‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Space,’ directed by Ariel Bronz and Idit Herman. Tel Aviv, January 24.
By ORA BRAFMAN
Visual Theater Clipa, established in 1995, built its reputation on performances within the gray zone overlapping theater, dance and physical theater, an area that defies conclusive definition. Many a time, it served the Clipa company well, since the unique, original creations resided in a niche of their own. Considering that they played in small alternative venues under physical and budget constraints, one half-expected the productions to get away with unpolished finish yet with creative imagination focused on content and visual values.A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Space is a product of Ariel Bronz, who joined artistic director Idit Herman. A priori, their joint venture promised to be colorful, risqué, somewhat trashy, bold and rude, judging by a few earlier encounters. The folder of the show states that it is “a shameless rendition of Shakespeare’s classic.” And, indeed, it was all that.Bronz, an intelligent, provocative artist, adapted the original Shakespearean play (1595/56), resized it and added his own text. He discarded most of the original plot and concentrated on reworking the play within play of the mechanicals, a group of six amateur nomad entertainers who put on a play for the guests at the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta.On the surface, this comedy promotes innocent pleasures in a tempting setting; a royal wedding, privileged guests, a lovely summertime, a perfect site for flirting, for falling in love, a perfect ambiance for playing in the woods, where the fairies play, too.There are several concurrent stories. Some mix the surreal with reality; some are more far-fetched and may be perceived as a dream or hallucination. Between the original lines, you can detect slight innuendos of zoophilic erotica, attempted rape, ambiguous sexual experiences, which one can attribute to the merry spirit of a rural carnival.Bronz didn’t miss any chance to incorporate those elements and many more while the group of six mechanicals were getting ready to be sent to space. They act out their weaknesses in an exaggerated, loud, crude manner, so much so that some text was covered by screams, yells and blurred pronunciation. Pale hints at current politics – e.g., a Peace Now T-shirt – were mere lip service, and punch lines didn’t tickle much. So many props were used for erotic and visual provocativeness that the horrific group’s explicit experiments with a sex doll became revolting.Putting aside the exaggerated effort to challenge puritans and bigots, Herman and Bronz did provide a rich show with an ingeniously crafted stage, by designing a multifunctional set by simple means. One of the brilliant examples was the takeoff scene from an onstage dressmaking room into space, as well as imaginative costume designs, including two full nude color elastic outfits with wigs with detailed breasts and sculptured vaginas which were well used. Simulated male organs obviously got their share, too.AdvertisementWith all that potential talent and true enthusiasm, the piece needs serious tightening. Some scenes didn’t pick up energy, and too often participants’ roles were underdeveloped, and were left to chance.Applause goes to singer Reut Rivka, who spiced this space odyssey in unexpected ways.