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BWW Reviews: The Rep's Wondrous Production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

If I were asked to provide the perfect introduction to the work of playwright William Shakespeare I would advise that person to check out The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' current production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Unlike the bard's histories or tragedies, this play is truly lyrical, funny, and filled with magical elements that make it especially appealing. It's also one of his few tales that isn't based on another source, springing with startling originality from his own fervid imagination, which makes it particularly special among his bountiful canon. It seems like I'm always saying this about the Rep, but they provide must-see entertainment on a regular basis, with this enchanting presentation acting as another fine example of their exemplary work.

The Fairy King and Queen, Oberon and Titania always seem to be going at one another, so in an attempt to distract her, Oberon gives the mischievous Puck a potion to place upon her eyes that will cause her to fall in love with the first thing she encounters. At the same time, two pairs of young lovers enter the forest and one of them, Lysander, receives the potion instead, causing a great deal of confusion among them as a result. While this is occurring, the Rude Mechanicals are rehearing a play for a royal wedding in the forest as well, and Puck has changed one of the actors heads into that of an ass. Since Titania has also received the potion by this point it only makes sense that she awakens and takes a shine to the newly transformed Nick Bottom. As Shakespeare himself writes in the play: "The course of true love never did run smooth", so you can imagine the chain of events that occur before things are straightened out.

The entire cast does a splendid job of creating these amusing and engaging characters with Alvin Keith and Rebecca Watson leading the way as Oberon and Titania, and both pulling double duty as Theseus and Hippolyta, respectively. Andy Rindlisbach (Demetrius), Caroline Amos (Hermia), Jeffrey Omura (Lysander), and Gracyn Mix (Helena) add just the right note as the young lovers whose couplings get crossed. Bob Walton (Peter Quince), Michael James Reed (Nick Bottom), Carl Howell (Francis Flute), Adam Lendermon (Robin Starveling), Kern McFadden (Tom Snout), and Michael Jean Dozier (Snug) are immensely entertaining as the Rude Mechanicals, and the play within a play that they perform is a true highlight. Jim Poulos also delivers a fine performance as the naughty Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow.

Director Paul Mason Barnes has a real gift for staging Shakespeare in imaginative and creative ways that entice the viewer and enhance the surroundings, and his efforts here are exceptional. Aided by the playful choreography of Matt Williams, the evocative scenic design of James Kronzer, Susan Branch Towne's lovely costumes, the atmospheric lighting of Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, and the sound design and compositions of Barry G. Funderburg, Barnes is able to evoke a splendid combination of humor and fantasy that enlivens the proceedings in a most delightful way.

Whether you're an avid fan of Shakespeare or a novice, you can't go wrong with this wondrous production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Catch the magic running through November 9, 2014 on the main stage of the Loretto-Hilton.

Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.



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