The Beer Sheva Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy glows with the seductive charm of summer. Woody Allen’s script has been translated to Hebrew by Yaron Brovinsky and Muli Shulman. Directed by Shahar Segal, this graceful comedy evokes the woes and wonders of love and lust in a romantic Victorian forest setting, with a splendid cast.
Set in the early 1900s, the play brings three couples together: the rather stodgy, self-important Professor Leopold (Amir Krief) and his lovely young fiancée Ariel (Ana Dubrovitsky) who plan to marry at the country home of Leopold’s cousin Adrian (Michal Weinberg) and her inventor husband Andrew (Muli Shulman), Andrew’s frenemy the womanizing doctor Maxwell (Yaron Brovinsky) and his companion of the moment, Dulcy (Inbar Dannon).
Woody Allen has a knack for finding the funny side of human frailty, and this production strikes all the right chords, with people and situations that are at once ridiculous and yet very relatable. Love and sex, love without sex, sex without love, sexual frustration, sexual indulgence (or over-indulgence as the case may be), friendship, jealousy, nostalgia, longing, lust, fantasy, and infidelity are all explored with honesty and yet never descend into vulgarity.
There is a playfulness and delicate touch to the production, that allows the characters to become more than mere caricatures. Amidst the zany comedy there are small, significant moments, looks, and gestures. As everyone stands in the garden, mesmerized by the flight of a black butterfly, Andrew gently reaches out just one finger to stroke Ariel’s hand. At the extreme perhaps is the exuberantly sexual nurse Dulcy, always ready to embrace any and every new experience. A broader approach to this role, aiming perhaps for easy laughs, would instantly make a mockery of Dulcy, who, aside from her physical attributes and aptitude, is neither worldly nor wise. Dannon’s intonation and body language is sensitively nuanced, imbuing her character with an appealing innocence. She is untouched by the hypocrisy of social norms. One laughs at her utter lack of understanding, as well as her blunt over-shares – “A hammock! I lost my virginity in a hammock!” – she’s clearly the fool in this play, yet she is also the disarmingly honest child who can see that the emperor has no clothes.
All the others, however, are happily entangled in their respective neuroses, which unfold and tangle together in the forest glade.
It’s a beautiful production, in which music plays a central role, setting mood and tone, contributing a complex texture to the comedy without weighing it down. Neta Haker’s costumes in variations on white and light pastels conjure an atmosphere of calm, old-world elegance, in which the passions occasionally rise to the surface, in red (Ariel) and black (Dulcy’s sexy bathing suit). The set is not only lovely, but wonderfully efficient – a façade that recalls lacy Victorian ironwork creates the illusion of the home’s interior with windows, doors, and shadow work, as well as transforming into a badminton court, forest setting and providing the illusion of flight with Yoav Cohen’s video art. Sumptuous!
Written by Woody Allen; Translated by Yaron Brovinsky and Muli Shulman; Directed by Shahar Segal; Set and Costume Desgin: Neta Haker; Lighting: Felice Ross; Music: Dori Parnes; Video: Yoav Cohen; Cast: Yaron Brovinsky (Maxwell), Ana Dubrovitsky (Ariel), Inbar Dannon (Dulcy), Michal Weinberg (Adrian), Amir Krief (Leopold), Muli Shulman (Andrew).