Most New Yorkers are familiar with Shakespeare in the Park, and if you are visiting New York it is certainly worth the time in line to score tickets to this free event. Less well-known, but much more accessible is The Classical Theatre of Harlem whose production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will run until July 30. The performances are free and are presented in The Richard Rogers Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park (5th Ave. between 120th St. and 124th St. Tuesday –Sunday at 7:30 PM, rain or shine. Viewing and acoustics are good from every seat, and rest rooms are adjacent.
The play is faithful to the language of Shakespeare, but like Shakespeare the director has taken liberties with the locale. This is neither Elizabethan England nor Greece. The setting is in “the woods” of Harlem. The characters take on an urban air with props like a huge “beatbox” radio and a Helena with a distinct Hispanic flair and accent to match. The director, Justin Emeka, transforms the characters in such a way that the audience can immediately identify with them, yet he never is unfaithful to the Bard.
There are amazing dance sequences for the fairies choreographed by Laika Worrel. Although this performance was outdoors, the sound was excellent. I cannot say enough about the individual performers. The play within the play at the end was hilarious. You can find their biographies on Setting, costume design and sound were truly magical. The ninety minute production without an intermission seemed to pass in a flash.
At the end of the performance, the audience was given the opportunity to make donations on the way out, but there was no pressure to do so. I’m glad to say I saw many people who were thankful for this marvelous production doing the right thing.
Please give this organization the support it needs. Go out and see the performance if you can. If not, tell a friend and/or look out for what they are doing in the future. It is a New York theater experience not to be missed.