Coming into Manhattan like a ship at Fleet Week, The Queens Shakespeare Company arrived this week-end with its large troupe to finish up a successful run of its spring A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Moving from Flushing’s Bowne Street Church to the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, and then to the Grand Theatre at The Producers Club on 44th Street, the theatre company, despite an uneven cast, fulfills the comic promises of one of Shakespeare’s greatest entertainments.
Director Jonathan Emerson (who also plays an exuberant to the point of hyperactive Puck) efficiently steers the large ensemble into the small space of the off-off-Broaday theatre in the wild west of Hell’s Kitchen of New York City. In his director’s notes, Mr. Emerson declares his love for the mythologies touched upon by Shakespeare’s fantastical fairy characters contained in the parallel plots of A Midsummer Night’s Dream - the Fairy Queen Titania (Helyn Rain Messenger), her fractious (but sometimes seemingly bored) King, Oberon (Brian Walters), and their entourage. The dynamism of Flogging Molly, the Celtic-American LA Punk Band, anticipates the production, and the rest of the evening attempts to maintain that punk sensibility, most successfully by the clownish Helena (Kathleen Fletcher) in mad pursuit of her undeserving but beloved Demetrius (Bradley LeBoeuf.)
One of two Austinite actors in the production, Ms. Fletcher, whose Helena is not to be confused with fellow Texan, Helyn Rain Messenger (Titania.) What is that slogan from Austin...Keep Austin Weird? The actresses seem to bring a little of that sentiment into their characters. Ms. Fletcher especially brings a level of clowning to Helena that shies just an inch from a Stooge and not the Iggy Pop kind. She wears green Converse and a polka dot jumper, but it’s the physical humor, including climbing in and out of the audience’s laps that define her slapstick. It’s the kind of Shakespeare that we’ve seen lately coming out of the likes of England’s Propeller Company, out-schticking the schtick.
Ms. Messenger is an attractive Titania. You have no doubts as to why Oberon would bore her and her attentions turn elsewhere, but to a ass-headed Bottom? I don’t care how long in the tooth Bottom’s character might get over these centuries of production; Bottom’s transformation is still a sublimely comic moment that will make audiences laugh well into millenniums, if it is done well like it is here with Adam Gallinat as the aspiring thespian, Nick Bottom the Weaver.