A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM by William Shakespeare, directed by ahdri zhina mandiela (CanStage). At the Dream Site, High Park. To September 2. Pwyc ($15 recommended). 416-367-1652, www.canstage.com. Rating: NNN
It's been 25 years, but the Dream lives on. The Dream in High Park that is. CanStage's summer-long open-air Shakespeare offering continues to entertain all-ages audiences. Judging by their new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream ? the first show performed in High Park way back when - it's embracing the 21st century.
Director ahdri zhina mandiela delivers a refreshingly diverse cast in a production that brings a bit of urban attitude to Shakespeare's enchanted forest. Not all the elements cohere, but at a playful and intermissionless two hours, even the less magical scenes move along quickly.
The rich theatricality of the show hinges on the doubling of actors Kevin Hanchard and Karen Robinson as the about-to-be-betrothed Theseus and Hippolyta and the sparring King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania. As the Amazon queen, Robinson's droll, Medusa-like death stare in the opening scenes prepares us well for her come-uppance as Titania and her crush-out on an ass. There's a bit of Prospero-like menace, as well as a Caribbean-flavoured feel, to Hanchard's Theseus/Oberon.
Of the young Athenian lovers, Maev Beatty's stressed-out Helena makes the strongest impression. Beaty, a stand-out in many SummerWorks shows and the recent Goblin Market, delivers her lines with a clear, pure voice and faultless comic timing. It's too bad one of her courters is the Lysander of Antonio Cayonne, whose spoken word delivery of some of Shakespeare's lines feels like a failed gimmick.
Other jarring elements include the fairies' inconsistent girl-group motif and an unexplained homoerotic tension between Quince (an energetic Stephen Gallagher) and Bottom (pleasant discovery Matthew Kabwe).
On the other hand, the Mechanicals' hiphop routines are energetically choreographed and performed. Casting Sarah Dodd as a cellphone-toting golf/tennis mom Egeus is a nice bit of creating cross-gender casting. And Colin Heath, last seen dashing around the stage in The Overcoat, defies gravity as the acrobatic Robin Goodfellow/Puck.
Here's to 25 more years of free-flying Shakespeare in High Park.