BWW Review: A Playful MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at BUFFALO'S IRISH CLASSICAL THEATRE
The eventual pairing of happy lovers in Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM proves that all's well that ends well. So it is no coincidence that another happy pairing of two of Buffalo's artistic jewels have collaborated to bring the Bard's comedy to the stage of Kleinhans Music Hall. The Irish Classical Theatre Company and the Buffalo Philharmonic are presenting a cohesive treat for the mind and ears that helped take a chill off a brisk January night.
Felix Mendelssohn composed his incidental music for A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM more than 200 years after the plays' premiere and it is not often that the play and music are performed together. Under the baton of music director JoAnn Falletta, the evening got off to a magical start as the overture conjured up images of scampering fairies and braying donkeys. Stage director Fortunato Pezzimenti had a large playing area in front of the orchestra to use as Thesus and Hippolyta prepare for their wedding nuptials. Shakespeare has fashioned a world where humans intermingle with the fairy world, where magical dew can cloud a lovers judgment and where a fairy falling in love with a donkey is not much different than a human falling in love with an ass. Pezzimenti ensures proper focus and timing throughout the performance.
Irish Classical's Artistic Director Vincent O'Neill takes to the stage as Thesus, Duke of Athens, while playing double duty as Oberon, King of the Fairies. O'Neill is commanding and imperious, while also being a tad difficult to understand. His mortal and fairy queen is the fabulous Aleks Malejs. As Hippolyta she is droll but as Tytania she is playful and ethereal. Ms. Malejs has voice that commands attention and is matched by her winning stage presence.
Brendan Didio is a joy to watch as the ever playful Puck..darting and tumbling about, always ready to serve his master, Oberon.The four young lovers are played with convincing earth bound youth by David Wysocki as Lysander, Nick Stevens as Demetrius, Kayla Sorto as Hermia and Kit Buebler as Helena.
The height of the comedy comes in the large gaggle of the 6 so called mechanicals. These rough around the edges laborers are led by Chris Kelly, as Quince. Comedy abounds in all of their scenes, thanks to their multiple sizes, vocal affectations and gullibility. Kudos especially to Phil Farugia as Bottom, who's larger than life presence and spot on comedic timing made him a joy to watch. The group prepares to entertain the King at his nuptials with their version of the Pyramus and Thisbe story. Farugia is hilarious as Pyramus, with a knock out death scene that was aided by the conductor's baton stolen from Maestra Falletta's hand. Kevin Kennedy as Flute is a perfect match as he also portrays Thisbe, full of histrionics and scene stealing hilarity. The group is completed by the multitalents of Dudney Joseph as Snout,(who played a wall with perfection), David Lundy as Starvling and Gerry Maher as Snug.
The musical interludes were highlighted by hearing Mendelssohn's famous wedding march in it's rightful place, during the marriage ceremony of the the three couples. Falletta assured for a grandiose reading full of pomp and circumstance. The Women's Choir of Buffalo, directed by Jeannine Joseph, was a lovely complement to the evening. Meanwhile the two fairy voices were sung by full voiced mezzo soprano Maria Parker and soprano Karen D'Angelo, who suffered from intonation problems.
Set Design by David Dwyer employed multiple center stage flowered trees flanked by two side playing areas and clever projections and video by Brian Milbrand. Costume designer A. Lise Harty has fashioned lovely eye catching costumes for the large cast.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM presented by The Irish Classical Theatre Company and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra plays at Kleinhans Music Hall through January 19, 2020. Contact bpo.org for more information
Photos by Gene Witkowski