On Stage: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

by Chuck Conconi

The Folger Theatre production brings a fresh excitement to the classic Shakespeare farce. 


Pictured l to r: Megan Graves, Desmond Bing, Erin Weaver (front), Eric Hissom, Dani Stoller, and Justina Adorno (Photo by Teresa Wood)

Somewhere on some other stage there may have been a better Puck, but an actor performing that role would have to contend with Erin Weaver’s inspired, enchanting Puck in the Folger Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Director, Aaron Posner, a four-time Helen Hayes Award winner, has created a madcap frolic of the often staged comedy with an inspired choice of Weaver as Puck and the always fun to watch Holly Twyford as Bottom, the scene-stealing actor who is part of a pathetic troop of players. Twyford is having so much fun when she is turned into an ass in the magic forest where everything is awry.

The actors are a group of performers who come onto the stage as girls from a private school. Devon Painter, the costume designer, has dressed them in blazers and plaid uniform skirts. They come to be assigned roll they will play in an absurd skit to be performed for the Duke.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is about love. You almost need a scorecard to keep up, and that is what makes this farcical tale so much fun. Hermia’s father, Egeus (Eliot Bales) decrees that his daughter is to marry Demetrius (Desmond Bing). He has the right under Athens law to kill her if she disobeys. Hermia (Betsy Mugavero) is, however, in love with Lysander (Adam Wesley Brown). Hermia’s friend Helena (Kim Wong) loves Demetrius who loves Hermia.

The embattled lovers go off into the woods where Hermia and Lysander hope to escape to a place more tolerant of their love. But the woods is the domain of Oberon (Eric Hissom). He is a mischievous leader of the fairies and where his impish Puck runs amok.

Bottom (Holly Twyford, left) finds herself in a fantastical situation, lying beside Titania, Queen of the Fairies (Caroline Stefanie Clay), in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" (Photo by Teresa Wood)

Bottom (Holly Twyford, left) finds herself in a fantastical situation, lying beside Titania, Queen of the Fairies (Caroline Stefanie Clay), in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Photo by Teresa Wood)

Puck sprinkles a love potion into the eyes of Lysander and Demetrius as they sleep to insure each will love the first person they see on awakening. It only creates more folly as each see Helena first and decide each is madly in love with her.

Nothing of course is as it should be with Puck bouncing about the stage enjoying the chaos she has wrought.

Posner’s inventive staging brings a fresh excitement to an all-too familiar play. He has mixed in clever musical elements that do not strain credibility in an attempt to be different. One amusing choice is a brief singing of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” Another is when Lysander, dressed in frat boy casual, sings a country western song while strumming a ukulele. Not to mention the irrepressible Puck singing with a 1930’s style big band microphone.

Eric Chong Shuch’s happy choreography; Paige Hathaway‘s soft, magical scenic design and Jesse Belsky’s smart lighting blend effortlessly to make this “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” a unique experience. If Shakespeare could come back, on this the 400th anniversary of his death, it can be easily assumed he would love what Posner has created.

It would be remiss not to recognize that Posner has assembled a competent, exciting cast for his organized chaos, especially with Tywford’s comical Bottom. But Weaver’s ubiquitous Puck, above the stage, on the stage and up and down the center aisle talking directly to members of the audience is everything a great Puck should be.

The Folger Theatre has extended the run of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and there is still an opportunity to get tickets for this wonderful theatrical experience. To miss it would truly be folly.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs through March 13, 2016 at Folger Theatre. Tickets range from $35 to $75 and can be purchased here

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