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May 14th, 2012

The Moment of Change

Rose Lemberg's wonderful anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, The Moment of Change , Has Been Published! [A Tucket sounds!]  It contains poems by most of the best poets in the current crop of extraordinary young poets, including our very own tithenai, sovay, catvalente, csecooney, bluejo, shweta_narayan, nisi_la, and nineweaving.  Also Theodora Goss and Vandana Singh.  And me, who amn't strictly speaking a poet, (or young, come to that) but who commits verse now and again.  It is, in fact, a TOC of Goddesses, and you must go out RIGHT THIS MINUTE and order it.

But first, look at the pretty cover, by Terri Windling:

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Moving right along (as did we).

On Saturday (Could that be right?  *checks calendar*  Yes, Saturday.) we ate at the chi-chi Central Park South eatery Sarabeth's with friends, then took a walk in Central Park, with stops at the Dairy (which is now a purveyor of tourist tat, maps for the lost, and books for the interested) and the Carousel.  Having determined that unaccompanied adults were indeed allowed to indulge in a ride on one of their beautifully repainted and spirited steeds, all four of us (one with a bad hip, one with bad knees) climbed aboard and spun up and down and round and round to the tinny strains of "Someday Soon" and other tunes of a similar vintage.  Which Ellen and I sang along to while our friends laughed uproariously.  The air was warm and fragrant with orange blossom, the sun was shining with all its might, the green of the new grass and leaves was gloriously blinding and tender.  And what do we do?  We skibble off to the Classic Stage Company on E. 12th Street to meet Liz Gorinsky, who had two extra tickets to their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

And you know, I'm not sorry we did.

The Classic Stage Company is where we saw our beloved Venus In Fur last year--twice--and The Iron Age, and (about a million years ago, before I started writing reviews) Tony Kushner's Illusion.  What they do is always spare, always fresh, always interesting--even when it doesn't work.  Their Midsummer Night's Dream does work, very well indeed.  It's like Circus meets pantomime, updated to the day before yesterday, with Hermia and Helena as a matched set of Long Island rich girls (one blonde, one brunette) in sky-high heels and tight little dresses and Lysander and Demetrius as interchangeable Preppie frat boys in head-to-toe Brooks Brothers.  The fairies are clowns, with beards and skirts and corsets and glitter distributed among their costumes with a fine disregard for gender and color sense.  Puck, as played by Taylor Mac is the gender-bendiest of them all, tall, supple, irreverent, his costume varying from stripy clown to Alice in Wonderland drag to Green Man to something that looked as if it had been made out of skinned pink plush elephants, all flapping cartoon ears and stuffed trunks, including one, diamante, bouncing you-know-where.  A bit distracting, but he made it work for him.  And work.  And work.  He, and the gloriously unsubtle Bottom of Steven Skybell (who I remember fondly from his ART days), put me strongly in mind of the iconic Peter Brooke Dream, which I saw in 1970.  They have the same delight in the language, the same firm knowledge that these fairies aren't wifty and ethereal, but robust, earthy, tricksy, creatures of lightning and darkness and thunderstorm as well as moonlight and flowers, playful and scary in the way clowns are scary, in that you don't know what they might do next.

It wasn't perfect.  Ellen and I agreed that the Pyramus and Thisbe play was dull--a series of bad-performance in-jokes that clearly tickled the actors, but left us, at least, cold.  One lady in the front row of the center section, who nearly fell out of her seat laughing, would certainly disagree.  And, try as I might, I cannot warm to David Greenspan's mannered, unvarying execution of whatever part he is called upon to play.  He clearly works his ears off, and is game for any costume or stage direction, however strange or athletic.  But he's always David Greenspan, working his ears off; I prefer actors who disappear into their parts.  Like Skybell.  Like Christina Ricci, come to that, who does a dandy job with Hermia, and Bebe Neuwirth, whose dominatrix Hippolyta is super-pissed off at Theseus in the first act, and who thaws, not only beautifully, but believably, at the end.  And I don't know who Anthony Heald is, but his Theseus is a real C.E.O of a major corporation who falls in love with a queen, who learns (off stage, of course) to court rather than try and dominate her, and wins her heart.  I loved their Titania and Oberon, too--true wild things who do what they do because they want to do it, wild, unpredictable, and unreliable, but beautiful all the same.

As is this play.  As is, finally, this production.


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