Paul E. Anna: High Points
August 27, 2009
When I told my friend from New York the other night that I was on my way to see the Hudson Reed Ensemble’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the park, he tried to one-up me.
“I saw Anne Hathaway in “Twelfth Night” in June in the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park production,” he exclaimed. “I have to tell you there may have been better places in the world, but nothing that night seemed better than the Delacorte Theatre.”
I was truly impressed that New Yorkers had resurrected William Shakespeare’s wife, who had passed in 1623, for a performance. That is until my friend explained, with a sigh that implied I was truly from the sticks, that the Anne Hathaway he was talking about is an American actress.
With that I was off to the park, not Central Park, but the little park called Galena Plaza right behind the library. There, in front of the steps that form a kind of amphitheater, the cast and crew of the Hudson Reed Ensemble was preparing for the night’s performance as a crowd began to gather.
Actually, preparing might not be the right word, because part of the beauty of the ensemble’s productions, in this, the fourth year of their Shakespeare in the Park events, is the simplic of the performances. The set consisted of a rail fence, a picnic table and a North Face tent. The stage was a grassy lawn and lighting was taken care of by Mother Nature. Who needs stage managers?
At precisely 6:30 p.m. the merry band of actors began the play. For me, Shakespeare takes a while to get into, even this, perhaps the frothiest of his works. The ear must tune to the syntax and the language, but it was a credit to the cast that they delivered the lines with clar and the appropriate emotions.
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It helped that the costumes were, well, non-existent. Vivian Lie’s fetching summer dress could have doubled later in the evening in Eric’s Bar, and the jeans and jackets worn by Gerald DeLisser and Ivan Casser looked as if they had come straight from their day jobs.
All the simplicity in the sets and the setup brought ease to the production that made it, dare I use the word, accessible.
As good as the play and the performances were, the real joy of the evening came from the whole scene that surrounded it. The sun danced off Red Mountain. The 180 or so theatre goers sat and laughed each time one of the characters referenced Aspen in the dialogue. To one side, a group of children were turning summersaults and doing handstands as the actors went through their lines. Occasionally, a flock of geese would sprint through the sky above the park.
It was close to idyllic and I could only imagine, paraphrasing my New Yorker friend, that there may have been better places in the world, but nothing that night seemed better than Galena Plaza.
The Hudson Reed Ensemble’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be playing on Saturday and Wednesday this week at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free. Be sure to take a sweater, as the sun dips below Shadow Mountain earlier each day.
Check it out.