I last saw a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1995 with the Royal Shakespeare Company. A production that ultimately toured the United States, including the Kennedy Center, and was made into a movie. STC’s production stands up to that production, although a bit sillier and with a touch of bawdiness. The silliness is encapsulated at the end of the first act when Helena confronts Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius with her belief that they are playing a prank on her by having both Lysander and Demetrius act as if they are in love with her. The fight starts with Oberon and Puck sitting on a balcony at the side of the stage with Puck pulling out a bucket of popcorn as the fight commences. The fight turns messy when, with the assistance of Puck, it turns into a highly entertaining mud fight between the four characters. The bawdiness that is there is of the PG quality, with the characters being stripped down to their underwear during the fight scene. Or during the Mechanicals performance of Pyramus and Thisbe when Thisbe says she is going to kiss the stones of the Wall that separate’s her from her love Pyramus and ends up kissing Tom Snout, who is playing the Wall, in his midsection, or when she is going to kiss the hole in the Wall and kisses Snout’s . . . well you can guess.
The stand out characters in this production are what you would expect from this show, Nick Bottom and Puck. Bottom was portrayed by Bruce Dow who was channeling Eric Stonestreet and his portrayal of Cam on “Modern Family”, in both look and personality. Fast forward to the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe and Dow seemed to be channeling a bit of Nathan Lane’s Albert in “The Birdcage”. Adam Green portrayed Puck admirably. While not my favorite performance of the character I have ever seen he was a more involved in the mischief making than I have seen in other productions, which was much appreciated. Whether it was snagging a golf club out of Demetrius’ hands, using a hose on the fighting Athenians, or mixing and making the mud pit on stage for the Athenians to get messy with. Green’s Puck was much more actively involved in the mayhem of the night, beyond just mistakenly administering the flower to Lysander and transforming Bottom into a donkey.
The costuming was a bit curious. The opening of the show is an Evita like moment with Theseus and Hippolyta addressing a crowd from a balcony in 1940s style clothes. However, outside of Helena none of the other youthful Athenians maintained that dress style. Hermia is dressed as a Catholic school girl, Lysander as a grunge rocker carrying an acoustic guitar, and Demetrius as a country club child carrying a golf club. Conversely, the world of the fairies maintained a cohesive style amongst all the actors of an almost Cirque de Soleil style.
STC appeared to be engaging in color-blind casting, by casting three black actors as Demetrius, Helena and one member of the ensemble. With the remainder of the cast being white it was quite noticeable that the two minority actors that were given substantial roles were the two young Athenian’s that ended up with each other at the end. While Lysander and Hermia, both white, ended up with each other at the end of the show. While all of the actors did excellent jobs and this is no fault of their own, the roles they were given seemed to be a bit convenient especially when engaging in color-blind casting.
As a reader of the playbill and looking at the actors bios I do wish the ensemble actors, who were cast as Titania’s fairies, had been listed as more than just “ensemble”, especially in light of the fact that the fairies are named during the show. While you are able to match some of the performers to their bios, it is not completely possible.