Sunday, April 27, 2008

Against Reading

I'm hardly ever against reading, except when it comes to plays. If there is a play that's better read than performed, then probably we should invent a new genre category for it and call it by any other name.

Last night was the final performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Eleanor's high school. She played Snout, who is also Wall. So I was prejudiced in favor of enjoying the group of players, but they were as funny as any group of players I've ever seen. Wall had very active eyebrows and played the part, well, broadly. Snug/Lion fell off of the end of the bench a lot. Peter Quince, a very short guy, threatened the much larger Bottom with his walking cane, Starveling/Moonshine was pointedly skeptical about how much use she was as a character, and Flute/Thisby was played to perfection by a pretty 14-year-old boy, slight of stature, whose voice was actually in the process of changing during the weekend of performances.

In a departure from the tradition of children's/adolescent theater in which A Midsummer Night's Dream is done so frequently because there's less for parents to object to than in other Shakespeare plays, this production had Puck dressed and voiced as a satyr, reminiscent of Stanley Tucci's movie role. Puck took obvious delight in causing mischief, and his prancing presence always livened up the stage. While Oberon and Theseus were a little stiff, as adolescent boys are apt to be in the part, Titania and her fairies were lively and noisy. Even the lovers, who have some speeches that can be deadly dull, livened up their performances with physical humor and convincing stage fights.

It was the least tedious high school play I've seen in a long time, and seeing it reminded me of how much more fun it is to see a play than to read it.

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