Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is currently waking everybody up at the Randall at Temple. It is another spirited classic adaptation refracted through a gay lens by Peter Reynolds’ Mauckingbird Theatre. Genders are switched, pronouns are fluid at the retro-futuristic Athens Academy where everyone may be texting, but the real texting is out of their mouths. Terrific ensemble of 20 handling of Shakespeare’s poetry. Standouts include Brent Knobluch’s fleet, flinty Puck. Charles Ilingsworth IV, stepping in at the last minute as Oberon, is so relaxed that you believe in all of his magic power. His Queen, Titania Sean Thompson, have stardust on their sleeves. Danielle Pinnock as Bottom is tops with her joyous physicality and comic skill. Renolds’ signature his crisp pacing helps you roll with the gender shifts. Not that the mortal roles are given short shrift – Lysander (Emily Letts), Hermia (Erin Mulgrew), Demetrius (Sean Gibson), Helena ( Patrick Joyce) sing and spike one of the best verbal jousting scenes in all of theater.
Out to Jan and Steve’s yesterday and enjoying the last few minutes of the forgiving weather before the return of ultra-summer. Glorious colors along Jan’s zinnia path populated with some unidentifiable blooms. Looking for reasons to be beautiful and play hooky. Tonight listening to WRTI’s tribute concert to Abbey Lincoln with other singers doing her songs. She not only was a jazz chanteuse who sang standard repertoire in unique ways leading the way, busting them open raw sometimes, influencing a new generation of jazz vocalists (Kendra Shaw, Cassandra Wilson, et.al). She also became a whimsical lyricist later in her career. ‘Throw it Away’ Shoulda Been’ ‘The Music is the Magic’ and the seismic ‘Down Here Below’ from Turtle’s Dream seemingly indelible to her voice, are turning into standards for other singers.
This morning listening to Bob Perkins reminisce about the great Abbey Lincoln, who died yesterday at age 80, demonstrating her indelible style with the song Street of Dreams. About a dozen years ago Lincoln released A Turtle’s Dream which was one of her finest recordings. She came to Zanzibar Blue and was just brilliant with her stellar Turtle personnel. She crashed her voice on the harrowing and haunted Down Here Below and was completely lilting and reedy on Nature Boy and so sonic on Avec Le Temps. She had us in her vocal spell, but she was competing with the club’s restaurant noise and after around six songs that had glass, plate and kitchen noise accompaniment (not to mention patrons who just continued talking) Lincoln pronounced “We’re not a back-up band.” She said that if the management wasn’t going to contain the noise she was leaving. They didn’t and she did, negotiating from the bandstand ” Mr.–, you can cancel our contract. Come on guys, lets pack it up.” Even though it was disappointing not hearing her whole show, it was great to report the evening and Abbey’s statement of basic respect to an artist at work.
>Aaron Cromie divides his creative time between directing and designing a fantastical world of theatrical creatures. His recent projects included puppets for the Barrymore nominated hit plays The Foocy and The Long Christmas Ride Home. Cromie is making his Shakespearean directing debut with Henry V, without a mask in sight, at the Classical Acting Academy, the summer training wing at Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre. Cromie adapted the lengthy play into a lean adventurous drama aimed at young audiences.
He wanted to make this historical drama adventurous, relevant and fun. The set is a prep school history class and on the board reads ‘Parts will be assigned at the start of class. BE PREPARED.’ This Academy cast may be at the start of their professional careers (most are in their early 20s) but they are anything but green. Sports equipment becomes weapons, crowds and horses are called up on a laptop computer and the desk and chairs become battlements and trenches. The simple design keeps all the focus on the acting and the dialogue, and this ensemble of nine and fun.
The play is still the thing even in the dog days of August, because Henry opened to a sold out audience.
This Henry has plenty of drama, but Cromie also knows how to elicit sharp, stylized humor. All of the eight students play multiple parts with each having meaty moments. This cast makes up a tight ensemble that frames a lithe & muscled performance by Michael Gregory as Henry V.