The Bard and the Boogie

Article excerpt

Shakespeare meets disco as a New York City theater troupe turns A Midsummer Night's Dream into a nightly party called The Donkey Show

With a new Donna Summer CD on the charts, That '70s Show picking up an Emmy, and Saturday Night Fever landing its multimillion-dollar platform shoes on Broadway in September, the endless disco revival is clearly stayin' alive. Indeed, to relive the heyday of Studio 54, one need only step into the glitter-ball confines of New York City's Club El Flamingo, where a lively new theatrical experience called The Donkey Show has set the tres gay Chelsea neighborhood a-boogying back in time.

"There's something about this music that inspires joy and memories," says the show's 23-year-old producer, Jordan Roth, who wasn't yet born when "Ring My Bell" and "You Sexy Thing" were putting the bump into the world's hustle. However, he says, "I think from my generation there's this fascination with disco and with that era. We sort of missed something."

The brainchild of codirectors Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, The Donkey Show takes the story line of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream out of the Athenian forest and into a '70s nightclub. In place of the Bard's text, the lovers now lip-synch their journeys to a seamless collage of disco hits--from "Car Wash" to "Don't Leave Me This Way"--while audience members intermingle with the production's 12 cast members on the dance floor. Climaxing with the titular bacchanal, in which two Brooklynite "Vinnies" are transformed into a donkey, complete with gender-bending drag kings, a tutu-twirling Rollerina, and a peacock-feathered Tytania catapulted onto the shoulders of four buffed Speedo-clad "fairies," the presentation is an intoxicating mix of classical forms and modern imaginations.

"I knew something was really happening here," Roth recalls of his discovery of The Donkey Show last year in a wee Lower East Side performance space. …