Photo by Charles Erickson
Midsummer Night's Dream at the Guthrie
Catch Dowling’s final take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Guthrie.
Believe it or not, there are people for whom a month’s worth of Shakespeare is a welcome and possibly even exciting prospect. These people are going to love the rare and potentially overwhelming glut of Shakespeare available this month, and only a certain type of glutton would try to take it all in.
It should be noted that our Shakespeare windfall actually began last November, when Park Square Theatre staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Moving Company did Love’s Labour’s Lost. Picking up where these troupes left off, Guthrie artistic director Joe Dowling is kicking off 2015 with yet another version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play he has already directed twice in his 20-year tenure. For those who like their Shakespeare shorter and bloodier, a speedy, 75-minute Macbeth is being produced upstairs in the Dowling Studio. And over in St. Paul, Park Square Theatre is doing a “new adaptation” of Romeo and Juliet on its recently christened Andy Boss thrust stage.
For most people, three servings of Shakespeare in a month are plenty—especially packed into February, the year’s shortest month. But strap on your sonnet bonnet because the Minnesota Orchestra has also declared February the month of its Shakespeare Winterfest—a four-week-long musical tribute to melodies inspired by the bard, including tunes for The Tempest, A Winter’s Tale, and yes, Mendelssohn’s overture for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Consuming all of this Shakespearian splendor is not impossible, but it might not be advisable. If you try, for instance, one thing you’re going to run into is Bill Shakespeare’s “greatest hits” syndrome, symptoms of which start to appear when you’ve seen Romeo and Juliet roughly as many times as you’ve washed your hands. Seriously, when was the last time you saw Pericles, Prince of Tyre or Timon of Athens? Has anyone ever seen all three parts of Henry VI? No, because the unwritten “rules of theater” demand that 126,000 productions of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream must be produced worldwide before anyone can consider staging, say, Troilus and Cressida.
I’m willing to admit that the Guthrie’s programming of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in winter may turn out to be an ingenious bit of meteorological counter-programming, but I am skeptical. It is, after all, an El Niño year.
Summer is the traditional season for trippy theatrical dream scenes. It’s also the season when Shakespeare gets relegated to parks, where, if the play is boring, one can always look around to see what the ducks are doing. Not so in the dark confines of the Guthrie’s Wurtele Thrust, where the minutes can creep by like pages in a Tolstoy novel, and there is nothing else to look at but the interminable (but universally beloved) play itself.
If, after reading this, the idea of gorging on Shakespeare still appeals to you, there is not much more I can do. Gluttony is clearly in your blood. The only question left is whether you are a glutton who consumes for pleasure or punishment. Either way, you’re going to get your fill.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Feb. 7–March 29; Macbeth, Feb. 24–27, both plays at the Guthrie Theater, 612-377-2224, guthrietheater.org.
Romeo and Juliet, Feb. 27–March 8, Park Square Theatre, 651-291-7005, parksquaretheatre.org.
Shakespeare Winterfest (three plays): A Winter’s Tale, Feb. 5–6, overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Feb. 12–14, selections from The Tempest, Feb. 19–21; Orchestra Hall, 612-371-5656, minnesotaorchestra.org