‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
When: March 4, 5: 8 p.m.; March 6: 2 p.m.
Where: Edison Theatre
Price: Students, seniors, faculty, staff: $10
General Admission: $15
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” may date to the 1590s, but the Performing Arts Department’s latest production of Shakespeare’s classic is as fresh as ever. All elements of the show contribute to a magical experience, as the audience travels to Fairyland and back. Make every effort to see “Dream” this weekend; even an ass would not miss it.
The oneiric plot of “Dream” combines the best of fantasy, love and the supernatural. In ancient Athens, Hermia (junior Marissa Barnathan) wishes to marry Lysander (senior Eli Keehn) against her father’s wishes. Her betrothed Demetrius (sophomore Pete Winfrey) continues to love Hermia despite the incessant attention of Helena (junior Megan Lacerenza). To avoid punishment, Hermia and Lysander flee to the forest, pursued by an enraged Demetrius, while Helena chases him. Nearby, a troupe of amateur actors rehearses a tragedy. A weaver named Bottom (senior Matthew Rosenthal) is a particularly enthusiastic member of this ensemble. Simultaneously, Oberon (senior Dan Tobin), the King of Fairies, quarrels with his consort Titania (senior Julia Mellon) in the same forest. Oberon sends his servant Puck (junior Artem Kreimer) to enchant the queen with a flower; when Titania awakens she will fall in love with the first creature she sees. After Oberon observes Demetrius spurning Helena’s love, he orders Puck to bewitch Demetrius as well, though Puck mistakenly enchants Lysander too. Furthermore, Puck transforms Bottom into an ass; Titania immediately lavishes love upon the hapless donkey. Puck and Oberon realize the extent of their mischief and frantically work so that “Jack shall have Jill/Nought shall go ill/The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well.”
The greatest triumph of this production of “Dream” is its masterful portrayal of these events. While the wild plot threatens to bewilder, even those who have never read a line of Shakespeare (shame on you!) will follow the action without difficulty. After establishing each character’s relationship to the others, the story proceeds in a reasonably linear chain of cause and effect. Despite their fantastic quality, these actions and their consequences feel natural and almost rational. As Bottom notes, “I have an exposition of sleep come upon me,” so too will the audience accept the play’s logic. Shakespeare invites the audience to think that they have strayed into a dream alongside the characters.
The other aspects of the production all aid this seamless transition into Athens and Fairyland. For example, the lighting during the forest scenes mimics moonlight filtered by branches and adorns the walls of Edison Theatre with silhouettes of foliage. While other plays with characters that stand around listening to each other can feel static, somebody in “Dream” always moves. Contributing to this momentum, the costumes of the fairies reflect a wild and unbounded nature. The whole play has an energy that really made it fun to watch and see what would happen next. At times, one actor or another would recite lines as one would a poem, but this negligible flaw was the only real defect of the production.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is excellent. The total experience is wonderful and I recommend it to all. Allow the performers to “to show [their] simple skill,” and buy a ticket. You certainly will not regret it.