Boomerang Theatre’s al fresco ’Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is a must-see

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The 16th century meets the 1960s, Elizabethan England meets the Bronx and Shakespeare meets "Grease" in Boomerang Theatre’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," presented free in New York City’s parks through July 25.

In this delightfully original production, directed by the ultra-talented Philip Emott, the Duke (Jack Halpin) is a successful CEO, and the lovers - Hermia (Jennifer Curfman), Lysander (WT McCrae), Helena (Linda Ignazi) and Demetrius (Joe MacDougall) - are prep-school kids dressed in loafers, sweaters, flared skirts, neckerchiefs and anklets.

Oberon, king of the fairies (Peter Morr), is a tough gang leader whose woman, Titania (Sara Thigpen), is a madame surrounded by sexy girls of easy virtue. His lieutenant, Puck (Vinnie Penna), is a streetwise tough who talks like James Cagney but seems about as bright as one of the Three Stooges.

The Mechanicals, known in this program as "working class folk," are a motley assortment of bumbling workers who have been brought into the 20th century. Thus Starveling, the tailor, is an orthodox Jew who wears a yarmulke and Flute looks like a short order cook who badly needs to change his once-white apron and T-shirt.

Lighthearted and earthy, this production is blessed with a fabulous cast, smart costumes, pitch-perfect direction and the great outdoors - all collaborating to create a vitality and effervescence far beyond that achieved in more traditional versions of "Midsummer."

Emott makes the most effective use of space, virtually turning a whole section of the park into his stage as the actors prance over the green and through the trees or sit alongside the audience to watch the Mechanicals’ antics as they declaim "Pyramus and Thisby."

With no need for set design, Emott has relied on his costume designer, Carolyn Pallister, to create time, mood and character. This she has done with great imagination and humor. Puck wears his wings over bowling shirts and Thisby is ravishing in a long black wig, a grass skirt and metal pasties over a hairy chest.

But it is the exceptional acting that really makes this production outstanding. There are the usual heroes here. Penna is unforgettable as Puck with his swaggers, snorts and world-weary effort to stay in his master’s good graces. Ignazi is wonderful and goofy as the long-legged and gawky maiden Helena victimized by misguided lovers. And Ron Sanborn makes Bottom eloquent, whether he is a pampered ass or a blundering thespian.

But in this production, even some of the minor characters make their mark - most particularly the excellent Kathleen Brown who plays Philostrate, the duke’s master of revels.

Of all Shakespeare’s comedies, it seems "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" is mounted most frequently. Indeed one can expect a new version to blossom every spring - indoors or outdoors, traditional or tweaked for a modern audience or a director’s whim.

It’s not hard to understand why so many companies want to take a stab at this work. In the first place, it’s filled with humor that never goes stale. But no less important is the poetry that informs its dialogue and the air of enchantment that envelops lovers, fairies and fools.

What’s more, this humor is so simple and endlessly fresh that it can be interpreted and re-interpreted and never lose the flavor of the Bard.

But every once in a while, a company, like Boomerang, comes up with something really special. Even if you’ve seen "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" more times than you’d care to remember, this is one you won’t want to miss.

Boomerang Theatre Company presents "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" in Prospect Park’s Long Meadow (enter at Third Street and Prospect Park West) on July 10-11 at 2 pm and in the BAM Park on the triangle bounded by Lafayette Avenue, Fulton Street and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene July 15-17 at 7 pm. Admission is free. For more information, call (212) 501-4069 or visit

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