The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival presented the opening performance of this year’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was surely a strange night for Shakespeare at Boscobel, as sporadic rain came down around the tent, and a dense fog rolled up and over the cliff from the Hudson River below.
Directed by Eric Tucker, this staging of the play employed an ensemble of only five actors to fill the roles, all brightly spangled in neon tracksuits and matching trainers. You might imagine this a jarring choice, and it was at first, but it was not entirely surprising coming from the HVSF. Indeed, the last time I ventured to Boscobel was to see “The Bombitty of Errors,” a hip-hop re imagining of “The Comedy of Errors” played by a cast of four. That performance had wardrobe changes, though.
The opening of the show had the actors sprinting into the tent from the hillside in an awesome artistic move, before beginning the story within the performance area of the tent. Things began a bit muddy, as the rather quick scene changes of the first act left myself and others playing a game of who’s who with the actors, especially in scenes that featured more than five of the characters on stage at once. However, scene transitions were punctuated well with choreographed bits of non-diegetic comedy. Still, the show may have benefited from some stronger indication of character.
That said, the performance was brought to life by the terrific work of each actor. Truly, the quintet showed mastery of comedic timing, each riffing off another with the pizzazz of improv theater. Jason O’Connell in particular injected the perfect amount of incompetence, often with a strong dash of dark sarcasm, into his portrayals of both Bottom and Puck. Once this humor began to fire off, I sat back and rolled with the punches for an enjoyable evening.