Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Julie Taymor’s Brilliant “Midsummer Night’s Dream” Premiere Brings Out Helen Mirren, Anne Hathaway, 2 Spider Men


Julie Taymor is so beloved by her past actors that pretty much all of them came last night to the DGA to see her film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I do mean Anne Hathaway, who Taymor just directed at the Public Theater; Helen Mirren, who was her Prospero in “The Tempest”; and not one but two actors who played Spider Man on Broadway– Reeve Carney and Matthew James Thomas. Judd Hirsch, playwright Israel Horovitz, Montego Glover, and ABC’s Deborah Roberts were among those who watched in awe even though they hadn’t worked for Taymor. Famed lyricist Tim Rice, who worked with Taymor on “The Lion King,” stopped by the party afterwards at the Hudson Hotel.

“AMND” will open unusually– on Monday, June 22nd, all around the country. Find it. When Taymor and husband (Oscar winning composer) Elliot Goldenthal staged “AMND” in Brooklyn in 2013, it was a mind blower. The Theater for New Audience– not BAM– built a whole theater for her. Taymor’s production is an ensemble piece produced out of her wildly inventive imagination. There are no stars, per se, but her Puck, played by British actress Kathryn Hunter, is the centerpiece. Her performance is so remarkable that it’s amazing Hunter isn’t a mega star here in the US.

Plenty of the cast was there last night, including Max Casella, who was once Doogie Howser’s pal on TV and also a minor Soprano. He is stunning in this film. So are Tina Benko, David Harewood, Joe Grifasi, and on and on.

Taymor’s costumes, sets, and lighting are, as usual, the most inventive you can see in theater. But what she’s done is shake all these ingredients up and deliver what looks like a 3D film. It was presented in the round, so to speak, in Brooklyn, where action was ceaseless from four corners and above. Somehow, using terrific directors of photography, Taymor has been able to film all of it.

I couldn’t help thinking how she managed to select the right pieces to keep this whirling Dervish of a play moving, moving, moving, all the time, while maintaining consistency. You’re watching the audience watch the play, while at the same time you– us– are in the center of the action. Shakespeare, wherever he is, must be thrilled. “AMND” just glows under Taymor’s attention. And it’s very contemporary. Take teens if they don’t want to see it. This is a landmark event.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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