ELM SHAKESPEARE’S MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. We went to the Elm Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream outdoors in New Haven two nights ago. There were lots of new insights for me which would have come from the director, Tina Packer. Here are three things I loved.
1. Dumb Show. The production opened with a dumb show, with a battle in which Theseus captures Hippolyta the Queen of the Amazons. Theseus threatens several times to kill Hippolyta by holding a sword to her throat. Several of Theseus’s soldiers mime the same gestures. Only then does Theseus lower his sword and speak the first line of the play:
“Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Theseus soon gives the backstory to the play:
“Hippolyta, I woo’d thee with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key….”
The dumb show casts a shadow on all that follows.
2. The Wood. The theater is in a park filled with trees. The set has buildings representing Athens on the right side of the stage and a wood on the left side. We know that the characters will enter the wood in the middle of the play but before that happens an occasional strange musical sound comes from the wood to remind us that strange things will happen to those who venture into the wood.
3. Pyramus and Thisbe. The Rude Mechanicals are not always funny. Here, the laughter kept building and building until a series of climaxes for Bottom’s death as Pyramus.