BWW Reviews: Stratford Festival's A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Chamber Play
From the moment the Stratford Festival production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: A CHAMBER PLAY begins, it is clear that it will be an experience unlike any production of 'Dream' you have ever seen before. In fact, it will likely be a new experience to most Stratford Festival audiences.
This 'Dream', created and directed by Peter Sellars, truly feels like a dream-or perhaps at times a nightmare...and in the best possible way. This unique and masterful production is sensual, passionate, mystifying and at times, almost frightening. The four featured performers jump from one character to the next without warning. This might initially be a little jarring, but soon, just like when we are dreaming, we come to accept this reality and just sit back and experience it.
For this unique production, the Stratford Festival has commissioned a new location-The Masonic Concert Hall. No Stratford Festival play has been performed here before, and everything about this space is designed with this one particular production in mind. The ceiling is lined with chairs (many are from the original tent-based Stratford Festival), cushions, and pieces of scrap metal. The stage is small and simple. Set and Installation Artist, Abigail DeVille, has outdone herself. The moment you step into this space, you are in the world of this 'Dream'. The energy the space creates is very much a part of the show, and the audience is immediately immersed in what is happening in front of them. Interestingly, as intimate as everything feels, there is no interaction between the cast and the audience. Lines in the play that are typically read as soliloquies are instead said to another character on stage. At no time does an actor look out to the audience and speak. In fact, the actors seem to not be afraid at all to have their backs to the audience. It truly feels like these four performers are alone in a room acting out this intimate, bizarre and exciting dream.
The entire cast is excellent, with every player spending the entire 1hr 5 minutes on stage playing multiple roles, and displaying the entire spectrum of human emotion. This is a very emotionally athletic production! The always fantastic Mike Nadajewski is compelling in this play. Portraying Lysander, Oberon, and others, he brings an honesty and a scary intensity to his roles. Sarah Afful brings strength, passion and sensuality to her roles as Helena, Puck, etc. Trish Lindstrom alternates with ease between Hermia's heartbreak and devastation to Titania's playful spell-induced infatuation with Bottom. Portraying Bottom (among many other characters) is Dion Johnstone. This is a different Bottom than what one would typically see. He is still just as self-loving, confident, and foolish, but Mr. Johnston brings a certain quiet (over) confidence to the character, and it is very entertaining.
It should be noted that for someone who is not familiar with 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', this production would likely be quite confusing. Characters and scenes alternate and change without any notice other than the dialogue. For those who have seen 'Dream' performed many a time, this will certainly be a change. Sure, It may not be for everyone....but really, what is?
This production certainly seeped it's way into my dreams. I can only hope you let it do the same for you.
Stratford Festival's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: A CHAMBER PLAY plays until September 20th at the Stratford Masonic Concert Hall.
Photo Credit: Michael Cooper