BWW Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory Creates Magic and Fun in the Forest
There are few things I love more than finding fun new things to do outside in the dog days of summer. And lately, it seems that others have shared my love for all things sunshine by planning more and more of these events. One of these events is theatre outside, which may not be a new idea, but it seems more companies are participating in these types of shows. For instance, the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF) is performing A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM in the garden of the Evergreen Museum in Baltimore County. Don't get me wrong, I love this particular play in all forms, but there's something special about seeing it outdoors in a garden, seeing as that is the actual setting for the play. And while I've seen a few productions outdoors, I need to say that this particular production was probably the best I've ever seen.
The play is written as a comedy, and where other troops often flounder is in the sharing these comedic aspects with the audience. Some often recite the poetry but never focus on the humor and fun of the fairy folks. Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, on the other hand, seemed to revel in this humor, and never let a gag slip through unnoticed. Each member of the cast is a talented Shakespearean performer, but more importantly, they're gifted comedians, which meant the play was more quick-witted and more enjoyable than usual. These actors were able to take a relatively bare stage - made of nothing more than pallets - and a few quick costume changes, and turn them into a forest of enchantment and magic, full of fairies and young lovers.
As I said before, the entire production was performed outside, in the summer heat, so you really wouldn't blame the actors for resting off stage when they were not performing. However, that wasn't the case. Because of the garden they were performing in, the actors were seen by the entire audience, even when off stage. This meant the actors were always "on". Instead of treating this as a negative, the company chose to make the best of it, by playing up the "mischievous fairy" aspect. Fairies would bound around the audience, sometimes stealing food, and sometimes just surprising some unsuspecting audience members. The kids in the audience really enjoyed this interaction, and some of the cast were especially good about including them in their shenanigans.
Lastly, to make an already fun show even more enjoyable, this troupe added music. Not your everyday chamber music that's often included in Shakespeare shows, but modern day tunes such as "I'm a Believer", "Love Potion #9" and my personal favorite "Do You Believe in Magic?" which was sung after Puck's final speech, and included dancing amongst the audience, and some dancing of the audience as well. I will admit, it was a little odd to see actors dressed in period clothing, jamming to "Love Shack" but after a few minutes, the actors were having so much fun, I had no choice but to get into the groove too.
Overall, BSF has created a joyous production of a very well-known play that manages to stay new and nimble and most importantly fun. It's the perfect summer afternoon for Shakespeare lovers and families alike. And while it may not be the "Shakespeare" you're used to, you'll find that that's ok, and you'll give in to the hijinks and magic of the show. But be sure to guard your food just in case. Mischievous sprites are always hovering around in the forest in midsummer...