If you were a clubber back in the day, The Donkey Show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts might give you flashbacks. If you never did drugs in your life, you’ll get a feel for what it’s like to party all night. The Donkey Show is a take on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in disco-era Studio 54, and this isn’t your usual stage play. The Ziff Opera House is set up like a nightclub and the show happens in, around, and above the audience.
Actually, the show begins outside before the doors even open. Word has gotten out that this is a dress-up event, and so the audience comes decked out for the disco. As everyone lines up behind the velvet rope, some of the characters make a scene outside. Later, they turn up later in the spotlight.
Once you make it through the back door into the fictional Club Oberon, the show is on. You’d never believe this is the posh Opera House. The space is decorated with a huge disco ball, scaffolding and party lights. There’s even a bar. The audience can buy a drink, dance with one of the go-go “fairies” or stand off to the side and watch everyone else get loose. In the middle of all of this action and distraction, the main characters filter in and the plotline begins to unfold.
The Shakespeare story is obliquely interpreted. The original version is set in the forest, where the characters come under the spell of Puck’s love potion and fall hopelessly in love with the first thing they see. Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander et al get caught in a complicated web of crossed desires. Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, falls for a donkey.
For The Donkey Show, this all happens in Studio 54. Puck, played by Luis Cuevas, is “Dr. Wheelgood.” He is the guy on roller skates who hosts a curtained room at the edge of the stage set. Tytania, performed by Stephanie Chisholm, is his “disco diva girlfriend” with a daring aerial act. For the Miami version of this show, local choreographer Rosie Herrera served as creative consultant. Her touch is evident not only in the largely Miami-based cast (drawn mostly from her company, Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre), but also in the performers’ well-groomed nightclub moves.
When everyone falls under the spell of Puck’s potions, romantic chaos rules. The characters sing along to the classic disco soundtrack as they chase each other around the club declaring their intoxicated passions for each other. Comically obvious drug references, including a giant spoon carried through the audience, tell us what Puck is serving.
If you know the Shakespeare play, you’ll probably find some of the references funny — even absurd. If you don’t, the whole set is such a spectacle that it doesn’t really matter. The performers’ sing-along vocals were nearly inaudible, the staging was chaotic, and the story was fragmented. But we got the idea, and any confusion could be chalked up to sensory overload or the cocktails. For two hours and the price of a ticket, you might feel like you had a wild time.
The Donkey Show runs through Aug. 12 at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Ziff Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; tickets range from $25 to $60, and doors open at 7:30; www.arshtcenter.org.