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A Midsummer Night's Dream (Public Theater)

Members say: Entertaining, Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Funny

About the show

The Delacorte transforms into an enchanted forest for the Bard's rom-com starring Tony winners Phylicia Rashad and Annaleigh Ashford, and nominee Danny Burstein. Part of the Public's free Shakespeare in the Park season.

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When the merry sprite Puck (Tony nominee Kristine Nielsen) meddles with a magical love potion, young lovers lost in the woods mysteriously find themselves infatuated with the wrong person in this hilarious, fairy-tale fantasia. Lear deBessonet brings her electric theatrical vision to the classic romance about the supernatural nature of love.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


"This resolutely upbeat Shakespeare in the Park production is so broad, you could drive an 18-wheeler through it...The performances are as bright and over-the-top as Clint Ramos’ costumes...After a while, Ashford’s efforts only bring diminishing returns...Nielsen looks uncomfortable with the language and over-relies on her usual bag of tricks...As diverse as this 'Midsummer' looks and sounds, it is uniform in tone, reducing the play to a one-note romp." Full Review


"The most fascinating, heartfelt, thoroughly entertaining attraction playing in New York this summer...The Public Theater and director deBessonet emphasize magic and mirth in this vibrant production...Adding to the enjoyment of an already great play are uniformly excellent performances from the cast...The physical comedy is cranked up to a ten...Two-and-a-half hours melt away like a particularly pleasant dream, one from which you feel slightly sad to wake." Full Review


“Who’d have thought that the Rude Mechanicals would rescue a floundering production…Whatever overall concept deBessonet had in mind for this production is lost in a muddle of performance styles…The antics of the lovers are all at odds...While the acting tends to sitcom style, none of it comes from the same sitcom…Unlike those self-conscious young lovers, the Rude Mechanicals never play to the audience or force a laugh." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Huggable and kind-natured...Annaleigh Ashford, as Helena, offers a divinely funny portrait of romantic desperation—she works offbeat wonders on every line—and Shalita Grant’s Hermia slides memorably from pertness to fury...Clint Ramos’s fanciful costumes and Justin Levine’s brassy-funky ’70s-flavored score add to the swirl of pleasure. DeBessonet's production welcomes the spirits of community theater and theater community. You leave with a lovestruck smile." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"A delightfully frothy theatrical palate cleanser...Delivers loads of antic fun, even if there are times when the kitchen-sink approach borders on overkill...Shakespeare's convoluted story rendered here with uncommon clarity. But while the performers prove highly adept with the poetical language, the action is as much physical as verbal...While not all of the performances are effective, the standouts in the ensemble provide ample compensation." Full Review

The New York Times

"Ms. deBessonet has brought to the play the high spirits and communitarian pageantry that made her previous park embraceable....Unusually well cast, her production is full of sharply etched if sometimes unsubtle comic performances...What the production lacks in depth and subtlety it makes up for in clarity and swiftness...For all that, I missed the moments when, in some productions, Helena’s desperation lands a punch in the gut." Full Review

What Should We Do?

“A jazzy, sweet, altogether delightful staging of William Shakespeare’s 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream.' With storybook visuals, smart directorial touches, and a frisky, diverse ensemble, this ‘Dream’ is the sort of wonder-struck, bighearted spectacle Shakespeare in the Park was created for...DeBessonet has a terrific group of actors at her disposal…DeBessonet does a marvelous job conjuring and maintaining a sense of wonder and enchantment.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"DeBessonet has all sorts of interesting ideas...I'd be lying if I said that all of this comes together in some intellectually coherent way--the production often feels blown this way, then that, willing to pursue all sorts of notions without a clear sense of how to put them together. And yet, what shouldn't work somehow does: this is a 'Midsummer' that, for all its laughter, is oddly, persuasively, wistful...I'm willing to bet that you'll feel thoroughly satisfied." Full Review

Theater Life

“An unexpectedly fresh production…In addition to this novel interpretation, deBessonet provides dazzlingly funny direction as the multiple plots play out on David Rockwell’s revolving pastoral set, perfectly suited to the park’s natural milieu. Add some spicy battle-of-the-sexes chemistry between Bhavesh Patel’s pompous Theseus and De’Adre Aziza’s sexy Hippolyta and you have the perfect 'Dream' for a midsummer night.” Full Review

