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We Were There: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the Beauty in Summer Love

Broadway Black

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There are several reasons that summer love is so enticing. Whether it be the prospect of having an electric attraction with someone or the short lived nature of a fling, summer love is sure to encompass good times at a fast, flirty pace. All that and more is what you should expect from The Public Theater’s, Shakespeare in the Park A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A midsummer tale of love gone right after going wrong and the beauty in both, because love can be tricky like that.

Phylicia Rashad as Titania and Benjamin Ye as Changeling Boy – Photo courtesy of The Public Theater

When Puck (Kristine Nielson), the meddling sprite whose not all there and a little too interested in having a good time accidentally drugs the wrong young Athenian male, “fair ladies” battle it out sumo style. Titania, the fairy queen (played by Broadway Black legend Phylicia Rashad) falls in love with a literal ass (Danny Burstein), and everyone in between is spellbound throughout. At first you think Lysander (Kyle Beltran) only has eyes for Hermia (Shalita Grant)- poor Helena (Annaleigh Ashford)! But then he falls for Helena, poor Hermia! But then Demetrius falls for Helena as well- poor Hermia, again! Poor every courtier whose fallen victim to Puck’s magical negligence. It’s all so rivetingly confusing and captivatingly annoying that Puck had one job and couldn’t get it right. Equal parts touching and humorous as any romantic comedy should be, yet you can’t help but think that it’s all so beautiful. Literally, it is breathtaking to watch Helena and Hermia fight over the men they love in yellow and orange crop tops and blue and teal puffy skirts under a canopy of trees adorned in fairy lights.

De’Adre Aziz as Hippolyta and Bhavesh Patel as Theseus – Photo courtesy of The Public Theater

Praise for an overwhelmingly colorful show! I mean that in more ways than one, from the costumes designed by Clint Ramos (In Transit)- Hippolyta’s (De’Adre Aziza) wedding dress will remind you of a certain modern day goddess- to the scenic design by David Rockwell (She Loves Me). Original music and orchestrations by Justin Levine (Love’s Labour’s Lost) complimented by the enchanting Marcelle Davies-Lashley, down to the casting which is extremely pertinent given recent events surrounding the casting of Black actors. The announcement of Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan’s (Hamilton) departure from The Great Comet after a two week run, where it would appear the producers were ill prepared to handle more than one Black lead at a time. The Public Theater’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream reaffirms that Black and Brown people are more than adequate storytellers. In terms of racial representation, The Public Theatre continues to show us what theatre can and should be. Inclusive not divisive or dismissive; or as Oskar Eustis says in the pre-show announcements theatre is “where art and culture meet.”

Under the direction of Lear deBessonet, current resident director and founder of Public Works,  A Midsummer seduces you like a determined lover hellbent on winning your heart. You’ll hear planes flying low overhead and the frequent cop car or ambulance wailing outside the park but you’ll be as spellbound as Lysander and Demetrius were with Helena. Phylicia Rashad saunters onto the stage through light smog after ascending a short flight of stairs in a glittering silver gown to address her fairy companions. Marcelle Davies-Lashley croons “Wake me up when summers here,” and you’re hooked.

Shalita Grant as Hermia and Alex Hernandez as Demetrius – Photo courtesy of The Public Theater

You’ll forget you’re listening to a play in verse, thanks to a company of actors with impeccable comedic timing. As the Bard’s work did in his day, A Midsummer reflects modern love even in iambic pentameter. In one scene, Hermia has had enough of a pestering Demetrius and regales him with a lofty Shakespearean “leave me alone” but when he persists she lets out a “Boy if you don’t…” and storms off stage to roaring laughter. Here, as evidenced throughout the entire show, the folly of romance is timeless.

“The course of true love never did run smooth” Lysander tells Hermia, but it doesn’t have to when everyone’s falling head over heels in lust on a beautiful stage in lavish costumes under a clear night sky.  So, like all summer romances that have to end, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will only be in the park for two weeks, opening Monday July 31 and running through August 13, 2017. Don’t miss your chance to see Phylicia Rashad and experience this enthralling production!

