nytheatre.com review by Matthew Freeman
July 5, 2008
In the summer, productions of Shakespeare cover New York City's parks like a February blizzard. In Central Park, you're just as likely to find an actor spouting iambic pentameter as you are to see someone throwing a frisbee to her dog. But few of the many productions have the unique charm of Daydream, a children's theatre adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, currently running Saturday and Sunday afternoons in Prospect Park's Imagination Playground.
Daydream, directed by Rohana Elias-Reyes, is the perfect way to enjoy cultural activities as an active parent. The production is outdoors, fast moving, smartly put together, and seems to have a knack for what it is that keeps kids happy. By getting rid of the lovers, and focusing on the Faeries and the Mechanicals (here recast as Brooklyn construction workers), Daydream leaves only the best of the comedy and magic. It's economical without feeling reduced.
The adaptation is smart, but the direction makes excellent use of the park's surroundings and some adorable puppets, voiced onstage by the actors themselves. When Oberon and Puck have a conversation, it's the versatile Sean Kenin playing both parts deftly. When Titania is asking a young fairy to sing her to sleep, actress Siobhan O'Neil lies down, puts her puppet in the air, and sings to herself. It's charming, and the children loved it. Puppets seem to appear out of nowhere, at precisely the right time. The music is familiar and lively.
The Mechanicals, though, are the heart of Daydream and they are fantastic. Orlando Powers makes Bottom a bright-eyed and enthusiastic guy, always in motion, always having a fabulous time. As his other half in the play-within-the-play, Laura Frenzer gives a hilarious performance as Flute. Their death scene together (always a chance for hams to lay it on thick) seems to fit the children's theatre mold like a glove: silly, perfectly timed, over-the-top. It's also great (for outdoor Shakespeare aficionados) to see founding Gorilla Rep member Lynda Kennedy performing Snug the Joiner in a signature performance.
This is can't miss children's theatre that Shakespeare lovers will truly appreciate.