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BWW Review: Ohio State Department of Theatre Revives Romance in Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

(L to R) Jennifer Geiger as Puck and Bryan Arnold as Bottom in
The Ohio State University Department of Theatre's production
of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Credit: Photo by Matt Hazard

Love was in the air this weekend at the Lincoln Theatre in Columbus when the Ohio State Department of Theatre presented its reimagined version of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." But it wasn't Cupid and his arrows wreaking havoc amongst the lovers in the play, despite the fact performances were scheduled throughout Valentine's Day weekend. Instead, a sense of magic and unpredictable mischief, paired with energetic performances from the student actors in the production, defined OSU's take on this romantic classic.

With musical interludes played on the ukulele and guitar, a minimalistic set consisting of wooden ladders and a cast clad in fashions that could have been plucked straight out of boutiques lining High Street, it was instantly clear that this version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was not the one read during freshman literature class.

At first, the combination of the abstract setting and modern clothes with the Shakespearean dialogue was a bit jarring. Indeed, to see Hippolyta (Kathryn Olson), clad in sparkling black leggings, a flowy white top and pointy black heels -- an outfit that would not be too out of place on OSU's campus once the weather warms up -- begin speaking in Shakespeare's signature verse, was admittedly a little difficult to comprehend all at once. Yet, as the play continued, this disconnect became less distracting. The story progressed, laughs were shared and the stage was transformed into a mystical world of fairies, love spells and fanciful transformations.

Spending much of the play's opening scenes perched atop one of the ladders, Puck, in this version played by Jennifer Geiger, a senior in theater, was an exuberant force who propelled the story forward. Geared toward younger audiences, OSU's version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was shortened to 75 minutes, making Puck's role as energetic narrator paramount to the audience's comprehension of the plot's comedic twists and turns.

(L to R) McKenna Willis as Hermia, Jennifer Geiger as Puck
and Bryan Arnold as Bottom in The Ohio State University
Department of Theatre's production of "A Midsummer
Night's Dream." Credit: Photo by Matt Hazard

Other aspects of the play were obviously aimed at engaging younger audiences, most notably a sing along number led by the cast. Breaking the fourth wall, the fairies of the forest called upon the audience to help sing Titania (also played by Olson) to sleep. Although the primarily college-aged audience did not seem especially motivated to participate in this interactive portion of the performance, one could see how elementary school audiences might be more apt to join in on the fun.

Apart from the visible differences in costuming and setting, it was refreshing to see that the story itself was preserved, albeit in a condensed format, in this adaptation. From the tumultuous love stories of Helena (Cecelia Bellomy) and Demetrius (Brett Alan Hutton), as well as Hermia (McKenna Nicole Willis) and Lysander (Mohamad A. Quteifan), to the humorous plight of Bottom (Bryan Arnold), all memorable moments from the original play are presented in this version.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a play that has been reinvented time and time again throughout the years, almost to the point where "fresh" reinterpretations lose their novelty. Yet perhaps it will be this particular version's unashamed quirkiness that inspires a new generation to further explore the world of theater.

OSU's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is the first of three shows planned for 2016. In an effort to commemorate the English playwright 400 years after his death, the OSU Department of Theatre is set to perform "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet" in fall 2016.

More information about upcoming OSU Department of Theatre performances can be found on the department's website.

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From This Author Amanda Etchison

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