BWW Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Southwest Shakespeare Company
BWW Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Southwest Shakespeare Company has a knack for making Shakespeare relevant and exciting for contemporary audiences. This production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is no exception. The actors use their smart phones and are dressed in modern clothes, but the dialogue is spoken exactly as written by Shakespeare. This play is funny, whimsical, romantic, frustrating, and perfectly Shakespearian.
Directed by Louis Farber, the set is simple and effective. Farber's direction allows the cast to play with levels and lean into the farce. Farber clearly understands the motifs present in the text and uses dreams and magic to masterful effect.
At the center of the play are four lovers; Hermia and Lysander love one another, but Hermia's father has given his consent to Demetrius to marry his daughter. Demetrius had been engaged to Helena, but then fell in love with Hermia. After Hermia's father, Egeus, demands that Theseus decree that his daughter marry Demetrius, Lysander and Hermia resolve to run away together. Once in the woods, magic makes a mess of everything. But as is always the case with Shakespeare's romantic comedies, everything turns out alright in the end; as long as everyone makes it to the end.
We are first introduced to Theseus, played by Joshua Murphy, and his bride-to-be, Hippolyta, played by Betsy Mugavero. Murphy also plays Oberon, King of the Fairies with Mugavero playing Titania, Queen of the Fairies. The roles the characters play could not be more opposite, but Murphy and Mugavero are pros. They play off one another well and clearly understand the nuances of the language Shakespeare employs.
As Egeus and Peter Quince, Allison Sell is sublime. Both characters require a certain level of ridiculousness and Sell delivers. Watching Sell interact with the other actors on stage is a delight. She is captivating and hilarious.
Hermia is played by the enchanting Raquel McKenzie with her lover, Lysander, played by Benjamin Harris. The two are well matched and use physical interactions to portray the strength, then uncertainty, of their relationship. The other lovers, Helena and Demetrius are played by Kim Stephenson Smith and Jesse James Kamps, respectively. Smith and Kamps are sharp; their comedic timing is spot on and they share a wonderful chemistry. The four actors play their parts skillfully and are a joy to watch.
As Puck, Breona Conrad is mischievous, foolish, funny, and energetic. Conrad lights up the stage and delivers her lines with impish delight. Puck knows how to stir up trouble, whether purposefully or not, and Conrad is the Puckiest Puck to ever Puck.
Now, to the players: Nick Bottom, a weaver, is played by Quinn Mattfeld. If you have never seen Mattfeld on stage, this is an excellent introduction to what he does so well. Mattfeld is a master of physical comedy. He also creates characters with unique quirks and tics that make the character unforgettable. As Francis Flute, Kaivan Mayelzadeh is superb. I have never seen Thisbe played deadpan, but it works. It is plain funny. Snout, Snug, and Starveling round out the players. Snug, played by Anna Carlise, is smitten with Bottom. Starveling is played by Ryan L. Jenkins and Snout is played by Veronika Duerr. Duerr, Jenkins, and Carlise each present unique and well-rounded characters, on top of being sincerely funny. The players may not exist to advance the plot, but they definitely contribute to the humor and enjoyment of the proceedings.
The supporting cast: Ausette Anderies, Maria Idalis Harris, and Christina McSheffrey fulfill many roles and contribute to the excellence of this company. This production is worth seeing more than once. The simplicity of the staging allows the audience to truly experience the play. I am certain I missed things because I was laughing so hard.
The Southwest Shakespeare Company specializes in Shakespeare and this production is a perfect example of that expertise. A Midsummer Night's Dream runs through March 7, 2020 in the Piper Repertory Theater at the Mesa Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased here.
PC: Southwest Shakespeare Company