Still Dreaming

Still Dreaming, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, The Screen, 4 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — James M. Keller

Ac­tor-di­rec­tors Noah Brody and Ben Ste­in­feld must be feel­ing pretty good about their the­atri­cal achieve­ments th­ese days. They are two of the three co-artis­tic di­rec­tors of Fi­asco Theatre Com­pany, whose off-Broad­way run of Stephen Sond­heim’s Into the Woods was ex­tended this sea­son to ac­com­mo­date the crowds who had got­ten wind that it was one of the most deeply cre­ative ven­tures to hit the New York stage in a good long while. (It runs through April 12, so if you’re plan­ning to pass through the Big Ap­ple in the next few weeks, you still have a chance to see it.) Now here they are, at the heart of Still Dreaming , a doc­u­men­tary by Hank Roger­son and Ji­lann Spitzmiller that chron­i­cles the ef­forts of Brody and Ste­in­feld to put on a pro­duc­tion of Shake­speare’s A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream with a cast that presents both tal­ent and tri­als.

The ac­tors who com­mit to this grandly in­ten­tioned scheme are res­i­dents of an as­sisted-living fa­cil­ity for se­niors, and a leg­endary one at that: the Lillian Booth Ac­tors Home in Englewood, New Jer­sey. It’s a haven for show­biz types, some of whom en­joyed sig­nif­i­cant thes­pian ca­reers even if they never snagged a spot on the mar­quee. Other res­i­dents are mu­si­cians, pro­duc­tion peo­ple, or spouses who never did any act­ing at all. None are at their peak phys­i­cally, and most of their minds and mem­o­ries are less de­pend­able than once they were.

One might have an­tic­i­pated a feel-good romp in which old­sters tri­umph over in­fir­mi­ties to put on a play, but this doc­u­men­tary is not re­ally that film. In­stead, it is a study of ide­al­ism col­lid­ing with re­al­ity — and, on this bat­tle­ground, tri­umph min­gles with de­feat. A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream grap­ples with illusion: Are th­ese events in the play re­ally hap­pen­ing, or are the char­ac­ters dreaming? It’s a theme that res­onates vi­brantly in this cast. Some of the ac­tors prove more adept than oth­ers at nav­i­gat­ing this ob­sta­cle course of canes, walk­ers, mal­func­tion­ing hear­ing aids, and neu­rons that connect just fine one day and not at all the next. “So quick bright things come to con­fu­sion,” says Lysander, the play’s lead­ing boyfriend. Some of the ac­tors who seem most likely to suc­ceed get derailed early on, while oth­ers dis­cover con­fi­dence they, and we, could not have ex­pected.

Does the troupe suc­ceed in get­ting the play across to an au­di­ence? Maybe to some vague de­gree, as we gather from the snip­pets of the per­for­mance — although even go­ing into it, not all the ac­tors are very clear about how they fit into the plot. Nonethe­less, view­ers will share Brody and Ste­in­feld’s af­fec­tion for th­ese would-be Shake­speare­ans, who are paragons of willpower.

The screen­ings on Fri­day and Satur­day, March 27 and 28, in­clude an in­tro­duc­tion by Roger­son and Spitzmiller and a post-film Q& A ses­sion. Af­ter the screen­ing on Sun­day, March 29, the Shake­speare Guild’s John An­drews joins the film­mak­ers for a panel dis­cus­sion.

A plucky Puck: Char­lotte Fairchild

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