New York Theater

"Burstein...more or less upstages everybody else...Ashford’s performance as Helena upstages the rest of the quartet of lovers...Maybe it would be more polite, perhaps even more accurate, to say these performers stand out, rather than that they upstage...All this talk of upstaging may give the wrong impression. 'Midsummer' in Central Park offers the kind of fun and free summer evening’s entertainment that the Public has been providing at the Delacorte for 56 summers." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Under Lear deBessonet’s superb direction, the mood is kept light and hilarity reigns. Modern expressions and deliveries heighten the entertainment, as does the physical comedy, especially from Ashford...The cast is uniformly excellent; Jeff Hiller mines the comic elements of Thisbe to great effect...The Public’s 'Midsummer' is crackling with humor. Credit first-rate acting and electric staging for a glorious night under the stars." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“While Lear deBessonet's colorful version may not fully capture the play's romantic lyricism or its magical allure, it largely makes up for those drawbacks in its infectious exuberance and joie de vivre…deBessonet stresses the play's comedic values over its poetic ones, but the payoff is inconsistent…too much of the humor is forced rather than organic…Clint Ramos's costumes run the gamut from the ordinary to the extraordinary…deBessonet elicits a clear story line and well-spoken language.” Full Review

AM New York

"A bright and jubilant staging of the perennial romantic comedy...Except for a few distinct touches—older actors playing the fairies, a tree house containing a live band and ad-libs directed to the audience, to name a few—deBessonet’s production is relatively straightforward...This shifts the focus to the terrific performances of Phylicia Rashad, Danny Burstein, Kristine Nielsen, Shalita Grant and Annaleigh Ashford." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

"The best, the most exhilarating free Shakespeare from the Public in a long time...It’s a troupe of equals, although there may be a first among them: Annaleigh Ashford, as the frantically lovelorn Helena...Perhaps second among equals is Danny Burstein...DeBessonet’s numerous jolly good notions are too many to list in their entirety, and why give them all away? But one of the best is casting senior-citizen thespians as Titania’s ubiquitous fairies and setting them free to cavort." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Look for the delightfully adorable Ashford and Burstein to steal every scene and your hearts...For me, this production seemed a little unmagical and disjointed...The costumes look like they were badly sewn, with no color sense or time reference...Davies-Lashley provides lovely vocals, but they come out of nowhere...Also dances happen for no rhyme or reason. Just to watch Ashford and Burstein strut their stuff, it’s worth seeing this production." Full Review

New York Daily News

"A high-spirited hodgepodge that glides along with just a few hiccups and so-so performances. At 2 3/4 hours, the show comes close to overstaying its welcome. But sustained laughter and amusement compensate...Ashford oozes hilarity from start to finish as the besotted Helena...Two more standouts are Danny Burstein, who serves up thick slices of ham as Nick Bottom...And Jeff Hiller, an ace comic actor makes a big impression in the small role of the artisan-actor Flute." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"As directed by Lear deBessonet, the production showcases a proclivity for slapstick humor, which mostly works in a funny charming manner. It has an identity problem, though, that doesn’t quite know what kind of show this lot is putting on...Lots of choices of casting and style are questionable, although brave for the most part, with some of the ideas working. And others don’t quite hit the sweet spot." Full Review


“Unseen for a decade at The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park, the new production of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream,’ directed by Lear deBessonet, is lavish to the eye and ear. What it is not is funny, being very low on the laugh quotient. While the actors, including such Tony Award winners as Phylicia Rashad and Annaleigh Ashford and nominees De'Adre Aziza, Danny Burstein, Shalita Grant and Kristine Nielsen try very hard to tickle the funny bone, the results are in vain.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A joyful, crowd-pleasing Mardi Gras of a production...Even if some of the slapstick and mugging can seem a bit much at times, only a genuine curmudgeon or Shakespeare absolutist is likely to be able to resist the spell of this most gleeful of productions...All told, it's hard to imagine a more pleasing antidote to political malaise than this stellar production by the Public, a real treasure of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in an ideal setting." Full Review


