Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Reviewed by Tony Annicone, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2022
Mass Arts Center’s opening show of their 23rd season is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare. It was suggested by “A Knight’s Tale” from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” and was written between 1594 and 1596. It portrays the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur performers. Moonlight, magic and midsummer madness infect the lovers, tradesmen and fairies in this tale.
This version is set in the Southern United States forest and the plot revolves around Theseus, the King of Athens impending marriage to Hippolyta, an Amazon warrior. It also concerns the lovers. Hermia loves Lysander, but is promised to Demetrius by her mother, Egeus and when Hermia refuses to marry him, Egeus complains to Theseus who orders Hermia to obey her mother’s wishes or die. Hermia and Lysander run off together to the woods where they are pursued by her friend, Helena and Demetrius, whom Helena loves and to whom she has told of the lovers plan to escape.
The four of them are lost in the woods and set upon by mischievous fairies led by the young prankster, Puck who wreaks havoc with the people caught in there. It is orchestrated by Oberon, the king with mayhem resulting. Oberon is distracted with his own problems with his lover, Titania, the queen and he plays a major practical joke on her. Add in the hilarious country bumpkins practicing a tragic comedy for the Duke’s nuptials and you have the ingredients for the laugh riot that follows.
Director Steve Dooner takes his performers on a whirlwind trip in an hour and forty five minutes of one of Bard’s best known shows. It will help you escape from your current day problems into the magical world of the past. Steve supplies the necessary slapstick antics to pull off this show with his talented cast. All the splendid prat falls, somersaults, dancing and singing with original jazz music by Bruce Webster is fantastically rendered. Daniel Kozar made the multitude of beautiful costumes for this show. Th incredible set is by Ken Butler, Glenn Fournier and Rose Noice.
One of the comic characters in this show is Marco Zanelli as Bottom, the weaver. His line delivery is very funny and definitely what Shakespeare ordered for this role. His antics come through even with donkey mask on. The tradespeople scenes are hysterically funny especially the closing one where the lovers comically kill themselves at the wedding of the prince. Think “Romeo and Juliet” done comically and you have the ingredients for their wacky antics. The death scene is a showstopper when Bottom kills himself.
The fellow comedians include Laura Stevens as Snug, the lion who roars on cue, John Brownlie as Snout, the wall who as he is exiting the stage runs into a wall., Krishon Oberoi as Peter Quince the supposed director of Pyramus and Thisbe who keeps things moving during their scenes but keeps getting interrupted by Bottom, and a hilarious Tom Rimer as Flute who dons a blonde wig and drag outfit to play the damsel in distress, Thisbe. The antics have to be seen to be believed especially the high pitched voice and death scene antics. Director Steve Dooner does double duty in the show by playing the comic Moonshine in the Pyramus scene.
The young lovers do fabulous work in their roles, too. Tim Kimani as Demetrius who is oversexed and overbearing, Anjie Parker as Helena who has unrequited love for him, Robbie Hoye as Lysander who is confused and endearing and Erin Ave as Hermia who is full of righteous indignation when her mother wants her to marry a man that she doesn’t love. They shine in their scenes especially when running through the woods. Their physical humor is topnotch and includes pratfalls, fighting with each other, calling each other names. I last reviewed Robbie Hoye as Billy Bibbit in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Hermia’s strict mother, Egeus is wonderfully played by Laura Stevens who demands her daughter marry Demetrius or be put to death. Katherine Light plays Titania, the queen of the fairies. She is comical in her scenes, especially in the falling in love with a jack ass scene.
Christopher Crossen-Sills plays the huge role of Oberon doing a terrific job in this role. He lords it over the other creatures in the woods. Oberon is a puppet master pulling all the strings on the lovers and everyone else. I last reviewed him as Lucien, the ghostly first husband in “Blithe Spirit” earlier this year. Christopher also shines as Theseus, the Duke while Katherine does a nice job as Hippolyta.
Grace Ahlin plays the mischief maker, Puck who throws fairy dust on the wrong lovers which creates chaos and elicits many laughs. Her physical comedy and facial expressions are fabulously done. Grace also plays the exasperated Philostrate who must deal with the Duke’s wedding and the comic performance done at it.
Rounding out the cast are five talented children, Sofia Mallea, Taejanii Coward, Sam LeClair, Jaclyn Hagggard and Eden Glover.
So, for an excellent evening of Shakespeare’s comic romp, be sure to catch “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Mass Arts Center. Their website is www.massartscenter.org This show is another feather in their cap in their brand-new theatre.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (22 September to 2 October)
Mass Arts Center, 888 South Main Street, Mansfield, MA