Modern mannerisms and classical enchantments delight audiences in Great Lakes Theater’s presentation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” playing now through November 5, 2017 at the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square.
One of the most known stories by William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” always holds new revelations with each iteration. Directed by Joseph Hanreddy, this version has intermingled pockets of both standard substance with cool whimsy.
Great Lakes Theater (GLT) has a hearty cast, many of whom are Baldwin Wallace University-related actors. The ensemble of talented artists captures the Bard’s tale of mischief with great pacing and wonderful accessibility.
The 2.5 hour journey (which includes a 15-minutes intermission) weaves the audience through several plots. Egeus (Aled Davies) wishes his daughter Hermia (Michelle Pauker) to wed Demetrius (Jon Loya), but she is in love with Lysander (Corey Mach). Hermia and Lysander plan to run off together, but Helena (Keri René Fuller) snitches on them to Demetrius, with whom she is in love.
These four young Athenians end up in the forest at night. There they (unknowingly) encounter Puck (M.A. Taylor), who is on a mission from the King of the Fairies, Oberon (Nick Steen), to set some magic in motion. Love goes awry, and the night turns comical as passions turn topsy-turvy.
Meanwhile, the Queen of the Fairies, Titania (Jillian Kates), has encountered a troupe of players (known as the Mechanicals). This group of would-be actors has also had a mysterious (and unknown) run in with Puck. Here, player Nick Bottom (David Anthony Smith) makes a delightful “ass” of himself, endearing himself to Titania in the most unusual way.
And all of this is set in motion because Oberon wants something from Titania with which she’s not willing to part.
GLT has gone with a contemporary take on the costumes for the young Athenians, while decking out the fairies with flowy, ethereal lace; and dressing Oberon’s fiends with leather, feathers and other black attire. And the players? They are ready to tailgate or to go fishing! Cooler and beer included!
What makes the production unique is the modern take on mannerisms and style mixed with the beautiful Shakespearian base. While Titania’s fairies play it more standard (with wit and grace), the other characters have a bit more edge.
As overheard in the audience upon Demetrius’ entrance, “Oh my gosh – Hipster Demetrius!” Another commented later that Lysander was played a bit like a “frat boy bro.” Neither comment was meant as a negative, as the characters were brought off playfully and with plenty of depth.
Other fun present-day moments include Hermia’s choice of a can of hairspray for a weapon, the use of cell phone lights to see in the forest, and Puck’s rock star gestures.
Other noteworthy bits of enjoyment include several branch attacks in the forest, the use of twinkle lights in Titania’s hair, and pretty much every appearance by the players.
The one and only “off moment” comes at the end with an awkward dance party, and the insertion of the song “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved By You)” by Marvin Gaye. Although the rest of the non-classic elements fit into the production seamlessly, this feels like it comes out of nowhere. Regardless, it only lasts a few moments, so no harm no foul.
“I have had a most rare vision,” states Bottom in the play. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at GLT is indeed a most rare vision – one of belly laughs and OMGs, as well as beauty and love.
The design team has done an amazing job. Applause goes to Scott Bradley (Scenic Design), Rachel Laritz (Costume Design), Rick Martin (Lighting Design), and Rob Milburn & Michael Bodeen (Sound Design/Original Music). Well done to Jessica B. Lucas on Stage Management.
Audiences can romp with royalty, actors and fairies now through November 5, 2017 at the Hanna Theatre. Tickets are $15-$80 ($13 for students) and are available by calling (216) 241-6000, by ordering online or by visiting the Playhouse Square Ticket Office at www.playhousesquare.org.