BWW Review: Group rep Presents A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a Shakesperean treasure as it unites reality with fantasy in a dreamlike manner that puts audience in a happy mood, perfect for the holidays at hand. Now onstage at Group rep in NoHo, the play is directed by classically trained actor/director Marc Singer, who creates a gratifying production onstage through December 31.
This is an ambitious project for Group rep who normally do their best work with Neil Simon or other light comedies. Lately they have been taking on deeper more involved dramatic works with much success through much hard work and with the guidance of bright and intelligent direction.
This production's appeal is most definitely due to Singer's style. He plays Oberon as well as directing and makes it clear up front that his mission is to prioritize and clarify the conflict between Titania (Suzy London) and Oberon. They are King and Queen of the fairies, one of the four plots in Midsummer. There are two other couples in love in the kingdom: Hermia (Hartley Powers) with Lysander (Mikel Parraga-Wills) and Helena (Anna Gion) with Demetrius (Doren Sorell). The big problem is that Demetrius has his eye on Hermia, leaving Helena to fight for his attentions. The rivalry between Demetrius and Lysander, needless to say, is intense.
When Oberon attempts to punish Titania for keeping an Indian changeling child (Julian N. Grigorian) who he wants to serve as his own personal knight, he concocts a flower-based potion that when sprinkled on the eyelids produces magic. The person who receives the concoction opens his eyes and falls in love with the first person he sees. Oberon's wish in teaching Titania a lesson in obedience is that she fall for an animal in the forrest. He seeks the help of Puck (Bennett Saltzman) who gets carried away and creates mayhem with the potion sprinkling it on the four lovers as well as on Titania.
The fourth plot involves a merry band of peasants who are preparing to perform a play Pyramus and Thisbe at the wedding of Duke Theseus (Doug Haverty) and Hippolyta (Silke Sorenson). The men are: Peter Quince (Lloyd Pedersen), Bottom (J. Christopher Sloan), Flute (David Joseph Keller), Starveling (Patrick Skelton), Snout (Patrick Burke) and Snug (Paul Cady). As it turns out the most brazen, loud-mouthed braggart Bottom gets turned into an ass and Titania falls in love with him ... with a little help from Puck.
The scenes that are the most fun to watch are the chase around the stage by Helena, Hermia, Demetrius and Lysander and ... the rehearsals of the peasants. Standouts in the large cast are Sloan so delightfully over.the.top as Bottom and Saltzman sensational as the agile, playful Puck. Powers, Parraga-Wills, Gion and Sorell are also very, very good, as are London as Titania and Singer as Oberon. Fun to see Michelle Bernath as an older fairy, Chris Winfield as Egeus, the demanding father of Hermia...and Bix Barnaba nicely stepping into a smaller role as Philostrate.
Singer also designed the serviceable set of the forrest... and costuming by Angela M. Eads has to be about the weirdest mix I have ever seen, with clothes from just about every period of time known to man.
Singer as director keeps a brisk pace throughout and as actor really puts his mark on Oberon, making him a conniving, devious yet fun old man.
Some scenes like the finale seem less ready; I'm thinking primarily of the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe that needs further work. Sloan and Keller as the leads nail it, but the others could add more silliness to the proceedings to generate laughs.
In conclusion, congrats to Group rep for this fine effort through December 31!
(photo credit: Doug Engalla)