— Production poster
A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM
If you like your Shakespeare boisterous, if you like athleticism on stage to take precedence over thoughtful delivery of text—with token zombies tossed in for good measure—this rambunctious rendering of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, as directed by Scott Bellis, is just the ticket.
The conceit that Bottom and Puck and Oberon and Hermia have all been transported to Transylvania allows for some charming costume design from Naomi Sider and there’s a dazzling opening number that elevates expectations, so only a party-pooper would suggest that a vampirical theme is expendable whimsy. Nobody can say for certain that Shakespeare himself might not have approved.
The considerable choreography of Tara Cheyenne Friendenberg generates a carnival atmosphere with minimal technology. It’s indicative of this production’s resolve to entertain that the audience rewarded the energetic cast with spontaneous applause once—and that was in response to a fight scene when Lauren Jackson as Hermia proudly exits victorious with the aplomb of a WWF winner.
Casting must be uneven when you are assigning so many roles to a limited pool of players. Invariably at Studio 58, someone who has excelled in a previous production can appear lost in the next play; some inappropriate roles appear as cumbersome as ill-fitting clothes. No need for elaboration.
There are enough highlights to err on the side of generosity. Invariably the self-glorifying Bottom is the plum role, but we’ve seen it done so many times that it’s hard to make it fresh. Erik Gow manages to ham it up with his own style of brash comedy, adding some delightful donkey winnowing in his voice. He is impressive throughout, avoiding turning Bottom into a vaudeville freak show.
Both female love interests, the aforementioned Jackson as Hermia and Siona Gareau-Brennan, gather strength and poise, but this production’s lack of convincing coupledom is perhaps its main weakness. Only Anthea Morritt as Titania and Dominic Duchesne as Oberon appear as a credible match.
Duchesne’s Oberon is the most watchable performance. Whether he’s hanging upside down on a rope or bellowing instructions, it’s his physicality that impresses more than any aptitude for text. The sprightly Lili Beaudoin as his mischievous Puck is the perfect counterpart; acrobatic and otherworldly, like a circus performer rather than an actor.
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream has been done to death, so maybe it makes some sort of ghoulish sense to revive it in the woods of the Carpathian Mountains, but this rendition could do with less fighting and more kissing. Cupid is a knavish lad. Thus to make poor females mad. It’s a story of convoluted plot lines, but we have to care about the romance nonetheless; if we only accentuate the comedy, and dispense with any concern for sexual chemistry, it verges on slapstick.