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This is one production I would very much like to see become available on DVD. An excellent cast presents this classic in Central Park for a magical evening under the stars. Originally shown on A&E, it is a pure delight and whilst using only a minim of special effects, delivers a performance of a sort I think Shakespeare would much approve. The production is a bit over three hours if I remember correctly and of high enough caliber to be the central course for an evening. While others have remarked on the performance, I disagree and enjoyed them all. If you can find it, set aside some time and get away from it all .. your brain with thank you for it.!
where can I get a copy of this on VHS?! This is my absolute FAVORITE performance of this play! To be honest, I remember little of the video, since it's been 20 years since I've seen it. I was at least able to record an audio tape of it, however. But my college roommate and I watched it when it was on A&E and loved in particular the performances of Christine Baranski and the actress who played Hermia. They were both VERY expressive. In other performances of this play that I have seen, the actors usually sound as though they are merely reciting lines; there is little discernible connection between the players. Not so in this performance! I thought these talented actors delivered. They actually exchanged dialogue, making the play come alive in the way I believe it was intended to be performed. I also enjoyed Marcell Rosenblatt's portrayal of Puck. And if I'm not mistaken, I think Gary Coleman had a cameo as the foundling child. And don't get me started on the delicious, bare-chested performance of William Hurt, who looked rather buff, as I recall. (Hey! I liked his acting, too.)
This is the best version of Midsummer's I've seen, of the three I've seen (1935, James Cagney as Bottom; 1981 BBC version, Nigel Davenport as Theseus; this one). I'm afraid, though, that all the fairy characters seem to be acting just a little too full of themselves, especially William Hurt. Not that that's too bad, especially in Hurt's case, because he's supposed to be kind of self-centered anyway. The rustics (eg. mechanicals, clowns) were very funny, especially in the Pyramus and Thisby scene at the end. This is the funniest version of Quince's prologue you'll find, and it's probably the way Shakespeare intended it, to boot! The lovers, though their haircuts and makeup date them like anything, act their parts well, and you can actually enjoy their super-long mid-play scene (if Hermia's voice doesn't drive you crazy). In this show Bottom and Puck don't seem to be the centers of the play, as in most productions. Probably the most engaging thing about this version of Midsummer's is that its live; although Shakespeare does remarkably well on film (considering its age), his works are still enjoyed best by the group he originally wrote them for, the live audience. I recommend this film for drama, Shakespeare, and film buffs alike.
When even the great Christine Baranski gives a boring performance, you
know a production is in deep trouble directorially.
This technically gorgeous staging works well when we're with the acting troupe preparing its version of "Pyramus and Thisbe." Those parts of the play are cleverly directed and beautifully performed. However, the rest of the plots - especially the one about the two pairs of young lovers - don't work at all, despite an extremely talented cast.
Legendary director James Lapine tried something different here, and the result is a decent but largely unengaging production that seems much longer than it actually is.
This version of Shakespeare's play is well-acted but not particularly exciting. The funniest performance comes from Christine Baranski as Helena. The 1999 and 1935 versions are more interesting than this sometimes long-winded production. Granted, this is a televised stage production whereas the others had the freedom of the cinema. But a lot more can be done with Shakespeare on stage -- as exemplified by the recently televised (1998) "Twelfth Night" and by countless live performances.
I was dissapointed in James Lapine's depiction of the fairies of the Athenian forest. Their costumes and acting was fun but in general, it was without the magic that continually glimmers through in Shakespeare's verse. With the exception of a few scenes i.e. Helena and Hermia's fight, the whole play lacked the humor it deserved. Finally, Bottom was miscast. He seemed like he was playing the comic character for children rather than for a discriminating audience. Only at the end when he sees Titania in the shadows does he achieve the complexity that the character deserves and that Kevin Kline delivered in the 1999 movie.
This is one of the best (and funniest) productions I have ever seen in
many years of theater going. I saw this on PBS back in the 1980's and
have been looking for it on video/DVD ever since. Is there any place to
purchase this? Please provide info if this is possible.
I have seen performances of this play at Stratford (multiple times) and at Arena Stage in Washington, among others, and none top this one. The many film versions do not even come close. The casting is magnificent, the characters well-played, and the Central Park setting is ideal. (I haven't seen this in over 15 years since our library copy disappeared, so my recollections are fuzzy.) But I do remember that the Phyramus & Thisbe scenes had me in tears of laughter every time I see them. Puck is a whirlwind throughout his (her) mischief-making, and Christine Baranski's efforts to remain a lady throughout are all brights spots I cannot forget. The star-crossed lovers final pairings are touching. I showed the library videos to friends and family, and they all loved it as well.
Oh, to see this wonderful production again.
It's been a very long time since I saw this -- near the original airing, and that's the only time. I'd love to get it/see it again. What I remember most positively...beyond overall good quality, and the outdoor theatrical setting, which gave it the charm of a performance (vs. a movie)... is William Hurt's acting as Oberon. Particularly his diction...which (although this is a distant memory) was rather "otherwordly", and gave a dimension to the fairy character that I'd never seen (or heard). If I am recalling it right, he extended certain syllables and phrases, intoned words in unusual ways -- and as I said, the effect was of a truly alien character -- which makes perfect sense, since that's what a King of the Fairies would be. I know it's worth seeing again to confirm my remembrance -- just have to find it.
As a drama teacher I've directed MSND 3 times and have seen a number live productions, including one at the Stratford Shapkespeare festival. This is without a doubt the one I love most. I like Hurt's growling, tumbling Oberon and his very physical relationship with Puck. Christine Baranski is, as noted many times by the other reviewers, utterly hilarious. But my favorite moment comes at the end, when Bottom is describing his dreamy interlude with Titania and he sees a fleeting vision of her as she fades away into the night. For a few seconds we see the loneliness and longing beneath his blustery persona. I'd never had much fondness for the character until then, but that tiny spark of pathos made him much more appealing. The day I can find it - video or DVD - I'll snap it up.
I am an English teacher and use this version for its hilarious Pyramus and Thisbe segment. It is done perfectly and raucously, just as Shakespeare would have wanted! Bottom is excellent. The students always fall out - even those too cool to laugh! My VHS is almost completely deteriorated from use. Does ANYONE know where I can get another?? I like this version - it is indeed a bit dated and I find the Puck in this one REALLY annoying, but William Hurt, as others have pointed out, is appropriately otherworldly. Christine Baransky is also quite good in this. I think the fact that it's really outside in a forest adds to its magic.
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