The beauty of Saint Charles Borromeo Church's stained glass windows, white marble floor and Bellville stone could not command the audience's attention more than Theater 2020's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which cripples audiences with laughter and curiosity as it puts a unique spin on one of William Shakespeare's most prominent and performed comedies.
At the start of the performance, actors burst through the front doors and glided down the main aisle of the church, sporting multi-colored circus clothes that costume designer Viviane Galloway modeled from the Japanese Harajuku style.
"I wanted to create the impression that they're actors from a circus troupe," explained producing artistic director Judith Jarosz. "I had to think of the two spaces given to me. Because we're doing the show in a gorgeous Gothic church and a park, I had to come up with a concept for my actors to work with logically. So I had them become a troupe that can discover and work in different spaces."
The unique costumes comprised only a fraction of what made the production such a success. Expanding upon Jarosz's vision, the actors explored the church, using the aisles, altar, and the pulpit as their stage, and interacting with their audience members. Actors frequently broke the "fourth wall" by addressing audience members directly and making eye contact, almost as if they were trying to convince them of their struggles, desires, and needs.
And they could not have been more convincing. Each actor radiated a playful energy that not only erased the confusion often caused by Shakespeare's archaic diction and syntax, but redefined the realm of "comedy" the play embodies. Early modern and Elizabethan comedies were characterized not by their ability to amuse or make an audience laugh, but by their endings. Shakespearean comedies traditionally end in marriage, as opposed to tragedies, which end in death. Nevertheless, actors toyed with the play's slapstick elements and the bemusement the characters experience.
In particular, Hermia's (a punchy and witty Kristen Rose Kelly) reaction to Lysander's "betrayal" of her love was hilarious. Even more, her fight with Helena (played by a powerful Liz Daingerfield) resembled a fight two teenage girls might have engaged in had they been fighting over the same love. While Shakespeare's text certainly invites a reading of these two characters as lovesick teenagers, Daingerfield's and Kelly's interpretations of them were all the more relatable and entertaining.
Overall, there was not an actor who did not garner a laugh from the audience throughout the performance. Lysander's (cleverly portrayed by Zack Krajnyak) revulsion toward Hermia when he is enchanted did not go unnoticed - his facial expressions were comedic, and his reactions hard-hitting.
Unconventionally portrayed by a woman, Puck (an ebullient Elise Reynard) had a distinct levity about her that underscored her thirst for mischief and tomfoolery. "We try to give women a chance in the arts without changing the text," Jarosz elaborated. "There are so many more men in these plays, so our mission is to give women an equal opportunity, which is why we cast a woman as Puck."
The play concluded with the players' rendition of the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe. Arguably the most hysterical scene in the show, actors David Fuller, Allen Hale, Jake Levitt, Kelly Blaze, and Michael C. O'Day could not have made the audience laugh harder when they acted out the players' abysmal attempt at putting on a tragic performance. It was-without question-the perfect end to an outstanding production.
(I hope you did) not miss the opportunity to see this brilliant production of Midsummer Night's Dream. Theater 2020 ... performances on Friday, June 7, Saturday, June 8, and Sunday, June 9 at 7 p.m. in Granite Prospect at Pier One in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. For more information, visit www.theater2020.com or follow its Facebook and/or Twitter pages.
Romeo & Juliet Reviews/blogs!"This evening we had the joy of seeing the fantastic inaugural production of Theater 2020: Visions for a New Millennium, an innovative, swiftly-paced performance of Romeo and Juliet, from the steps of the Granite Prospect of Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1 . . . with New York Harbor, the skyline of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty serving as backdrop."
"It was a memorable show with first-rate acting and wonderful use of puppetry, a thrilling debut for the Brooklyn Heights professional theater company and its producing artistic directors, the married team of Judith Jarosz (choreographer here) and David Fuller (director/fight director for this production)."
- Who Will Kiss The Pig Blogspot
"Theatergoers who want to see a Shakespeare play this summer without burning a hole in their wallet might try Theater 2020's Romeo and Juliet. The production is highly original in its cross-cultural setting and retooling of its protagonists as a Muslim and a Hindu."
"Fuller takes a commanding hold of the play."
'This compact production has real power and verve."
"The fighting scenes (fight direction also by David Fuller) are executed both in the altar area and in the center aisle, a hair's breadth from the audience. The Act 5 sword duel between Romeo and Paris in particular, is quite breath-taking."
"This is the inaugural production of Theater 2020, which touts itself as the first professional theater company in Brooklyn Heights. And based on their first theatrical effort, the company is worth watching."
- Deirdre Donovan, CurtainUp.com
"Clearly the RSC shows are the snob event of the season. But for those who love the Bard and don't want to burn a hole in their wallets, Deirdre Donovan, our intrepid explorer of all things Shakespeare recommends a subway ride to Brooklyn heights to take in Theater 2020's FREE Romeo and Juliet."
- Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp blog annex
Theater 2020, a new Brooklyn Heights-based company, puts a new twist on Shakespeare's enduring love story with a Hindu Romeo and Muslim Juliet in its production of Romeo and Juliet.
- Meredith DeLiso, The Brooklyn Paper
"The inaugural production of this Brooklyn company is an updated Romeo and Juliet with a Hindu Romeo falling for a Muslim Juliet. Free performances in Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo are part of the Bard on Pier 1 program. 'Good theater benefits all theater,' said Judith Jarosz, a producing artistic director (with David Fuller) of Theater 2020."
- Steven McElroy, The New York Times
"Heights' Theater 2020 Gets Boost From Times!
Here's the link to the Podcast Guide: : www.nytheatre.com/podcast.aspx?p=368
"It's spring and a new theatre company is being launched and, of course, nytheatrecast wants to learn more. Listen and find out all about Theater 2020, a very new company made up and founded by theatre professionals you have known for years... Although this is a new company, many of the people they have worked with in the past are part of Theater 2020. Judith tells us about their resident playwright, Lynn Marie Macy, and David speaks of members of their advisory council who have been working with them for many years... You'll learn why they are calling Brooklyn Heights their home base, about their various programs, what will be their first production and more..." (Published on Mar 20, 2011)
Brooklyn Heights People: Theater 2020's Judith Jarosz and David Fullerby Julie Kanfer 22. Mar, 2011
If Judith Jarosz's infectious energy and David Fuller's quiet confidence are any indication of what Theatre 2020: Visions for a New Millennium will be like,
then expect their new theater endeavor to be serious, and seriously entertaining.
"We look at everything like an opportunity," Jarosz, whose personality is as fiery as her mane of red hair, said recently over a cup of coffee at Heights Cafe. "That's the kind of people we are."
They are also - very much - theater people, having worked in the industry, in one way or another, for all of their adult lives. Most recently, Jarosz and Fuller were at Theater 1010 on Manhattan's fancy, far-away Upper East Side. Housed in the Park Avenue Christian Church since 1955, Theater 1010, which was the longest continuously operating Equity theater company in New York City, began to buckle under the weight of the recession.
"The church was rethinking all of its programs, and everything in its building, and how to address the financial situation," Jarosz, who was 1010's producing artistic director for more than a decade, said. "Ultimately, they disbanded the theater. It had just turned 55 years old. The ongoing legacy is gone."
Rather than dwell on the loss, Jarosz and Fuller, who was 1010's executive director and, before that, ran the Jean Cocteau Repertory for six years, immediately founded Theater 2020, which will make its home where they make theirs: Brooklyn Heights.
Previous years Press and Reviews