Photo by Neal J. Freeman
They did the mash: “The Nightmare Dream” deftly fuses horror and farce.
‘Nightmare Dream’ is a bloody good romp
BY MAEVE GATELY | Equal parts literary fusion and dramatized gothic hilarity, “The Nightmare ‘Dream’ ” presents a darkly comedic take on both “Dracula” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Making good on its vow to deliver a “puckishly ‘biting’ woodland mashup where no ruffled neck is safe,” the Bloody Shakespeare Company has crafted a clever, fast-paced hybrid whose dialogue is composed entirely of lines from the two original texts — so that Shakespeare aficionados and vampire fans alike will find themselves mouthing the words to certain familiar scenes, only to be derailed at the next line. It’s an experience that proves both satisfying and slightly off-putting.
In a plotline that draws heavily from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” four lovers find themselves in a darkened wood on the eve of St. George’s Day (a time when, according to Stoker, “all evil things in the world have full sway”).
When Titania and Oberon, the fairy king and queen who have been transformed into dark rulers of the vampire underworld, begin to vie for the alliance of the mortals, what begins as a love story devolves into an orgy of hissing and biting necks.
Meanwhile, Renfield, the asylum patient from “Dracula” who has a dark obsession with immortality and a penchant for devouring insects and rodents, jaunts across the stage in leaps and bounds, quoting lines from Shakespeare’s Puck as the two doctors studying his condition shout out hilariously overblown diagnoses accompanied by thunderclap sound effects. The characters stare out into the audience at exactly the right moments, self-referential and lightly aware of their own ridicule, so that every dramatic moment becomes a point of raucous laughter for the onlookers.
Above all, the production is light and amusing, rife with literary allusions and playful asides that keep the audience from attempting to take its premise too seriously. By the last scene, neither plot from the two source texts remains, and the audience is left amused and slightly confused as the lights snap on to Oberon’s tacit recital of Puck’s closing monologue.
Profound, the play is not. But it certainly makes the best of a quirky and unorthodox pairing.
And with a total runtime that clocks in at under an hour, you can get your dose of Elizabethan neck biting, then head to the next Fringe play!
At The Theater at the 14th Street Y (344 E. 14th St., btw. First & Second Aves.). Thurs., 8/15 at 9:30pm, Fri., 8/16 at 3:45pm & Sun., 8/18 at 4:15pm. Tickets: $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Call 866-468-7619 or visit fringenyc.org.