The mortals are foolish and the fairies spectacular in New York City Ballet’s new production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Kennedy Center. This cheerful show is wonderfully playful and lavishly produced.
Drawing from Shakespeare’s play, the ballet dispenses with quick character introductions at the start, centering the action of the first act in the woods—the domain of fairy royalty Oberon (Roman Mejia) and Titania (Miriam Miller). At beginning of our story, the fairy king and queen are fighting, Oberon believing that Titania’s adopted son belongs with him and she strongly disagrees. They retreat to their separate kingdoms, beautifully realized by David Hays’ set design of twining leaves and vines.
…wonderfully playful and lavishly produced.
Karinska’s outstanding costumes also help to bring the magic of the story to life. Oberon’s golden tunic and laurel connects the plot to its original setting in ancient Greece, as does the traditional drapery and capes of other cast members. The fairy retinues, including a charming younger cast, reflect their natural surroundings, flitting about as flowers, ladybugs and butterflies.
Into this magical forest kingdom enter the beleaguered, unknowing mortals—two sets of lovers and a group of tradesmen rehearsing a play. Much of the humor in the frequently funny production comes from Oberon’s mischievous henchman, Puck, who torments the humans. Troy Schumacher as the green-haired satyr makes a meal of the role, whirling around the confused lovers, mugging for the audience when he tricks them again and again.
George Balanchine’s original choreography provides a little bit of everything, from the humorous to the grand. Miriam Miller as Titania executes a beautiful pas de deux early in the show with a fairy in her retinue. Later, bewitched by Puck, she falls in love with Bottom (Christopher Grant) a tradesman who appears as a donkey (also Puck’s doing). The unlikely lovers’ dance is laugh-out-loud funny, as the ungainly Bottom appears more interested in eating the grass than in the fairy queen.
Mendelssohn’s diverse and rollicking score comically includes the hee-haw sound that Bottom as a donkey makes. The inclusion of choral singers, with lyrics from Shakespeare’s text, add an ethereal dimension to the already enchanting show, which closes the curtain with scenes of love found, rifts mended and order restored.
Running time: Approximately two hours with one intermission.
Advisory: The production uses smoke effects.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs through July 12, 2022 at The Kennedy Center, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. For more information about the Kennedy Center’s dance programs, call, (800) 444-1324, or click here. For more information on the The New York Ballet, visit here. Read MD Theatre Guide’s review for New York City Ballet’s “Visionary Voices” program here.