Volume 93, Issue 2

Friday, May 21, 1999


The Phantom Menace is phucking phantastic

The line up: A first hand account

Galactic technology, talk and toys

Party's place in the music world is their cup of tea

Midsummer's is a mid-size success

Ron Sexsmith gets fresh

Midsummer's is a mid-size success

Gazette file photo

MICHELLE PFEIFFER AND HER HAIRY ASS. Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline star as Titania and Bottom respectively in director Michael Hoffman's latest take on Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream.

By Luke Rundle

Gazette Staff

The combination of big budget cinema with the sometimes difficult prose of William Shakespeare necessitates a certain amount of product re-packaging. The newest interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Michael Hoffman, is Hollywood's latest attempt to bring a credible interpretation of Shakespeare into the mainstream.

Hoffman does a good job pandering to a general audience while still remaining true to the original text. Setting the action in 18th century Italy rather than Greece is one example of this, as he trades the somewhat dry and overused Grecian backdrop for a much sexier and scenic Italian landscape.

This approach also carries over into the cast of characters. While the casts of traditional Shakespearean adaptations have largely boasted unknown character actors, Hoffman opts for the bigger, commercial names of Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Kline, Calista Flockhart and Rupert Everett – an approach which meets with mixed success.

Both Pfeiffer and Flockhart manage to disappoint. Pfeiffer's Titania seems detached and distant through much of the action. She delivers her lines somewhat poorly and distracts more than contributes to the overall product.

Those who suspected Flockhart's performance would reek of the whiny and neurotic nature of her character on television's Ally McBeal are sadly correct. Flockhart's portrayal of the love-stricken Helena epitomizes everything detestable about a Hollywood interpretation – it is poorly acted, annoyingly spoken and sickeningly smug all at the same time.

Conversely, British actor Rupert Everett positively shines. Wonderfully brooding and predatory, Everett's portrayal of Oberon should be a primer for future actors taking on this role.

Even above Everett's solid performance is Kevin Kline's slapstick portrayal of Bottom. Amidst his hilarious pratfalls and contortions, the presence of Bottom's controlling shrew of a wife (played by Heather Elizabeth Parisi), gives Kline a much needed grounding in reality. The final staging of a Romeo and Juliet-esque play by Bottom and his fellow community players is one which can only be truly appreciated upon viewing.

The remainder of the cast performs admirably throughout. Stanley Tucci's portrayal of Puck projects all the whimsical mystery which is usually provided by the metaplay. Hoffman coaxes quite natural and unforced performances out of the supporting cast, leaving very few scenes artificial and plastic.

On the whole, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a quality interpretation deserving of a big Hollywood soundstage and special effects. These factors, which would detract from the final product in clumsier hands, serve to advance the play's many superior performances and make the movie all the more appealing.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999