Stars are always walking among us here in New York City and Lynnea Benson, Artistic Director of Frog and Peach Theatre Company, wonders what their love lives are like. That was inspiration for her upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to be presented April 26 to May 20 at The West End Theatre (Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew), 263 West 86th Street (between West End Avenue and Broadway).
The production, to be styled like “Athens by way of SoHo,” evokes how celebrities have problems with their love affairs, but the degree of problems varies with your standing on the celebrity ladder. So her production illustrates the kinds of love you find around yourself in New York, maybe.
Imagine Oberon and Titania as the highest stars you could see on a weekend in New York, maybe on the level of David Bowie and Iman. They are revered, but petty, earthy and accessible: fighting over human things. They, their fairies and Puck make up an entourage. Everybody wants a fairy’s job, but actually it’s a horrible position being a star’s assistant. Ask Puck, Cobweb, Mustard Seed, Pease-Blossom or Moth-they’ll teach you a thing or two about life in a Lauren Weisberger novel. These stars may give their blessings to mortals and do magical things to them, but everybody below them is going to have hell to pay.
The lovers-Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius-are good box office names, for right now and one notch down on the celebrity ladder. They live in a more “natural” world. Think Hugh Grant and Scarlet Johansson. They have stars’ problems. So for example, Helena had her heart broken: her boyfriend fell in love with her best friend and doesn’t want to have anything to do with her anymore. So she spends an inordinate amount of time sniffing out his intentions. Their life is typical of life among film folks, where even Harvey Weinstein has masters to serve.
Director Lynnea Benson has directed over two dozen Shakespeare productions for Frog and Peach including “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “Twelfth Night,” “Cymbeline,” “Macbeth,” “As You Like It” (with Sidney Williams and Emmy-winner Camryn Grimes) “Richard III” (starring Anatol Yusef of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire); “Hamlet” (with Austin Pendleton as Claudius and The Ghost); “Richard II” (with Mr. Pendleton as Richard), “Macbeth” with Jason Kuschner in the title role, “The Merchant of Venice” and “King John” (with Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno as Blanche). Ms. Benson is Artistic Director and co-founder of Frog and Peach.
The actors are Vivien Landau, Lenny Ciotti, Eric Doss, Alan Altschuler, Amy Frances Quint, Erick Gonzalez, Kyla D’Souza, Jonathan Reed Wexler, Treasure Davidson, Jack Sochet and Stephen Siano. Music by Ian McDonald (King Crimson, Foreigner) and Ted Zurkowski. Set design is by Ana Milosevic. Lighting design is by Leo Malkin. Costume design is by Asa Benally. Movement is by Tom Knutson.
Frog and Peach Theatre Company (www.frogandpeachtheatre.org), now in its fifteenth season, was co-founded by Ted Zurkowski and Lynnea Benson – both lifetime members of The Actors Studio- and is dedicated to bringing Shakespeare’s plays in a way that is thrilling, fast-paced, true to the text, and startlingly relevant to modern audiences. Its signature style is fast pacing and speaking directly to the audience, which takes all the dirty humor in Shakespeare and keeps it in.
The West End Theater is located at 263 West 86th St. (B’way and West End Ave.). “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be performed Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM beginning April 26 and running through May 20. All tickets will be $18.00. For tickets call SMARTTIX at 212-868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com. The building, theater and its restrooms are all wheelchair accessible.