A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM by William Shakespeare, directed by Leon Rubin, with Jonathan Goad, Dana Green, Michelle Giroux, Nazneen Contractor, Jeffrey Wetsch, Haysam Kadri, Thom Marriott, Donald Carrier and Nicolas Van Burek. Presented by the Stratford Festival at the Festival Theatre, Stratford. Runs in rep to October 31. $32.32-$100.48. 1-800-567-1600. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A Midsummer Night's Dream, one of Shakespeare 's best-plotted and most entertaining works, is a crowd-pleaser. If it has talented actors, it can even survive being strangled by a director's concept, a fact proven by director Leon Rubin 's flashy but sometimes silly production at Stratford. Rubin - who's done some splendid work at the festival, including giving new life to Pericles and Henry VI - sets the action not in Athens and its nearby woods but a South American city and the rain forest close by. John Pennoyer's striking costumes dress the city dwellers in stylish, contemporary black and white, the fairies in natural prints and body-painted like indigenous people. We get salsa rhythms and pan pipes as well as Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics.
Nothing wrong with a new setting and focus, but here they do little for the show and eventually distract from it. What's striking at first soon becomes dull, especially in the fairy scenes, as bungee jumpers fall from the ceiling yet again and actors perch on stage railings.
Thankfully, Rubin knows and communicates the text, and his actors give him generally good support in a comically broad reading. Among the more impressive of them are Jonathan Goad as Theseus/Oberon, Michelle Giroux as an initially bookish Helena, and Nicolas Van Burek as a fun-loving Puck. Thom Marriott 's imposing size and voice give extra heft to a self-centred Bottom who comes close to stealing the show.
The key confrontation scene involving the quartet of lovers (Giroux's companions are Jeffrey Wetsch , Haysam Kadri and a sometimes lightweight Nazneen Contractor ) is surprisingly up and down, but the mechanicals ( Donald Carrier , Robert King , Brendan Averett , Anthony Malarky and Shane Carty , along with the irrepressible Marriott), have a sure-fire comedy bit with the Pyramis and Thisbe play