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