Archives for April 2012

Lovers Full of Joy and Mirth

The effervescent Frog & Peach Theatre Company is back on 86th Street and West End (see my earlier post on their Two Gentlemen of Verona). This time it’s Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Each of the four plots contains lovers temporarily out of joint, until the action sets the tale right: classic warriors Theseus and  his injured Amazon Queen; four young romantics on cruel tenterhooks; fairies with their donkey-partnered queen; laborers staging a clumsy love tragedy.  One way to play the play is to track its course from stern formality to festive fantasy. After all, Egeus begins by condemning his daughter to death. Beautiful Treasure Davidson, as Hippolyta, has been felled in war. There are battles, marches, hunts. Bad fairies menace  the world with punishing mischief. The foreboding resides mainly in the language. Typically this company likes to descant on the excited high notes from start to finish.  Giddy gymnastics prevail. The rude mechanics are a triumph. Eric Doss’s hairy-eared Bottom makes a  supremely elegant, fatuous ass for Titania. Finally Bottom’s talented theatrical bumblers steal the show with a tasty “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the culminating wedding masque. Good-humored fun, and take the family. Through May 20. www.frogandpeach.org

Twisty Bard

In the Duke Theatre’s superlative “Taming of The Shrew” (through April 21), Katharina–tamed at the last so she’ll answer to ‘Kate’– tells it sweetly: “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign ….” So docile! Can she really mean that she counsels us women to put our lovely hands below his lordly foot? And further, when a wife is peevish, sullen, sour and not obedient to his honest will, what is she but a contending rebel and graceless traitor to her loving lord? Can we swallow that? Audiences grow indignant. Spouses among the spectators quarrel, make excuses for benighted Shakespeare living in the dark ages of the Renaissance. But who’s Shakespeare’s Kate telling this to? The whole play nestles within another play that forms a framework. And that framework was erected by a rabble of jolly huntsmen who will prop up a drunk they found lying in the street so smashed that he doesn’t know who he is. Literally. Never does. They’re trackers, they’ll “practise on” him, he’s their game. They turn this monstrous beast into a theater-goer so obtuse he thinks he’s nobility and the man in drag beside him is wife. He’s such a dimwit he thinks the play he’s watching is real when a cop starts hauling a man to jail. Sit down, you simpleton, everybody wants to tell this theater-goer. It’s only a play. Throughout the play are inversions and swaps. A lover switches with a servant so the lover can masquerade as a hired schoolmaster, Pretending to speak Latin, he talks love. He retains a fake father to carry on dowry negotiations. Petruchio woos Kate with contraries. “Say that she frowns, I’ll say she looks as clear as morning roses newly wash’d with dew. If she’s “rough,” he will call her “pleasant, gamesome…sweet as spring-time flowers.” He makes Kate say the sun is a moon, a man is a woman, then changes his mind.  He shows up at their wedding in a clown’s motley. The romance of Kate and Petruchio is snappy and involuted. You just know they’re perversely enjoying their slangy talk-match the first time they meet, choleric Kate and taunting Petruchio. He likes her, inordinately, that’s clear, and after her initial shock and rage, she’ll finally enter the tourney. Sex, love and marriage are games. She gets it and she’s willing to play. Audiences will have fun, ready to read meanings and relationships askew. Pleasurably. Theatre for a New Audience

Copyright 2013 Marcelle Thiebaux