June 17, 2015

Poor Shakespeare, so often smothered by reverence when all his work wants to do is breathe. And breathe it does, deeply, in the breezy, joyously oxygenated “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Tamilla Woodard for Masterworks Theater Company. Warm-blooded, frolicsome and splendidly cast, this production at the 47th Street Theater leads with its heart. Nimbly played, the lively young lovers seem as if they could live down the street: the defiant Hermia (Sheria Irving), her distressingly inconstant Lysander (Reynaldo Piniella), the spurned Helena (Becca Ballenger), her eventually enamored Demetrius (Emilio Paul Tirado). They swoon, and we feel their rapture. They torment one another, and we pity their pain. When something is funny, which is often, the audience bubbles with belly laughter. The quality of mirth here is not strained, not even close, and thank goodness for that. There is more to praise, but first a note for the purists. Masterworks, a brand-new troupe led by the producer Eric Krebs, aims its work at high school and college students, hoping to introduce them to the classics.