You would think with all the artistic types hanging around bars and cafes in Williamsburg and Park Slope that there wouldn’t be such a dearth of good, indie theater in Brooklyn (or its watering holes). But there is, and that is why it is such a breath of fresh air to catch Truffle Theatre Co.–a product of Cobble Hill–and their production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 61 Local. This version, deftly directed by Claire Gresham, leaves the audience slightly tipsy from the laughter and perhaps from the beer at the bar downstairs.
Evan Prizant and Mary Ellen Stebbins designed the show with a nod to 61 Local, expertly mixing the elements of the bar that hosts the company. The audience is transported at the beginning of the show up some stairs into an exposed brick room that has been transformed into a performance space with ethereal lighting and costuming.
And while the lighting sometimes steals the show it is the unabashed hipster attitude and aloofness with which the actors present this play that gives it the most weight. The seating is in the round, and often it was hard to choose an actor to watch as they were all alluring. This is clearly a balance guided by the direction of Ms. Gresham who deserves a fair amount of credit for her staging in a very unfriendly environment to actors.
Ferelith Young stuns with her cool sexiness as Titania, then spins around a few moments later to show a frighteningly shy Starveling during the play within a play. The male lovers, Demetrius (Scott Thomas) and Lysander (Andrew Belcher) coordinate their efforts for the love of Hermia (Clare McNulty), then Helena (Lauren Coppola), with a pseudo-schoolboy playfulness filled with petty behavior. The women respond in kind with anger, loathing, love, happiness, and everything in between. Ms. Coppola plays her parts (Moth and Snout included) with an absolutely adorable quality that never treads close to being too saccharine. Ms. McNulty gives the most hipster-ish portrayal of all the actors, perhaps with a nod and a wink that makes us love her even more, especially when she plays Snug as the lion. The funniest moments often belonged to Edward Bauer who played Nick Bottom (and Egeus and Philistrate). Bauer has the ability to manipulate the language in a way that was truly American (and perhaps even a little Williamsburg).
Puck (Sarah Elmaleh) and Oberon (Pete McElligott) pop in and out of the performance to have their fun and the interplay between the two of them is familiar and easy. They both give their roles a creative twist–Mr. McElligott offering a Will Ferell-esque Oberon while Ms. Elmaleh is tomboyish and hopelessly in love with Oberon.
The show within the show aspect of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is worth every moment in Truffle Theatre Co.’s production. Even the most jaded of Brooklynites, the most hipster of hipsters, will enjoy watching actors be actors during a performance that is, above all else, very meta.
William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” presented by Truffle Theatre Co. Directed by Claire Gresham; Starring Edward Bauer, Andrew Belch, Lauren Coppola, Sarah Elmaleh, Pete McElligott, Clare McNulty, Scott Thomas, Ferelith Young. It runs through February 26 at 61 Local Public House; tickets are $15, available here.