“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has the makings of a fairy tale: a forest full of meddling fairies, magic potions that spark romantic fancies, a series of comedic errors and a happy ending. And yet, in the hands of Romanian theater director Silviu Purcarete, working off a radically reimagined script by playwright Hideki Noda, William Shakespeare’s comedy about disorder and hearts led astray takes on an altogether more disquieting tone.
It should be no surprise, though, as Purcarete is a veteran director who has been wowing audiences around the world for almost 40 years with his fantastical and often macabre stagings of classics. Those include Greek tragedies, works by Shakespeare, and a particularly inventive take on Goethe’s “Faust” with Romania's Radu Stanca National Theatre in 2007. He has also directed several productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” including a renowned large-scale version with Russian actors at the 20th Gdansk Shakespeare Festival in Poland in 2016.
“It is very exciting because it's a completely new way of seeing things,” Purcarete, 70, says of Noda’s work, which is set in modern Japan. “The plot starts like Shakespeare’s, but it develops differently. I could say it’s a completely new play, but it has some quotes from the original. However, Noda’s text is full of wordplay and very Japanese references — and obscenities that are specifically Japanese — and I can’t deal with all that at all.”