Last night I attended the first performance of A Midsummers Night Dream at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, and the whole night was magic, pure magic. I won the tickets in a TodayTix lottery (TodayTix is the best) and it so happened I already had plans in place with Lisa F., my friend who always treats me to theater tickets. Lisa had never seen the play, and as it’s my all-time favorite I was so pleased to share it with her. (Lisalisa power is no joke.)
Midsummers was the first play I ever saw in a theater–it was in the 1980s at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, and my beautiful, already-ailing grandmother who couldn’t drive put on her best green dress and took the commuter rail down to scarysnobby Cambridge from Lowell, Mass to sit with her kindred spirit grandaughter in the Bard’s bigcity forest magic. Since then, every meaningful relationship of my life has been graced with a Midsummer’s Night Dream story, and midsummer has become my favorite time of year. Also I am abashed to say this was the first time in my 24 years as a NYC denizen that I ever attended Shakespeare in the Park, and it was of course the perfect introduction.
Shoulder to shoulder with New Yorkers of so many ilks–so many ages, races, sensibilities–I sat beneath the stars, flanked by city woods and crowned by city stars while magical people invented centuries ago by a magical bard danced through mystical forests inside and outside themselves. The costumes (jewels and jewel pastels; spangled and satin hoop skirts; and feathers, so many feathers),the pratfalls, the passion, the sets, and the music and dancing (yes, so much of both) made it the bawdiest, most vivacious, most joyousMidsummers I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen so many; I’ve written on the play at least five times). The fairies were sweet and scraping retirees; Puck was a middle-aged lady (as a middle-aged lady I can affirm we’re as Puckish as they come); the lovers were gorgeous indignant hams from so many different bloodsongs (as Helena, Annaleigh Ashford is the funniest millennial I’ver seen on a stage); and the players-within-the-play were the campiest clowns you’ve ever seen. It goes without saying all were full of light, full of longing, full of love.There in the publicpretty intimacy that NYC demands of all of us, I knew that at least for those three hours we theatergoers and makers alike were all exactly where we wanted to be. Grateful. And, as always, grateful to be grateful.
On the way back to Brooklyn, the city returned me to its terra firma as it crudely as it ever does. The trains were delayed, the sky sweated, the now-drunk bankers brayed like the asses they were. But now I had a template for it all–even the Bottom-bred donkeys, even the enormous and I do mean ENORMOUS mosquito bite already forming on my ass. The subway finally slid into the platform and I sailed on it, smiling at everything and everybody, the grit and glamour of my chosen home. Tis strange, tis wondrous strange….