By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Weather is a big factor when producing outdoor summer theatre.  So far, the company of Shakespeare on the Sound was not lucky during this season.   If you were able to sneak in a performance between the rainstorms, you would have seen one of the most unique productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” held at Pinkney Park, in the Rowayton section of Norwalk.   If you missed it you will have to go to Greenwich, CT. where it will be playing through July 12.

One of the major highlights of this particular “Midsummer Night’s dream was its setting.  I’m not sure how it will be presented in Greenwich but I assume it will be similar. At Pinkney Park, the play’s action took place on a curved, slightly raised, wooden ramp while the audience sat at ground level and on the bowl-shaped hills that closely surrounded it.   Several of the park’s ancient trees were highlighted and forming the natural background, the viewers were directly drawn into a magical pathway through the woods.   It was evident that the large, creative team of directors and technical designers let their imaginations fly freely.  They must have worked very closely to achieve this unique effect.

The play’s modern update along with original pop songs and music by STEW, certainly appealed to the younger crowd.  Although the acting began with some unsteady, artificial phrasing (probably due to nervousness) this young, energetic cast, aptly directed by Janna Settle, was able to warm up and give an exceptional performance..

Outstanding was the multi-talented and highly entertaining Ty Jones who played the love-stricken, donkey character, “Bottom.”  Jones certainly knows how to move his body and play the crowd.

There were some technical flaws.  Some of the scenes were too long and not easy to follow.   Not accustomed to Shakespeare’s words executed to a rap beat, it was hard to understand some portions of the dialogue.   There were nice introductions to the play by Managing Director Mary Osborne and Artistic Director Joanna Settle in the program, however, a play-by play scene explanation along with famous phrases to look for, would have been helpful.
As for the logistics, a wooden fence now eliminates some of the local traffic noise and lights, which is a tremendous improvement from past seasons.  There was a notable variety of snacks available on the grounds and thanks to Brendan’s 101, you can even order take-out dinner without paying a fortune.  Try the delicious lobster rolls.

My final observation is that Shakespeare on the Sound should be congratulated.  It has a credible community outreach program and sincerely tries to be inclusive.  The company offers free performances with an optional donation.  Its shows contain a cast of mixed cultures plus the performances often include elements that everyone can easily identify with and digest.   For example, “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream,” incorporated rap, pop, rock and Spanish flavors through singing and dancing.  

And yet, despite all this effort, and although the Park was so crowded that you could hardly stretch your legs (everyone flocked between the rainfalls) it was very disappointing that the audience at Pinkney Park, which is in the Rowayton section of Norwalk, did not reflect the diversity of the surrounding area.   Perhaps some special, public transportation should be considered next time.

For July 4-12 performances in Greenwich, the number to call for tickets is:

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