BWW Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Ankeny Community Theatre: A Fun Trip Back In Time
While Ankeny Community Theatre (ACT) may be closing their 2018-2019 season, they are also opening the 2019-2020 Des Moines Theatre season. To pull this off you need a show that transcends time, as well as instantly recognizable. They've tackled this challenge by staging William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which opened on August 2. Not only do they show how timeless this show is, but they also put on a production that the audience can have fun with as well.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream," tells the story of the upcoming nuptials of Theseus to Hippolyta. Before the wedding, Egeus brings his daughter Hermia before him because he wants her to marry Demetrius, but she wants to marry Lysander. Hermia and Lysander sneak into the forest to run away and live their life together. They are followed by Demetrius and his former girlfriend Helena. While in the forest we also meet a group of actors putting a play together to be performed at Theseus wedding, as well as Oberon, the king of Fairies and his wife Titania. While in the forest, both Lysander and Demetrius are put under the spell of a flower by Robin, Oberon's assistant, also known as Puck. Titania is put under a spell by the flower by Oberon. Who will end up with who? That is something you will have to see this production to find out.
One of the fun things about doing a Shakespeare production is how it allows you to decide if you want to present it as a period piece, or you can move it to a different setting or era. For this production, ACT has set the show in the 1960s and 1970s, which I found to be a great fit for the production. This is illustrated best in the costumes for the show. The costumes for Oberon, Titania, Puck, and the Fairies, take the classic hippie look associated with the period. I also thought they did a nice job playing up the class of the characters with the costumes. My favorite was the working-class characters putting on the play at the wedding were dressed with a not to the Village People.
While I didn't get the 60's/70's aesthetic to the set, as I did in the costumes, I found the set to work well with the show. The scenes that were not in the forest took place in front of a curtain with minimal set pieces brought out. This allowed for the scene changes to happen quickly. It also allowed them to be more elaborate with the forest, where most of the show takes place. The rocks and hedges they used helped to give levels to the forest, and also provided places for cast members to hide.
As with any performance, it wouldn't be able to happen without a talented group of actors. Part of the fun of seeing Shakespeare is seeing what actors with smaller roles will do to make them memorable. Victoriana "Vic" O'Brian does that with Hippolyta. Through the show, she doesn't have many lines, but her reactions to what people are saying says more than any of the lines they have. I found her character to be fun as she rolled her eyes at certain situations at the beginning of the show. The attitude she brought to her character at the beginning paid off at the end when she was able to make fun of the actors putting on the play.
One of the memorable performance of the evening comes from Maia Talarico as Puck. She did an amazing job playing up the playfulness of Puck. She brought so much joy when Oberon task her with getting the flower that you knew the character was going on an adventure and made me as an audience member want to hear that story. I also enjoyed the gleam in her eye when Puck comes up with the idea to turn Bottom into a beast for Titania to fall in love with. The attention to the small details made Puck a fun character to watch throughout the show.
Making his Ankeny Community Theatre Debut is Wayne Black in the role of the Fairy King Oberon. One of the difficulties actors can face when doing Shakespeare is line delivery. For Black, this is not a problem. He delivers each line with the ease and flows as if it was a language he spoke every day. His delivery also showed his understanding of the material, which made the character entertaining to watch when he came on stage. His down to earth Oberon was a fitting match with Talarico's Puck.