Bill Thrill: Julie Taymor Dazzles you into Shakespeare’s Web

Gerry Goodstein

If department stores announce a shortage of luxury bed linens, blame Julie Taymor. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, now playing at Theatre for a New Audience's sleek and intimate space, countless sheets and pillows float, glide, romp, and slither. It's one hell of a trousseau and likely the most dazzling Shakespeare we'll see for several seasons.

After the Spider-Man debacle, it seems sensible that Taymor would return to the opulent, ingenious interpretations of the classics that made her name pre-Lion King. Her sheet-strewn Athenian forest is an awing blend of imperious fairies, charming young lovers, and Brooklyn-accented rubes. Strangely, it also teems with children costumed as Australian Aboriginals clutching didgeridoos. But you can't puzzle too hard over any of these choices as the staging melds them into a somnolent wonder.

At times, the visual magnificence threatens to override the text. More than once I found myself thinking of Lear's tart remark: Shakespeare "needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st." But what's so wrong with gorgeous? And most of the performers — particularly David Harewood's Oberon, Tina Benko's Titania, and Kathryn Hunter's Puck — make much of the iambs as well as the outfits. This Dream is a splendid achievement. After the fitful fever of the last few years, Taymor can sleep well.


A Midsummer Night's Dream
By William Shakespeare
Polonsky Shakespeare Center
262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn

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