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PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

A Midsummer Night's Wet Dream Hot

Roseanne Wells
https://www.playshakespeare.com/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/300x300s/72/14/ab/3687_JasonMichaelSnowWood2_1223442432.jpg
Written by Roseanne Wells     October 05, 2008    
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A Midsummer Night's Wet Dream

Photos: Luke Redmond

As part of the annual New York Musical Theatre Festival, Thomas Caruso’s Wood loosely adapts the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and its themes of exploring the forbidden and losing inhibitions, setting music on modern anxieties of differentiating tolerance and acceptance.

The show opens with Herman (Jason Michael Snow), who wakes up in his parents' house located at the edge of an unruly wooded forest in the town of Normal, Anywhere. Herman rises with a morning wood of his own, if you will accept the obvious double-entendre. Since the tolerant but perfectly idyllic town promotes the outdated “hetero-normative” lifestyle, which marginalizes non-heterosexual culture, the woods are a hotbed for covert sexual encounters, usually homosexual in nature. Over breakfast, Herman’s mother, Judy (Cady Huffman), tells of the plans to demolish the woods the very next day, glad that the “tangled mess of nature will be gone.” When she finds that Herman’s talent for cross-stitching has been put to pornographic use, she forbids him from seeing Luke (Ben Thompson), Herman’s romantic interest. Suffocating under his mother’s uncomfortable tolerance of his sexual expression, Herman leaves to meet Luke in the woods, the catalyst for the rest of the equally grasping plot.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there is no human civic law governing the forest, allowing for fairy magic to dictate the fate and sexuality of the humans who stumble into their domain. In Wood, The Cop (Patrick Ryan Sullivan) tries to control the activities among the trees while participating himself, and as guilt-ridden as his sexual partner who just so happens to be Herman’s father, George (Joe Cassidy). For this adaptation, The Cop and George become the third couple in the woods, and as Herman looks for Luke, Diana (Kate Wetherhead), from the color guard, chases after Herman, while the uptight Born Again Christian Chad (Stanley Bahorek) clings to Diana in Helena-like fashion. The Fairies—Twink (Ryan J Ratliff), Get Low (Maurice Murphy), and Bear (Roland Rusinek)—are more a glittery Greek chorus of gay male stereotypes than active meddlers; these humans are left to mess up their own lives.

Paired with Julianne Wick Davis’s memorable Bat Boy-meets-Sondheim-Light music, Dan Collins’s book and lyrics tend to be snappy, accessible, and contemporary. The cabaret-style “Fag Hag Drag,” complete with purple sparkly boa and burning cigarette, is witty and heavy with acknowledged unrequited love. But the constant anal sex and penis size references soon wear thin as the second act limps forward. A tighter, more focused plot could highlight the insightful witticisms without losing the ridiculous fun. The contrived dance numbers detract from the wonderful campiness, making it look shoddy around the edges, but overall the cast presents an entertaining musical. From this ensemble piece, Cady Huffman and Jason Michael Snow, with earnest commitment and strong voices, raise the production to a different reality. As Judy and Herman each struggle with sex, love, and acceptance, they expand beyond Normal, Anywhere, and beyond the delightfully tacky but not typically satisfying musical genre. Too much reality would defeat this production, but there is enough substance in Wood to bring the glitter-wearing and cross-stitching and color-guarding back down to Earth from Fairyland.

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