Review Roundup: Julie Taymor's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Theatre for a New Audience's inaugural production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by multiple Tony Award-winner Julie Taymor with original music composed by Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning Elliot Goldenthal, opens tonight, November 2, at the Theatre's newly-named building, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare features a cast of 36 led by Tina Benko as Titania, Max Casella as Bottom, David Harewood as Oberon and Kathryn Hunter as Puck.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Brantley, New York Times: This "Midsummer Night's Dream" inaugurates the Polonsky, the sleek, new headquarters (and first proper home) for the Theater for a New Audience. And this production is a happy consummation for a company that, under its founding artistic director Jeffrey Horowitz, has devoted more than three decades to conjuring epic landscapes in small spaces.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: Many of the tricks here will be familiar to those who have followed Taymor's career - the billowing fabric, the masks, the shadow play and mime, the influences of Balinese and Japanese theater traditions. The director's rapport with actors has never been at the forefront of her work. Text and performance take a backseat to visuals, becoming less central to the experience than in the average Shakespeare production. But what stunningly descriptive visuals they are, weaving the story in bold, vivid strokes set to a sinuous score by Taymor's partner and longtime collaborator Elliot Goldenthal.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: "Dream" opens promisingly, with the audience encircling a simple square stage with a bed in the center. Robin Goodfellow, the sprite known as Puck and played by the astonishing actor/contortionist Kathryn Hunter, takes to that bed, which rises in a billow of white to the rafters before magically disappearing. The notion of the play as indeed a dream has seldom been so strikingly realized.

Jesse Green, Vulture: But the production's thrilling Puck most fully embodies Taymor's spirit and best practice. Though played by a woman in her mid-fifties - the avant-garde darling Kathryn Hunter - this Puck is genderless and ageless. She's also about the size of a footstool, with lobster-colored hair, a whiteface mask, and operable limbs like a Hasbro Transformer. Hunter gives a brilliant physical performance, part yoga, part cartoon; and though it is more presentational than emotional, as may befit a fairy, it is somehow fully satisfying. I can only assume this is possible because there is, behind the sequence of perfectly calibrated poses, a person fully equipped with human feeling. And this suffices.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: The show's only misstep is the forced antics of the charmless, clumsily acted love quartet. Their pillow fight is the only part of the nearly three-hour show that feels interminable. It's a forgivable glitch in this fabulous evening.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: There is, indeed, aerial action in Julie Taymor's spectacular vision of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," but not in the muscular style of her cursed efforts to get "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark" off the ground. The flying feats in this otherworldly fantasy are magical flights, conceived with wit and imagination and executed with technical toys that must have cost a fortune. This is a high-concept show, beautifully designed and erected on the scaffolding of a conviction that Shakespeare's play is all a dream - that all of life, in fact, is a dream.

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: In the end, there is no mistaking that the star of this production is Taymor herself. And there's a magnificent muchness of her approach to the Bard's most durable of comedies, as she tosses in everything from pillow fights to a grass-upholstered reclining chair to achieve her vision. But remarkably, this Midsummer never tips over into a too-muchness - there is a veneer of restraint at work here, as if she remains heedful of the admonition of the Demetrius-pining Helena: ''Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.'' A-

David Finkle, Huffington Post: By the way, since this Midsummer Night's Dream is a Julie Taymor production, cynical ticket buyers may wonder if any of the actors were injured during the performance I attended. The answer is a blessed no. On the other hand, it's confirmed that someone in the audience was hit by a small piece of falling scenery. Uh-oh, a midsummer night's dread.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Julie Taymor is the real thing. Perhaps that needs to be said again. After years of "Spider-Man" ugliness that smudged the legacy of this visionary director-designer, Taymor answers back with a deliriously beautiful, deeply magical staging of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that's as human as it is wildly inventive. And yes, oh my, people fly.

Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: Being a Taymor show, it's no ordinary mask. Casella makes the mouth move with wires to match his lines. It makes for an amusing moment in a fitful "Night."

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