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Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Zilker's Hillside Theatre

By William Shakespeare Directed by Ann Ciccolella

Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Zilker's Hillside Theatre

In case you have never read the play, watched a movie version of the book, or if you just need a catch-up, A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of William Shakespeare's most beloved and performed comedies of all time. It is set in ancient Greece and follows the story of four lovers, a troupe of questionable actors, a feud between the king and queen of the fairies, and a mischievous fairy known as Puck. Hermia (Eliza Renner) is in love with Lysander (Dane Parker) but her father has chosen Demetrius as her future husband. She is powerless to decide her own destiny under Athenian law so she escapes to the forest of Arden to avoid entering into a loveless marriage. Helena (Helyn Rain Messenger) is in love with Demetrius (Max Green) but he doesn't return her attention as he pursues Hermia's hand in marriage. Meanwhile, in the forest of Arden, there is drama between Oberon, King of the Fairies (Gabriel Diehl), and Titania, his Queen (Kate Glasheen). She is protecting an Indian boy that Oberon wants inciting his wrath. Oberon asks his faerie servant Puck (Henry DelBello), to go deep into the forest to retrieve a flower that releases a powerful love potion. His intention is to distract Titania with love so that he can snatch the Indian boy. Back in the city, a group of commoners is organizing a play to perform at the Duke's (Charles Gross) wedding to Hippolyta (Emily Green). Puck, a master of mischief, uses the love potion on the young lovers as well as on Titania, triggering a series of unexpected events that poke at the existence of true love while providing some of the most comedic lines that Shakespeare ever wrote.

"... and yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays."

(Bottom, Act III Scene 1)

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare warns us early on that "the course of true love never did run smooth" and with these words, he captures the comedic core of the play. While the text goes on to explore several themes, including imagination and patriarchy, love is the prominent theme that touches the characters in every scene. From the young lovers' escapades to the forest, to the feud between Oberon and Titania, and the play performed by Quince and his troupe during Duke Theseus' marriage, Shakespeare represents love as the force that characters can't control, reinforcing the idea that love makes us do irrational and strange things.

"When in that moment, so it came to pass, Titania waked and straightway loved an ass."

(Puck, Act III Scene 2)

The company of Austin Shakespeare brought A Midsummer Night's Dream to the stage with such impeccable acting that it easily transported audiences back to the days when the Bard himself would see his words come alive at the London Globe Theatre. Despite the small audio glitches, Zilker's Hillside Theatre on a summer night was the perfect venue to watch this play. The evening was cool and the space was not too crowded (closing night) making it a very enjoyable event.

The entire company delivered a delightful performance but most importantly, they did so with such clarity that helped the audience understand the rich text that William Shakespeare gifted us with. Renner, as Hermia, showed the needed confidence and feistiness that makes this young lady such a strong female lead. Dane Parker, as Lysander, wooed the audience with his natural charisma and earnest performance. Messenger portrayed Helena's frustrations in the pursuit of love with excellent comedic timing and palpable naïveté, making her the surprising audience favorite among the young lovers. Henry DelBello is a fabulous new addition to Austin Shakespeare. His physicality and specificity on stage demonstrated a great level of maturity as an actor. He moved elegantly across the stage like a cat ready to pounce on his prey. He was as playful and mischievous as it was expected of the Goodfellow known as Puck.

The entire troupe of the rude mechanicals that delivered the ultimate play within a play added comedic relief with perfection. Gwendolyn Kelso stood out as the self-important, loud, and dramatic Nick Bottom. She was hysterical in every scene but most particularly in those where she sported an ass' head.

"I must to the barber's, monsieur; for
methinks I am marvelous hairy about the face; and I
am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me,
I must scratch."

(Bottom, Act IV Scene 1).

A Midsummer Night's Dream

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Ann Ciccolella

Austin Shakespeare at Zilker's Hillside Theatre

The show is now closed. To learn about upcoming shows by Austin Shakespeare go to

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