Review of Post5 Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (13 July 2012)
The great thing about theatre is that no two perspectives on any one play are the same. Each production I see helps me understand the original better. Each director, designer and actor has his own view of what’s going on, and when you put those all together, you get a unique production that (as long as the perspectives are actually drawn from the script) helps the audience see the play in a way they never have before.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream seems particularly suited for this. Something about the play itself brings out the quirky creativity in people and lends itself to clever concepts and settings – sometimes a little too clever for the play’s good. But, honestly! What are you supposed to do with fairies, young people, courtiers and laborers-turned-thespians, not to mention magic spells and someone with a donkey’s head?
Post5 Theatre’s Dream took some getting used to. Directors Erica Terpening-Romeo and Caitlin Fisher-Draeger set it in Athens, Georgia, and gave everyone (all the mortals, at least) thick southern accents. Some of the actors handled this better than others, but overall I found I wasn’t a huge fan of listening to Shakespeare’s language with the extra challenge of sorting out an accent. (I’m not going to get into the discussion here of how English sounded in Shakespeare’s day. All I can say is, I didn’t live then.)
The other bit that I took a while to warm up to was their depiction of the fairies, who had some vaguely Native American vibe going on, complete with body paint and feathers. I will admit that the body paint (in fluorescent yellow, orange, green, pink and purple) was fun and funky, and they used it to good effect later on, but especially at the beginning, the fairies were a little too weird for me.
On the other hand, the way the directors had the fairies be present for the whole play, sometimes just watching on the sidelines, sometimes actively participating in bits where Shakespeare doesn’t explicitly have them on stage, was quite clever, and I liked it very much. They provided sound effects and contributed to the general enchantment of everyone else in the forest by occasionally smearing someone with pink or green paint – pink producing love and green envy or anger. While I’m pretty sure that Shakespeare is trying to point out that humans generally need little interference from the fairy world in order to make fools of ourselves, the fairy contribution to the insanity was a nice touch.
The set – a kind of scaffold supported by tree-like structures – provided handy perches for the fairies, and lent itself to some quite entertaining staging. It looked quite versatile, also – very impressive.
The costuming was problematic for me. The fairies wore as little as possible (low slung yoga pants and a bra?), and Helena and Hermia’s tops were inappropriately tight (Helena’s) and low (Hermia’s). That, coupled with over-the-top sexually suggestive physicality, keeps me from recommending the play. Don’t get me wrong: I know what’s going on in the play; I just think that it really doesn’t have to be that R-rated.
Orion Bradshaw’s Puck was a little disturbing at times until I started thinking of the fairy as a little boy who doesn’t know when something is appropriate and when not. From that point on, I enjoyed his performance very much.
The four lovers were quite good, and after a while, even the southern accents worked in this setting – especially with the girls. Jade Hobbs especially threw herself 110 percent into Helena, and did a marvelous job.
And then… the Rude Mechanicals. I nearly laughed myself sick when they were on stage. They were all quite brilliant, but especially Todd Hermanson as Bottom and R. David Willie as Flute. All the preparation for the play within a play was appropriately silly and great, but the play itself threatened to steal the show. From the Lion’s (Andrew Forrest’s) “mane” made out of a tutu to the Wall (David Wade Granmo) slowly melting under its own weight and Quince (Kerry Ryan) the director mouthing everyone’s parts along with them and correcting their pronunciation, it was amazing! And then, after all the silliness, they switched midstream and make the ending poignant and touching… Bravo.
I have yet to see a production of Dream that I am wholly satisfied with – no one’s vision is quite like mine – but each one I see helps me understand the play a little better, and for that, I am grateful. Post5 Theatre’s Dream may not be mine, but I think, under all the awkward accents, ill-conceived costumes and inappropriate actions, they caught the spirit and the heart of the play, as Puck says, “Lord what fools these mortals be.” Sometimes, it’s good to remember that… and to laugh at ourselves.