Tomorrow is June 21, the Summer Solstice, backdrop for Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where mortals and supernatural creatures become entangled in romance and the centaur is reborn in Nick Bottom.
Among the play’s flesh-and-blood crowd, Duke Theseus is preparing for his wedding to Hippolyta, while having to counsel Egeus who has promised the hand of his daughter Hermia to Demetrius. Hermia, however, wants to elope with her true love, Lysander, while her best friend Helena is mad about Demetrius.
Meanwhile, Nick Bottom and fellow amateurs begin rehearsing a play that is to be part of the wedding festival. The rehearsal takes place in a nearby woods, also the place where†the young lovers plan to meet. Fairies become involved in the misadventures, when Puck serves up love potions that mix and match the already confused lovers.
Puck’s victims include Titania, queen of the fairies, enraptured by Nick Bottom, who Puck has given the head of a donkey. Puck also serves up one of the most famous lines from Shakespeare: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
It’s a great romp. If you haven’t seen it, it was made into a a 1999 movie with Christian Bale, Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer, although the classic and most acclaimed version is the 1935 Academy Award winner directed by Max Reinhardt, with James Cagney as Nick Bottom and a 14-year-old Mickey Rooney as Puck. In 1934, Reinhardt had staged a spectacular live outdoor version of the played in the Hollywood Bowl.
Woody Allen also wrote, directed and starred in his own takeoff of Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,† starring the Puckish Allen, Mia Farrell, Tony Roberts and Jose Ferrer. It’s a favorite of mine.