"Often hilarious, ultimately touching, and consistently magical production of this beloved work...Like with many Shakespeare in the Park productions, there’s a certain amount of multi-cultural, gender-bending casting, but it rarely distracts here...While there’s not a weak performer in this large ensemble—including the inimitable Kristine Nielsen as a rather unusual Puck—perhaps the real star of the production is costume designer Clint Ramos...A 'Dream' you’ll never want to awaken from." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Any director must helm all this with a clear point of view, however, or chaos ensues. Unfortunately, deBessonet apparently has none. The four factions bump against each other without cohesion...There are two unfathomable casting errors. The first is Nielsen as a leaden Robin Goodfellow...The second, nightshirt-wearing fairies ranging from 65-85 years old...Ashford is hit or miss as Helena...The usually fine Danny Burstein doesn’t seem to be having enough fun with the role." Full Review

Front Row Center

“This production hit the target and far exceeded my expectations. This show pulls us out of our respective realities for a few hours and sends us away a bit lighter because we have laughed so freely – perhaps for the first time in a long while...This is what is so pleasing about this production: Every single person seems to be having a really good time. We can’t help but feel that tingle in the fronts of our faces as these actors drink each other in and we follow them on a trippy ride.” Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“Perfectly enjoyable…The staging and acting are broad, which works fine for the comedy that lends itself to such a romp, especially in an outdoor setting…Ashford gives a striking performance, cutting up in broad fashion in showing off her unique talent. She is often hilarious. Another standout is the ever-reliable Burstein as weaver Nick Bottom…Whether playing parts large or small in the huge ensemble, the collection of cast members makes for a vital company that delivers convincingly.” Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

“Ashford brings goofy charm and a natural flair for physical comedy…Rashad offers a more languorous, though no less assured, portrayal of Titania…Burstein invests his role with unflagging pantomime energy. The rest of ‘the Mechanicals’ form a solid comic unit…Other performers often seem to be going through the motions…The songs seem gratuitous…DeBessonet nonetheless succeeds throughout in marshaling her sizable ensemble and creating an infectious air of merriment." Full Review


"This 'Dream' is just classic Delacorte eye candy. DeBessonet has assembled an enviable cast for a lush production of the multi-pronged Shakespeare comedy set in an enchanted forest...Nielsen’s fans will delight in her comically twitchy presence...The final wedding scene is a rousing affair with the Mechanicals performing to the Duke’s delight, and a string of festive bulbs raised behind the stage." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Great acting, Masterful

See it if You like Shakespeare. The Public hit a home run with this one.

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare. This production is faithful to the original.

Funny, Delightful, Enchanting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if A light-hearted tribute that greatly takes advantage of its outdoor Central Park setting. Full of humorous dramatic twists

Don't see it if Expect long monologues and confrontations Shakespeare style. Rather mundane costume.

Also Won lottery for Central Park performance - an absolute delight

Funny, Delightful, Must see, Romantic

See it if you enjoy boisterous and obscene renditions of super fun classic plays

Don't see it if you don't like to laugh

Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if you wanted to see a lovely version where you don't need to "study" ahead of time. It may be a little wacky for some but still...

Don't see it if you like your Shakespeare a little more traditional.

Funny, Absorbing, Enchanting, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy modern day Shakespearean plays. Funny with great acting and stage design. Also enjoyed that it was in Central Park.

Don't see it if you only enjoy large productions

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you want to see a little magic in Central Park; you want to laugh at an amazing cast lead by all-stars Annaleigh Ashford and Danny Burstein

Don't see it if you don't enjoy any cuts in your Shakespeare; you are only a fan of the tragedies

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if you are a fan of Midsummer Nights dream and want to enjoy a pleasant evening of theater

Don't see it if there really is no reason not to see it

Also The Public's Midsummer was an incredibly magical staged version of thi... Read more Read less

Delightful, Banal, Confusing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you want to see Ashford and Burstein give incredible performances; Fresh, wacky, and full of heart. The music was a wonderful addition.

Don't see it if you want to understand the concept, or the meaning of the language. Not enough attention was paid to conveying the message to the audience.

Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You have or have not seen Shakespeare in the Park. Go!

Don't see it if There's no reason not to see this. Well, it's over now, but go see Shakespeare in the Park next year, no matter what

Delightful, Enchanting, Confusing, Hilarious, Great staging

See it if you want to have a fun, magical, and romantic evening activity. This production is perfect for this summer - breezy and delightful.

Don't see it if you are expecting an evenly good cast, some characters stood out when some were confusing and forgetful.

Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Riveting, Great staging

See it if You want to see the best of The Bard, put on by the best of NY Theater, performed by outstanding actors, in beautiful Central Park.

Don't see it if You think you don't like Shakespeare, but that's only because you haven't seen it performed live, and well! go see any Shakespeare you can!

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Masterful, Hilarious

See it if Simply Joyous; Superb cast of veterans and newcomers

Don't see it if already closed - hopefully the Public has a videotape that can be viewed

Funny, Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Magical set

See it if Magical production with good casting. Terrific ashford was on point with every move. Very fun evening. The singer was great and added verve

Don't see it if You need Shakespeare to be just traditional. The sets were magical and the language very easy to follow though

Funny, Delightful, Refreshing

See it if After the terrible JULIUS CAESAR, this was a delight. Annaleigh Ashford stole the show.

Don't see it if It's still Shakespeare. It's still long. The seats at the Delacorte are still very uncomfortable.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Romantic, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy fun and entertaining productions of Shakespeare's comedies

Don't see it if You don't like modern twists on classics

Hilarious, Jazzy, Gorgeous, Diverse

See it if you enjoy updated Shakespeare in a lovely setting with a stellar cast and a jazzy bent.

Don't see it if you are a Shakespeare purist and you have a problem with fun song and dance breaks

Also I loved the juxtaposition of the "seasoned" fairies vamping on and off... Read more Read less

Great acting, Must see, Refreshing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if An amazing experience with a stellar cast, wonderful staging, rich costumes and sets. I loved everything about it. It was cool out as well!

Don't see it if You don't like the bard ...

Great staging, Annaleigh ashford is great, The mechanicals are disappointing, except jeff heller as flute, Closes sunday, Could use tightening (edits)

See it if You love Annaleigh Ashford & Danny Burstein and can make it there by tomorrow. You like NOLA zydeco music.

Don't see it if You aren't crazy about indulgent directors who don't understand pace and insist on using amateur community "talent".

Funny, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great cast of new york actors!!!!!!

See it if you are in the mood to have your spirits lifted and your funny bone tickled!!!

Don't see it if you don't enjoy the taking of a classic story and modernizing it with a new perspective.

Funny, Delightful, Worthwhile riff on an old favorite

See it if you love the written play and appreciate it when a director draws out typically overlooked aspects of Shakespearean comedies

Don't see it if you expect a period piece or are indifferent to Shakespeare/his comedies—this play's good but probably not worth the line to non-WS fans

Also worth the wait in line if you have enjoyed performances of A Midsummer... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if Love Shakespeare.

Don't see it if Don't like Shakespeare, outdoor theatre in nyc in summer.

Funny, Enchanting, Great acting, Romantic, Entertaining

See it if This was one of the better SitP of recent years, completely entertaining throughout. Annaleigh Ashford is a hilarious scene stealer.

Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare plays or want to see a musical (the director added a little music however).

Wonderfully entertaining mndream that nails the comedy but misses some of the magic

See it if director brilliantly brings out MND's comedic side by setting up as inspired sitcom, casting musical comedy stars A. Ashford & D. Burstein

Don't see it if missing magic inherent in MND in fairyland, miscasts Nielsen as Puck, misconceives fairies as alta cockers

Also This is a good, entertaining MND but not a great one. A great one brin... Read more Read less

Funny, Delightful, Enchanting, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if Love Shakespeare. This was a hilariously ditzy take on an old favorite with wonderful music and originality.

Don't see it if you hate being outdoors.

Funny, Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Fluffy

See it if You really want the perfect Shakespeare in the Park experience. This production was born for the park & the performances are wonderful.

Don't see it if You simply aren't interested in Shakespeare or romantic comedies, or if you have bad allergies.

Cast & Creatives (35)