For more information on how to get your free tickets visit ThePublicTheater.org

Location: The Delacorte Theatre in Central Park

Creative: Direction by the Public’s Resident Director and Founder of the Public Works program, Lear deBessonet with choreography by Chase Brock.

Cast: Featuring Phylicia Rashad (Titania), De’Adre Aziza (Hippolyta), Patrena Murray (Snout), Shalita Grant (Hermia) and Kyle Beltran (Lysander); as well as Annaleigh Ashford (Helena); Vinie Burrows (First Fairy, Peaseblossom); Danny Burstein (Nick Bottom); Justin Cunningham (Philostrate); Marcelle Davies-Lashley (Fairy Singer); Austin Durant (Snug); Keith Hart (Third Fairy); Alex Hernandez (Demetrius); Jeff Hiller (Francis Flute); Robert Joy (Peter Quince); Patricia Lewis (Fourth Fairy); David Manis (Egeus, Cobweb); Pamela McPherson-Cornelius (Second Fairy); Kristine Nielsen (Puck); Bhavesh Patel (Theseus); Richard Poe (Oberon); Joe Tapper (Robin Starveling); Judith Wagner (Mote); Warren Wyss (Mustardseed); Benjamin Ye (Changeling Boy).

Running Time: 2 and a half hours, including a 20 minute intermission

Through August 13, 2017

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Cast List

Jessica Frances Dukes to Lead the Cast of By The Way, Meet Vera Stark

Drew Shade

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Jessica Frances Dukes Photo via Signature Theatre

Acting powerhouse Jessica Frances Dukes, who recently slayed Alisha Harris’ Is God Is Off-Broadway, has been tapped as the title role of Lynn Nottage‘s By The Way, Meet Vera Stark at The Signature Theatre. Directed by Kamilah Forbes the revival production runs January 29, 2019, through March 3 with a February 19 opening night.

You may remember the Off-Broadway premiere of this show at Second Stage Theater in 2011 as it starred Sanaa Lathan.

It’s the Golden Age of Hollywood, and aspiring starlet Vera Stark works as a maid to Gloria Mitchell, an aging star grasping at her fading career. Worlds collide when Vera lands a trailblazing role in an antebellum epic starring…her boss. While Vera’s portrayal of a slave turns out to be groundbreaking, decades later scholars and film buffs still grapple with the actress’ legacy in Hollywood and the impact that race had on her controversial career. Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage’s fast-paced, sly satire, directed by Kamilah Forbes, will take you on a seventy-year journey through Vera’s life and the cultural climate that originally shaped her and continues today.

The cast also features Jenni Barber as Gloria, Manoel Felciano as Max/Peter, Warner Miller as Leroy/Herb, Carra Patterson as Anna Mae/Afua, Heather Alicia Simms as Lottie/Carmen, and David Turner as Brad/Slavick.

The creative team includes of Clint Ramos (scenic design), Dede M. Ayite (costume design), Matt Frey (lighting design), Mikaal Sulaiman (sound design), Katherine Freer (projection design) and Daniel Kluger (composition).

 

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Events and Happenings

Billy Porter Will Star In His New Play Remember To Live At Primary Stages

Drew Shade

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Billy Porter Pose(FX) promo photo

The Off-Broadway theatre company, Primary Stages, announced their 35th Anniversary season. Launching the lineup includes a new play by Tony Award-winning & Golden Globe-nominated actor Billy Porter entitled Remember To Live. That’s correct; The Pose(FX) star is a playwright. Beginning performances October 29th, Porter will also be starring in the piece.

Billy Porter draped at the Golden Globes Photo via @theebillyporter IG

Back in 2014 Porter’s While I Yet Live debuted at Primary Stages under the direction of Sheryl Kaller, who will also direct this future production set to premiere at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

Remember to Live is told from the perspective of an African-American gay filmmaker. The play centers on the stories of five gay men who all lived through the AIDS crisis and are now grappling with sex, intimacy, redemption, and love all with the indifference the current political climate.

Performances run October 29 through December 22. Additional casting to be announced at a later date.

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