Performing Arts: Theater
August 25, 2019
Once a pop-up designer clothes emporium, the reclaimed ornate space on Broadway and 12th street is transformed into Third Rail’s immersive theater piece based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream.

Designed with a gastronomic twist, Midsummer: A Banquet tells a magical tale of love and mayhem between appetizers, entrees and desserts. Culinary delights mix with a fresh approach to the Shakespearean comedy in this immersive theater realization.

Actors roam willy-nilly through the space, joining guests at tables, pouting alone at the long bar or stomping out of the dinner club only to return reborn. The ballroom/dinner club forms a delightful theatrical playground for Third Rail Projects and Food of Love Productions Midsummer: A Banquet.

Compressed into a 90-minute show (adapted by Zach Morris and Victoria Rae Sook) the action focuses on the four attractive lovers who escape the deleterious laws of a patriarchal Athens and hide in the forest in order to be forever together. But, as always with Shakespeare, there are a few complications—to start, Hermia (Caroline Amos) loves Lysander (Alex J. Gould), not her father’s choice, Demetrius (Joshua Gonzales) who is being chased by Hermia’s best friend, Helena (Adrienne Paquin).

Invisible to humans but guiding unsuspecting humans’ whimsical fates, Oberon (Ryan Wuestewald) and Titania (Victoria Rae Sook), the faerie king and queen squabble over a Changeling. Their turmoil flips the hapless human lovers into a state of chaos causing numerous, humorous miscalculations.

However, the real scene stealing sections feature the rude mechanicals a peripatetic theater group preparing a drama headed for the Athenian court. In particular, the audience howls over the very large (in terms of charisma) Bottom (Charles Osborne) – the actor who is wickedly transformed into a donkey and simultaneously, Queen Titania’s lover.

Athletically directed and charmingly choreographed by Zach Morris, the play never feels forced, nor do the interactions between actors who double in roles and triple as wait staff. Additionally, Sean Hagerty’s music and sound design buoys the production.

The charming ambiance is reminiscent of people picnicking in a park on a warm, sunny day in view of a traveling theater troupe.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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