SUMMER 2005: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Directed by Alexa Kelly
This production is sponsored in part by: The NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, RIVERBANK STATE PARK, the CARNEGIE COROPORATION OF NEW YORK, CON EDISON, and helped by THE LINCOLN CENTRE.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Give ‘em The Old Razzle Dazzle
by Terry Teachout FREE OUTDOOR SHOWS are too often worth the price of the ticket, but in New York, where talented actors all but cluster on streetcorners looking for work, they can be unexpectedly entrancing. I took the bus up to Riverbank State Park the other night to watch Pulse Ensemble Theatre, augmented by eight neighborhood artists, perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in one of the Harlem park’s many playgrounds, and the results couldn’t have been more engaging.Alexa Kelly, the director, has given us an urban-style modern-dress staging in which Oberon (Steve Lloyd), Titania (Shirine Babb) and the denizens of their fairy kingdom hail from the Caribbean and frolic to steel-band music. The North Playground of Riverbank Park doubles as a circular amphitheater with three tiers of concrete benches, and Ruben Arana Downs, the designer, has cunningly placed the unit set on top of the playground equipment (shrewd use is made of the sliding board). The acting is variable, but everyone is good enough and a few performers are first-rate, especially Nicole Bowman, who is splendidly lithe and vibrant as Hermia. She’s also very short, which is just what Shakespeare wanted (“Get you gone, you dwarf;/You minimus, of hind’ring knot-grass made;/You bead, you acorn”).The audience at the performance I saw contained quite a few children, most of whom were evidently paying close attention. I’m sure it helped that the costumes are colorful and that Ms. Kelly has skillfully cut the play to an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission. Stir in the cool breezes that roll off the Hudson River and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for a merry summer night.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
By Jonathan KalbThe Pulse Ensemble Theater’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a pleasure……Performed outdoors in the amphitheater at Riverbank State Park as part of the ensemble’s Harlem Outreach Project, the show mixes professional actors with eight adorable kids (the youngest age 9) and transforms an impersonal urban playground into a charming user-friendly cultural arena. You’d have to be a serious curmudgeon not to enjoy this hour and three-quarters, with child-fairies dancing around in gauze wings, fictional lovers gamboling about slides, ladders and poles, and the real moon rising beside a billion dollar Hudson River view as the mechanicals’ Moon introduces himself with an anemic flashlight….Looking around at the Riverbank audience, which stayed to the end, clapped heartily and didn’t resemble any audience I’d seen at the Delacorte or any other mainstream Shakespeare showings.
A Midsummer Nights’ Dream: The Bard Goes to the Playground
September 26, 2005 – by Margaret Cross Every year in New York City, seemingly thousands of productions featuring “inventive” interpretations of Shakespeare’s works pop up. Some are frankly painful in their attempts to shoehorn the Bard into various settings and eras, while others manage illuminate the familiar characters and stories in ingenious ways. The Pulse Ensemble production of “A Midsummer Nights’ Dream”, which took place in the summer air, on a Harlem riverside playground, was one of those magical perfect fits of setting and story.
But what is a stage without players? And playful players they are. The battling fairy royals, Oberon (played commandingly by Steve Lloyd) and Titania (the powerful and lovely Shirine Babb) are played as Caribbean deities, with Titanas’ retainers played by local dancers ranging in age from 9 to adult. Rounding out the supernatural characters is the energetic BrIan Richardson as a malevolent blue devil of a Puck. The Mechanicals are a joy to watch, led by Michael Gilpin, who plays Nick Bottom as an endearing combination of the Cowardly Lion and a mechanic from Brooklyn, and gets a few chances to sing the goofy blues. Andre Stafford as Peter Quince is quite charming and charismatic. The bickering quartet mortal lovers are all solid actors as well, with Cornelius Bates and Nicole Bowman standing out as Lysander and Hermia.
This “Midsummer” was originally intended as part of a full summer workshop for children and teens, but this year funding proved inadequate. This is true shame. Lets’ hope next year will see the Pulse Ensemble able to reach out to the community with creative productions like this one, and workshops as well.