I saw some amazing performances Saturday night by the five - yes, only five - actors performing Essential Shakespeare's adaptation of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM called DREAM A LITTLE DREAM.
There were several things I would have done differently in the production (of course) starting with a larger cast. I certainly don't mind actors doubling up roles - I did it in my JANE EYRE, but to a much lesser degree (and one of the reviewers complained about that doubling) but the frenetic character-switching performed by the actors of the Continuum Company was crazy. I've seen this kind of thing done before - at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007 the Pantaloons did a version of MIDSUMMER with seven actors - and while both productions deserve lots of credit for the creative ways they address the limitations of a small cast (Essential Shakespeare made very good use of music, while the Pantaloons make clever use of umbrellas) I can't help thinking that unless you already know the play, you're likely to be mightily confused by all the running around and morphing. And as much as I like Shakespeare's words, if you leave in long speeches they do slow down the pace of these quick-change adaptations and confuse the audience even more.
That said, I really liked many of the musical numbers in the Essential Shakespeare show, especially what must be an original piece riffing on the name Helena which turned into a Bollywood musical homage. Really great. But greatest of all were the amazingly talented, hard-working actors.
The show will have one more performance, at East River Park on the Lower East Side on August 4, and I plan to attend.
But they need to fire whoever was in charge of publicity and PROGRAMS. When I arrived at the Marcus Garvey show, a young woman handed me some brochures about the NYC program that sponsored the show - but there was NOTHING about the people who put the show together and NO CAST LIST. I don't think even the most half-assed off-off Broadway show I've been to had no program. WHO WERE THESE TALENTED ACTORS???
Well, I knew who one of them was - Bhavesh Patel - because he is a friend of a friend (who invited me to come see the show) and I got to meet his parents after the performance. But in order to find out who the others were, I had to scour the Internet.
First stop: a Google search for CityParks Foundation, the sponsor, and I find this extremely uninformative page about the piece. The barest minimum of time/location. So more Googling. The Daily News had a little bit more info than the CityParks site, but still no info about the actors. Finally I found the cast list at the Tisch School of the Arts web site. But which actor was which??? I could figure out the men - because I know who Bhavesh was and so the other man was obviously Edi Gathegi - but which female actor was which? Well - here is the entire cast - I got the photo below from a fellow blogger Dumbo Books of Brooklyn - but Dumbo didn't know who was who either - I had to look up each female actor individually:
The heretofore "mystery" cast of DREAM A LITTLE DREAM left to right: Bhavesh Patel, Edi Gathegi, Amirah Vann, Danielle Skraastad, and Amber Gray.
These are some serious goddam actors - you'd think they could get more of a shout-out than this. Sheesh.