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A Midsummer Night's Dream 

An experimental version of Shakespeare is well acted, if a bit antiseptic

Wednesday, Feb 4 2004
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A version of Shakespeare's great dream play by Anne Bogart is, by definition, a major event, and the only serious question is how gracefully Bogart's actors pull off her multilayered idea. Bogart is a New York director who's pioneered a method of physical acting in use by experimental troupes across the country. Her cast in Midsummer tends to move like a group of dancers: Every word and gesture is conscious, deliberate, which gives a heightened and sometimes stilted effect to the show. On a mirrored floor, with a simple backdrop of clouds on scrim and ghost lights placed here and there to represent trees, the actors dance and sleep with their own reflections. Titania and her fairies are fierce, twitchy things, skittering around on tiptoe; Titania also bickers on tiptoe, quiveringly, with her husband Oberon. Puck plays a theme on a banjo, and the humans wear Depression-era costumes, notably Bottom and the rest of the wandering players -- they look like characters from The Grapes of Wrath. (This conceit pays off when Bottom, in overalls, turns into a certain barnyard animal.) Chris Spencer Wells plays a large, hilarious Bottom, dominating the "Pyramus and Thisbe" segments out of sheer enthusiasm; K.J. Sanchez is a giddy, infectiously love-struck Hermia; Kelly Maurer is an amusing boy-crazy Helena. In fact, the whole cast is strong, and the only problem with this well-disciplined Dream is Bogart's tendency to be cold, to err on the antiseptic side.

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