Fort Worth — William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is popular for many reasons—it’s a smorgasbord of magic, music, love, comedy, and spectacle with broad appeal. And, although it is performed so often that it flirts with theatrical fatigue, even mediocre productions rarely fail to please. It is all the more better when a director, a group of artists, and a cast can come together to execute a version that greatly enlivens a play that already sparkles on the page. Stephen Brown-Fried directs this Dream for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival with an eye to the full aesthetic, and much like he did with his resplendent Much Ado About Nothing he did for TSF a few years ago (still the best I’ve ever seen), he is able to do this in refreshingly straightforward and traditional manner.
The play is a study in the tension between opposites and the interplay of fantasy and reality. The Athenian court and its upper-class inhabitants (old vs young, and foreign vs domestic) contrast with the simple artisans who make up the “rude mechanicals” reaching the fullest expression in a wood near Athens where a supernatural kingdom of diverse fairies reigns.
The lovers who escape to this wood present a challenge of differentiation amongst four similar roles. Teddy Warren as Lysander, and Mitchell Stevens as Demetrius provide stalwart, handsome, and amusing support for their other halves. Amber Flores’ Hermia is perhaps a bit tall for the pint-sized spitfire, but she commits well to scrapping with Kelsey Milbourn’s Helena.
Chris Hury as the swaggering Theseus imbues the show with much-needed danger. His conquered-in-name-only bride, the Amazonian Hippolyta (Allison Pistorius) is a slinky vamp with a mind of her own.
Titania (Trisha Miller), and Oberon (Richard Haratine) command the fairy world. Miller returns to TSF as an Associate Artist and slays as the magically enraptured queen. Blake Hackler’s Puck is impressive and lithe in a perfectly balanced performance (a problem for some overeager Robin Goodfellows).
The “hempen homespuns” are Peter Quince (a nuanced J. Brent Alford), Francis Flute (Kyle Montgomery), Tom Snout (Cameron Smith), Snug (Alex Chrestopoulos), Robin Starveling (a fantastically fey Garret Storms who does not let his little dog, “Chewie” upstage him), and Bottom (David Coffee in a comedic role made for him).
The look of the play is awe-inspiring. I kept thinking of Max Reinhardt’s 1935 feast-for-the-eyes Dream, and even mentioned it to a fellow critic after the show. TSF’s production has intriguing echoes of Reinhardt’s lavish creation of elaborate dance numbers, stirring music, and fearsome and exotic fairies.
Aaron Patrick DeClerk’s costumes of togas, tunics, and sandals for the Athenians, and silks, body paint, and intricate pieces for the fairies create a world away on Bob Lavallee’s scrumptious set, especially the understated brilliance of a gigantic tree with sinuous roots and limbs dominating the woods. Kelsey Milbourn’s inspired choreography keeps things flowing—an important factor in a play that can become bogged down in too many magical moments.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will continue to titillate and populate festivals throughout the world, but Trinity’s stellar production is a Dream reborn.
» A Midsummer Night's Dream runs in rotating repertory with The Winter's Tale, of which you can read a review here