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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Laberge

Playtime in the woods at Summerstage

Ripe with lovers and fairies and drama, the company at Summerstage are making asses of themselves in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and you don't want to miss it. This Shakespearean text is both comprehensible and enjoyable for all. The physical comedy and rambunctious ensemble reach through the difficult language to connect with all, even those who haven't thought about the Bard since high school.

The primary plot of the show follows fair Hermia, who wishes to marry Lysander but is ordered to marry Demetrius, who is pursued by a most woeful Helena. (If it sounds convoluted, just wait until the fairies step in with some mistaken identities and shuffle their affections). The fight choreography between this quartet is fluid and fabulous, and yet the actors maintain a warm tenderness at the core of their roles so that, when all is mended and loves are paired with loves, the journey feels sweet to look back upon.

Michael Phelan as Demetrius; Sydney Faris as Helena; Jenny Kosek as Hermia; Christopher Orth as Lysander. All photos courtesy of Kimberly Fudali.

Director (and Summerstage Artistic Director) Dustin Martin has had a field day with the "mechanicals". Alongside the lovers plot in the show is a rinky dink band of amateur actors attempting to produce their own play, "The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe" (a wink and a nod to Shakespeare's own Romeo and Juliet). Small additions to the original text make it feel as if there really is a play falling apart before your eyes as the mechanicals call for line, goof up each other's entrances, and experience good old fashioned stage fright. Their show-within-a-show is followed by a dance sequence so painfully cringe-worthy and lengthy that it miraculously wraps back around to hilarity by the end. Martin takes a risk, and it pays off.

Will Kastner as Flute; Ralph Frattura as Snout; Nicholas Callan Haubner as Bottom.

The set is a most tempting jungle gym. It is wrought with fun levels and decor that simply make you want to climb. Christopher Kurtz's design instantly puts audiences in a playful, childlike mood - the kind of naïveté that is a perfect backdrop for Midsummer shenanigans.

Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, is one of the most infamous characters in theatre history. Sneaky and playful, sassy with a good heart, and the audience companion through the nonsensical plot turns, Puck requires a tour-de-force actor. Michelle White is everything and more as the trifling fairy. She, without fail, always gets the last laugh (which, in turn, earns another). Her naturally raspy voice lends itself towards a teetering dynamic of squeaky innocence and omniscient power. With White conducting the pranks in the show, you cannot help but root for the chaos.

Brandon Haut as Oberon; Michelle White as Puck.

Lighting designer Chris Meissner has really outdone himself this time. His work is frequently at home at Summerstage, but in this show, it really takes the spotlight. Snappy shifts coordinate with the actor's movement to elevate the magic of the world. With clever use of fog, when the lovers cannot find one another, the audience, too, is lost and equally guided by sound alone.

Shakespeare can be a turn-off for many otherwise passionate theatregoers. It can be archaic, boring, and hoity-toity. A Midsummer Night's Dream is none of those things. It has silly characters and dirty humor and a skilled cast who will spell it out for you. You'll not only understand it, but if you give it the chance, you'll love it. This production runs for one more weekend only at Summerstage of Delafield.



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