST, which does not have a permanent performance space in Hoboken yet. It is also the first time that the intern company has participated in a play, with five Hoboken High students and graduates participating in the show.
Into the woods
Midsummer examines the follies and foibles of love, following the love triangle between Hermia (Blaire Brooks), Lysander (Clark Gookin), and Demetrius (Brian Corbett). Hermia's mother, Egeus (Hollie Hunt), wants her to marry Demetrius, but she is in love with Lysander. Her friend Helena (Dana Jacks), loves Demetrius, but he wants nothing to do with her. Things are further complicated when the couples enter the enchanted woods, and the Fairy King Oberon (Daniel Harray) along with his loyal servant and the merry prankster Puck (Jeffrey de Picciotto), decide to meddle in the Athenians' affairs.
Oberon feels sorry for Helena and orders Puck to put a magic love oil on the eyelids of "the sleeping young Athenian man." He means Demetrius, but Puck mistakenly puts the oil on Lysander's eyelids instead. In an effort to correct his mistake, Oberon applies the potion to Demetrius' eyes.
Oberon is having problems of his own, vying for his Queen Titania's (June Patterson) attention. He orders Puck to bewitch Titania to fall in love with Bottom (Raymond McAnally), a weaver who is rehearsing a play in the woods to be performed at the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens (Harray) to Hippolyta (Patterson).
The merry players O'Connor's cast captures the complexities and confusion of love, nailing Shakespeare's one-liners and even adding some original hilarity to their performances (the death scene, where McAnally's Bottom plays a John Wayne-esque Pyramus, is particularly entertaining).
Brooks, Gookin, Corbett and Jacks deliver stellar performances as the young lovers, maneuvering through love's ups and downs, and the comedy and drama that come with it, with ease.
Harray is a smooth, young Sinatra-like Theseus, and a creeping, scheming but well-intended Oberon.
And pretty much any scene featuring de Picciotto's Puck gets a jolt of humor and nervous energy.
Rounding out the cast are Malachy Orozco, Ben Jeffrey, Richie Call and Stephen Balantzian as the dock workers, and intern company members Christian Castro, Diandra Soto, Lauren Alvarez, and Saquan Williams as fairies, and Javier Nieves as an attendant to the Duke.
All the town's a stage
The cast and the plot of the play remind the audience that the path to true love is littered with obstacles. And the confusion that ensues from the misguided mix-ups leads Puck to remark on the absurdity of human actions. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" he exclaims to Oberon.
Another famous Shakespeare quote, about the nature of love, is also uttered by one of the characters in the play: In Midsummer's first act, Theseus gives Hermia the ultimatum of marrying Demetrius or facing death. In order to convince her to flee Athens and marry him, Lysander reminds her that "the course of true love never did run smooth."
In this mile square full of young lovers, seasoned couples and lots of bachelors and bachelorettes, that is something that many can agree with.
"A Midsummer's Night Dream" is part of the free summer theater program that is sponsored by the city of Hoboken, Mayor Roberts, Cultural Affairs, and others. For more information on the free summer activities, visit: www.hobokennj.org.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be performed at Frank Sinatra Park at 8 p.m. on July 25, 27, 28, 29. For more information, visit: www.milesquaretheatre.org.
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