Encore Michigan

ESR’s A Midsommer Nights Dreame

Review August 03, 2019 Paula Bradley

PORT HURON, Mich.–For a merry romp through fairy’d woods, head to The Citadel Theatre in Port Huron, where Enter Stage Right honors its “Will on the Water” tradition with Shakespeare’s A Midsommer Night’s Dreame.”  Director Regina Spain transforms the black box into a dreamy forest fit for swinging fairies and love struck Athenians alike.

This comedy fantasy features three intersecting storylines; one is a love quadrangle of Athenians Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander and Helena. Are you ready for this? Demetrius wants to marry Hermia, but Hermia loves Lysander and they plan to run away and marry.  Helena encourages them but then discloses their plan to Demetrius because she is in love with him and wants him for herself, even though he previously spurned her for Hermia.  Demetrius chases after Hermia and Lysander, with Helena chasing closely behind him.

In a parallel story, an amateur acting troupe is preparing to perform a play at the wedding of Theseus  and Hippolita.  The players take on the roles of lovers Pyramus and Thisbe plus a narrator, a lion, a moon and (yes) a wall. They rehearse their woe-begotten tale in the fairy wood.

The third parallel story surrounds the fairies, ruled by Oberon (interpreted as a female in this production) and Tytania, who have been quarreling.  To punish her, Oberon instructs her faithful sprite Puck to enchant a sleeping Tytania with the juice of a magical love flower which will make her fall in love with the first woodland creature she sees upon waking. Having observed the four lovers chasing each other about the wood, Oberon also instructs Puck to use the love juice on the sleeping Demetrius so that he will love Helena, leaving Hermia to marry Lysander.

Puck, who is always up for a laugh, does Oberon’s bidding, but a case of mistaken identity results in both Lysander and Demetrius falling in love with Helena (who thinks they are playing a cruel game with her) and rejecting Hermia.  Puck’s mischievous instincts also lead him to transform one of the rehearsing players into a talking ass which becomes the object of the enchanted Tytania’s love.

Oberon is finally satisfied with his revenge against Tytania, so she is released from the love spell and the ass is transformed into a player once again.  He also manages to straighten out the quadrangle of lovers and convince them that all they have experienced was a dream.  In the end, we see the players perform their play in such miserable fashion that the wedding guests (including the newly wed Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius) ask them not to conclude with the epilogue.  Thus the evening ends as the fairies bless the Athenians with a song of good fortune.

Interpreting the complex language of the Bard into emotive dialogue that the audience can relate to can be tricky for both actors and directors.  This cast seems up to the task, and several of the actors meet the challenge head on.  Leah Gray as Helena goes from being a clingy, spurned ex-girlfriend to an exasperated object of affection while never making the audience guess at what she is saying. Hannah Wiegand deftly plays Hermia with sweet innocence both in her love for Lysander and her distress at his rejection. Steven Potter and Nick Clark offer a Demetrius and Lysander who are hot and cold, enamored and annoyed with their women.  The four of them make their scenes very  relatable for the audience.

The players are all entertaining and adept as the forlorn acting troupe.  Rachel Kearney stands out as Bottom/Pyramus, with so much energy as she aspires to play all the roles in their tale;  she soaks up the attention of the fairies as an oblivious ass; then she becomes melodramatically lackluster as the troupe performs for the wedding guests.

The fairy cast is populated with adorable young actresses (including a baby), with Emma Dunlop as Tytania and Avery Bolt as Oberon providing good leadership for them. The truly bright star among the magical characters, and perhaps of the show, is Stacey Jowett as Puck; she is colorful and bouncy, mischievous and sarcastic. She interprets the dialogue in a way evocative of a modern millennial. 

A large cast and intersecting plots such as those required for Midsommer can be daunting to both director and to audience.  But here, the three storylines are easily distinguished: the Athenians are dressed in formal garb, the players in more bedraggled fashion, the fairies in bright and flowery attire.  The set has a floaty and magical quality, punctuated by a beautiful running stream, and is divided into three vignettes which translate to the city, the fairy realm and the wood in between.

A lovely facet of this production was the fairy songs.  Using text from the script, cast members Debra Roberts and Emma Dunlop perform Fairies’ Blessings of The House, a madrigal style piece, written by Roberts with the music performed by her as well.

Overall, this production of A Midsommer Night’s Dream is worth the trip to Port Huron for some  mixed-up comedy and magical fun in Shakespearean style.  It will be best enjoyed by mature teens through adults.  Midsommer is playing through August 18 at The Citadel Theatre.