‘A Midsummer Nights Dream in Harlem’ Onstage at The Public (Thurs., 2/2/23)

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM IN HARLEM, adapted by Justin Emeka from William Shakespeare’s comedy. Pittsburgh Public Theater. Through February 19 .

Football and basketball aren’t played the way they once were, and neither is Shakespeare. Modern adaptations of his works have added new dimensions, with results ranging from weird to wonderful. The question is how to adapt a play that’s wonderfully weird to begin with. A Midsummer Night’s Dream presents challenges. It’s an over-the-top comedy, but also complex. It’s surreal. It’s full of fairies. Multiple movie versions have fallen short of the 1935 film, which had young Mickey Rooney as Puck and Victor Jory as a spooky, sparkly Oberon. Various live adaptations have pushed the weirdness envelope, as in The Donkey Show: A Midsummer Night’s Disco. But now Pittsburghers can enjoy an updated Dream which enhances and transports Shakespeare’s original. A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Harlem re-creates the acclaimed production that was actually staged in Harlem in midsummer of 2013. The writer/director, Justin Emeka, is now Resident Director at Pittsburgh Public Theater. He has recruited a nationwide cast to conjure the spells that wowed New York audiences and critics ten years ago. 

Emeka’s adaptation is Afro-intensive. It is awash in dance and music—from Harlem Renaissance jazz to African drums, Caribbean rhythms, and urban hip-hop—all used to hypnotically augment the play’s fantasy. The language is mostly as Shakespeare wrote it, with some contemporary twists. And the plot is the Bard’s except for a couple of surprises. See A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Harlem at the Public’s O’Reilly Theater. 8 p.m. 621 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (M.V.) 


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Mike Vargo

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