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Warehouse

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 14th 3:15 PM Sunday, July 15th 9:15 PM Saturday, July 22nd 12:00 PM Thursday, July 26th 8:00 PM Saturday, July 28th 11:59 PM

They say: Shakespeare’s classic takes a…beating in this punk rock interpretation. This timeless story of love and magic is given leather jackets, fluorescent hair, and three chords and plunged into the crazy world of the New York punk scene.

Ian’s Take: Shakespeare: Rebel. Rabblerouser. Reprobrate. Punk. At least, that’s the approach taken by Beat on the Bard Theatre Company in their inaugural production, which moves the woodland fairy mischief of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the mean streets of 1970s New York. The basics remain the same as you remember them from Mrs. Kirby’s 10th grade English class: four rich youngsters trying to figure out who loves whom; an amateurish theater group preparing a play for a society wedding; and a group of fairies throwing a wrench into it all with some spell-casting gone wrong. Only now there are a lot of skinny jeans and suspenders worn draped around the hips, and that theater group, known as the Mechanicals, is now a punk band.

The production cuts the show down to an economical 75 minutes, and the edit favors what Beat on the Bard knows is its greatest strength: the actor playing Nick Bottom, the enthusiastic frontman of the Mechanicals. (I’ll apologize here for not identifying anyone in the production by name; there didn’t appear to be any programs at the show, and neither the show page nor the company’s Facebook page identifies the players. Ah, Fringe!) Bottom is unquestionably the star of this Midsummer, and the actor playing him, sporting a faux-hawk and speaking his iambic pentameter with a Sid Vicious Cockney sneer, has a mastery of the material that steals the show. Granted, that’s not always a high bar, as a few of the actors aren’t acting so much as reciting lines by rote. Luckily, they’re in less important parts, and the primary players are less wooden.

More of a problem than leaden line readings is a clumsily employed device that finds the Mechanicals, when not actually part of the play, serving as the show’s backing band. It’s a nice idea, except when the soundtrack is so loud it drowns out the dialogue.

But the punk translation has enough clever touches to compensate for inaudible lines. The magical love potion that the fairy Puck administers, first to the fairy king’s wife and then to the mortals Lysander and Demetrius, now appears to be pharmaceutical-based, a nod to the pill-popping ’70s setting. When Bottom is transformed into a jackass by Puck, rather than giving him a donkey’s head to wear, Puck sprays neon pink aeresol dye into Bottom’s hair and affixes a matching tail to his jeans. And the “play”, which becomes more of a punk rock opera, takes the unrehearsed amateurism that Shakespeare wrote into its performance, transforming it into the sloppy, anything-goes aesthetic of a Lower East Side punk act.

The cast makes enough racket that Robin Goodfellow’s parting words, suggesting that we might have been “slumbering” through the show and dreaming it all up on our own, seem fairly unlikely. But this gentle went unoffended, so pardoning the Never Mind the Bollocks‘ sometimes ragged presentation doesn’t even require pretending that it was but a dream.

See it if: You’ve always had crazy dreams wherein the trinity of Johnnys—Ramone, Rotten, and Thunders—played the Three (Not So) Gentlemen of Verona.

Skip it if: WHY DO THOSE DAMN KIDS HAVE TO PLAY THAT ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC SO LOUD AND PLEASE GET OFF MY LAWN NOW!