Ensemble Member, Matthew Casarez, Jamej Lawton, Open Hydrant Youth Member, Lisa Wilson and Michelle Capor in Fools in Love. April, 2014.
Doo-Wopping a Midsummer DreamBy ANITA GATES for the New York Times Published: March 24, 2005 I have seen a few productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” beginning with Peter Brook’s in 1971. On film, I have seen Mickey Rooney as Puck, Calista Flockhart as Helena and Rupert Everett as Oberon. But never has it all been clearer to me than when I watched the Millennium Talent Group’s simplified one-act version, “Fools in Love,” at the Wings Theater in Greenwich Village.”Fools in Love” is intended to introduce children to Shakespeare, and it does the job with exaggeration, pure silliness and 1950’s and 60’s pop music. The comedy is set in the era of “Happy Days” and poodle skirts, in a California town called West Athens, where four teenagers hang out at a diner and discuss their romantic problems and plans. Hermia (Erika Villalba) loves Lysander (Matt Schuneman) but is being pressured to marry Demetrius (Antony Raymond). On the sidelines, Helena (Annelise Abrams) pines for Demetrius, who finds her completely unappealing and tells her so.When Hermia and Lysander decide to elope, they find themselves the victims of mischievous fairies. Oberon (Andy Langton, in a black leather jacket with macho black wings) obviously has nothing better to do than play tricks on humans and on his beloved Titania (Margaret Curry).Spellbound by a magic herb, the victims wake up from naps to fall in love with unexpected objects: Titania with Bottom (Ryan Knowles), a weaver who has been turned into a donkey, and both Lysander and Demetrius with Helena. Helena has such low self-esteem that she believes both young men are just ridiculing her by pretending to want her.There’s no real need for a Greek chorus, but five singers known as the Doo-Wop Group comment on the action frequently with mostly a cappella excerpts from golden oldies like “Duke of Earl,” “Baby Love,” “Respect,” “My Guy” and of course “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” D. J. Paris, making his New York stage debut, does a particularly nice job on “Unchained Melody.”Sarah Rosenberg and Louis Reyes Cardenas, who are credited with the show’s conception, have kept Shakespeare’s language (accented with an occasional “huh?” or “oh, all right”), letting young theatergoers grasp meaning through context.It’s nice to see a cast of all shapes and sizes. The full-figured Ms. Villalba is highly lovable as Hermia, and when she calls Helena a “painted maypole,” she strikes a blow for all women over size 10. The very skinny Brandy Wykes has an endearing “Laugh-In”-era Goldie Hawn quality as Puck. The very tall Mr. Knowles has a lot of fun with physical comedy as Bottom. And then there are the smallest performers, children from the audience who are invited on stage to dance and occasionally speak a line or two. Warning: the actors have been known to force a pink wig on small volunteers.”Fools in Love” runs through April 9 at the Wings Theater, 154 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, (212) 627-2961.