The “Jersey Shore” of Shakespeare.

Published on: July 25, 2012

Filled Under: Reviews

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Tamara Podemski, John Cleland, Richard Lee, Mark Crawford, Pierre Simpson in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Photo by Chris Gallow.

 

After watching Hermia and Helena put up their dukes and battle for their respective rights to Demetrius and Lysander ,  my friend turned to me and whispered excitedly, “This is just like ‘Jersey Shore‘!”
As she turned back and continued to laugh at the on-stage action, I thought, “Holy sh*t, she’s right.”
Ol’ Shake was really a man for all the ages.
But, ‘Jersey Shore’ doesn’t have fairies or magic or stolen babies (yet), so I think we can agree he’s still a cut above MTV.
I don’t watch MTV, but I DO see a lot of theatre, and if I am totally honest, the annual production of Shakespeare in High Park is something I do for the overall experience of the evening – the picnic, the outdoor theatre, the thrill of watching kids see a play, and potentially their first Shakespeare play, the fun of snacking while I watch a show, and then, almost begrudgingly, I watch the play.
I confess that it’s a rare occassion when I enjoy the play as much as everything else.

So I thoroughly enjoy it when the rarity occurs.
This year’s production of  A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, one of the Bard’s more popular plays, is performed (albeit abridged) with hilarious vigor and endless energy.
It starts off slow, with some over-the-top, not-so-funny bits where the actors are almost all simultaneously mugging for the audience, but then Helena (a hysterical Sarah Sherman)  appears and with her opening monologue,  things are set right for the rest of the show.  By the time Nick Bottom’s troupe of try-hard actors is finishing up their play within the play, I was laughing so hard I had to wipe away tears.
(Admittedly, at the end of the play, I tuned out of the performance and tuned in to the audience, and remember distinctly having the thought “So this is what is sounds like when people “roar” with laughter”.  So, it’s not just me who was slapping their knee and guffawing with joy.)
The cast is overall really fabulous, a compliment that extends to Rose Napoli, the actor who plays Hermia and had been a last-minutes replacement for the original actor who had to bow out due to injury.  Yes, Napoli had played the part before but to gel with the cast as well as she seemingly has, is a testament to her skill as well as to the other actors.

The show’s got some really odd bits too – the plot with Titania, Oberon and the young boy they’re fighting over,  isn’t clear, and in the end, after alls well that ends well, the cast erupts into a song that made me feel embarrassed that their top-notch performances were being marred by an incoherent ballad that seemed forced and awkward.

But, despite the oddities, and in true “Jersey Shore” style, I was left at the end wanting more. In not=so typical “Jersey Shore” style, I left feeling happy that I watched the show and a bit mor optimistic about the world.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is playing now until September 2 at High Park.
All tickets are Pay-What-You-Can.  Showtime is 8pm, but pack a picnic, get a couple of blankets, arrive at 6pm, get a good seat, mange and enjoy.  It’s one of the best experiences of a Toronto summer.
For more info: www.canadianstage.com

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