If you have to ask why people would call their disco production of Shakespeare The Donkey Show you've led a sadly innocent and uncultured life. But if you catch the show now playing at the Arsht Center you'll soon get educated as A Midsummer Night’s Dream is roller-discoed into a whirl of pounding Village People, Bee Gees, Donna Summer, crystal balls, flashing lights, platform shoes and barely clad dancers writhing to every disco song extant.
M. John Richard, President and CEO of the Arsht Center explains it best in the program: “The Arsht Center has brought to the Ziff Ballet Opera House the fabulous and wholly original Donkey Show, a brilliant setting of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, magically transplanted to a glittering 70s disco.” Almost right on, Mr. Richard. The Donkey Show is mostly all of that, but if you listen carefully, despite several hundred people butchering “YMCA” right in front of you, you can hear the ululations of a thousand Shakespearian scholars as they slowly rise from the dead. Or so it seemed to me, ear plugged and glassy eyed amongst the disco madness resurrected at the Arsht.
See Shira Abergel as Mr Oberon, white suited, white haired, white mustachioed disco owner and Stephanie Chisholm as the pasty endowed, high flying, semi nude Tytania, Oberon's disco diva girl friend. See Dr Wheelgood, Puck on roller skates, played by Luis Cuevas. See an androgynous cast, not only doubling but also halving, as Carolina Pozo and Leah Verier-Dunn each play part of a donkey; not listed as Bottom but rather as a 'rude mechanical'. Rude becomes all too evident when the disco unveils its “adult scene” and the innocents finally discover what a Donkey Show really is.
There are two ways to take part in this disco performance: sit and survey at a VIP table on the raised platforms surrounding the huge dance floor or pay a little less and stand on the floor amongst the cast. There's a long bar down there and table service up on the platforms and that's all good as patrons and the twenty one actors and actresses dance and holler together throughout the evening.
Harry Wayne Casey of KC and the Sunshine Band MC'd from the raised platform holding the DJ.
As to the goings on of the Midsummer Night's portion, well, frankly, my dear, I haven't a clue. But that doesn't matter. It was a spectacle. Actors and dancers flew from the rafters, special effects ruled, scenes were played high on scaffolding and down in the pits, and everyone, it seemed, had a good time.
If you want to see theatre in its broadest sense, catch The Donkey Show. It's rude, crude, noisy and as glitteringly flamboyant as only a disco Shakespeare could be. Well, sort of.
The Donkey Show runs through August 12 at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne
Blvd. Miami. 305-949-6722 http://www.arshtcenter.org
Photos by Justin Namon