BWW Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Quotidian Theatre Company
A Midsummer Night's Dream is arguably one of Shakespeare's most whimsical and humorous works. Set in Ancient Athens, the play has three main interconnected plots: one focuses on four lovers - Hermia is in love with Lysander, but her father intends her to wed Demetrius, who has gilted Helena in favor of Hermia. The second arc is centered around the local craftsmen, who have been tasked with performing a play for the upcoming nuptials of the duke of Athens. The third arc is the story of a band of faeiries, led by the faeiry king, Oberon, and his queen, Titania, who are at odds over a human child she has been gifted. The antics that ensue when these characters cross paths have created a comedy that has delighted audiences for centuries.
The Quotidian Theater Company's latest iteration presents Midsummer with an interesting twist: they have relocated the play to an early nineteenth century Ireland. The move, which involves a few changes to the script (mostly references to locations, and the names of the characters), is eye-opening. With apologies to the (British) Bard, it appears that A Midsummer Night's Dream is, in fact, an Irish play.
Quotidian's argument is supported not just by these textual changes, but by their overall presentation. The costumes are delightfully fitting - particularly the faeiries' gauzy, lighted skirts - and the musical accompaniment provided by a talented trio of musicians (Peter Brice, Samantha Suplee, and Leah Mazade, who also plays Mrs. Starveling and co-directed the play with Stephanie Mumford) appropriately transforms the faeiries' dances into Irish jigs. The set is versatile, managing to simultaneously present a stately home as well as a lush green forest full of mischief.
The name changes are occasionally awkward (I couldn't quite adjust to Titania and Oberon as Oonagh and Finvarra, respectively) and the familiarity of the play caused even one actor to accidentally refer to Liam as his predecessor, Lysander, but on the whole, the changes are pleasant. One of the best parts of seeing a re-imagining of a well-known work is that it enables you to revisit it from a different angle. The new presentation allows you to enjoy the work fresh, and maybe even catch something new that has been lost in familiarity.
But the greatest argument in favor of this production comes from the actors themselves, who convincingly transport this well-known play into its new realm. David Dubov perfectly captures the irritating and self-important Bottom, and Ian Blackwell Rogers delights the audience as the mischievous faeiry, Puck. But, while the whole cast proves themselves to be talented, the standout performances came from the four young lovers when their magic-fueled quarrel comes to a head in the woods. The hurt and anger of Aveline (formerly Helena, portrayed by Angela Kay Pirko) is only rivaled by Liam's (Lysander, played by Sean Rosenke) spellbound incredulous fury when he is hugged by Margaret (Hermia, performed by Laura Rocklyn, who also provided the vocals for the songs). Margaret's confusion and rage at being spurned by her lover is likewise masterful, and Lord Gregory's (Demetrius, played by Grant Cloyd) perfect smugness rounds out the madness. And yet, what makes these particular performances so notable is that through each of these moments, the audience manages to both feel pity and continue to enjoy the humor. It's a balance not easily achieved, but the cast manages to do so winningly.
Quotidian Theatre Company is located in Silver Spring, on the outskirts of the DMV area, but the performance is worth the trip. Their charming spin on Shakespeare reminds theater-goers exactly why we enjoy revisiting and re-experiencing old favourites, and helps us see A Midsummer Night's Dream through fresh and delighted eyes.
"A Midsummer NIght's Dream" plays at Quotidien Theatre Company's Randolph Road Theater (4010 Randolph Road, Silver Spring, MD) through August 12th.
Photo: Ian Blackwell Rogers as Puck and Madie Kilner as Faery, courtesy of Quotidian Theatre Company.