Sunday, June 04, 2006
'A Midsummer Night's Dream' to open Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival
By Chesley Plemmons
NEWS-TIMES THEATER CRITIC
A tent! A tent! My kingdom for a tent!" Well, not exactly.
Though probably far down on most people's wish list, a custom designed, state-of-the-art theater tent couldn't be a better present for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison, N.Y.
Scheduled to be erected this week, the sleek new theater tent will greet theatergoers when the season opens June 14 with previews of Shakespeare's classic comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Opening night is Saturday, June 17, at 8 p.m.
Departing from its usual season consisting of two of the Bard's plays, the 2006 schedule at this panoramic theater site will pair "Dream" with Richard Brinsley Sheridan's "The Rivals."
"The Rivals" opens in previews July 19, and officially opens July 29. The two plays will run in repertory through Sept. 3.
The 20th anniversary season of the company will be celebrated with a fresh look at "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which was the festival's first production in 1987.
Founding artistic director Terrence O'Brien was in charge then and again assumes that mantle this summer.
"This is the fifth production of 'Midsummer' I have directed," he said, "and each time I discover new subleties and nuances. . . I see it as a play about how youthful infatuation can evolve into genuine love."
The plot involves a quartet of lovers seeking refuge, feuding fairy royalty, and a group of determined but hopeless amateur actors who converge on a tranquil forest, where magic and miracles occur with regularity.
Veteran festival performers Kurt Rhoads and wife Nance Williamson will have the double roles of Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania. "Dream" will mark their 50th joint theatrical appearance.
Paul Bates, who played Puck in the '87 production, will return to his old stomping grounds to take on the role of Bottom. Wesley Mann will step into the spritely part of Puck.
"The Rivals" is probably best known for the verbal eccentricity and gymnastic syntax of Mrs. Malaprop. Fueled by confusion, this classic comedy also includes such well-known characters as Lydia Anguish and Captain Jack Absolute. Gia Forakis will be the director.
More than 250,000 theatergoers, some first-time samplers of Shakespeare, have attended the festival since its inauguration in a soggy bog on the nearby Manitoga Nature Preserve.
The combination of the tailored gardens of the restoration, the spectacular view of the Hudson River and West Point, and the polished and accessible productions of this frolicking troupe make this a summer must.
Regular patrons will tell you to watch for the festival's signature zany dances, which show up at the most unlikely time and place. I don't remember one for "Macbeth," though, unless those witches were at a disco.
The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival has its home on the grounds of the Boscobel Restoration, Route 9W, Garrison, N.Y. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" plays June 14 through Sept. 3, and will be joined in repertory with "The Rivals" July 19 to Sept. 2.
Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8, and Sundays at 6. The grounds are open for picnicking two hours before the performance. Gourmet picnic dinners may be ordered through the box office. Salads, sandwiches, beverages (including wine) and desserts are available on the site.
Tickets are $25 for previews, $28 for Wednesdays and Thursdays, $35 for Fridays and Sundays, and $42 for Saturdays. Discounts are available for groups, students, senior citizens and children under 12. Call the box office at (845) 265-9575.