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Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Long before The Everly Brothers told us that “Love Hurts,” there was William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in which the playwright sowed enough romantic misery to last hundreds of years.
Wait … his tale has lasted hundreds of years! Written late in the 16th century, it’s still going strong, as the current Showtimers version demonstrates with agreeable proficiency, verve and humor.
Yes, humor. For all the distress that is visited upon its various lovers, the play is nominally a comedy. Lest one forget, the riotous final act provides a forceful reminder.
In the Showtimers production it is delivered via the inspired performances of Patrick Kennerly and Gary Reid. As Bottom and Flute, respectively, they and four fellow tradesmen or “rude mechanicals” bumble their way through a laughable theatrical version of the legend of Pyramus and Thisbe for the entertainment of Theseus, duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, at the couple’s wedding celebration.
But that’s getting ahead of the story. Among the wedding guests are four star-crossed young lovers: Hermia, who loves Lysander and is loved by him in turn; Demetrius, who also loves Hermia (and whom her father insists she marry); and poor Helena, who is besotted with Demetrius only to be targeted by his scorn and cruel barbs.
The plot is thickened by a nearby band of fairies who take it upon themselves to meddle in the mortals’ romantic doings. Using a couple of magic potions, they set off a round of identity muddles that leave the lovers even more troubled and confused than before. Helena, for example, whom no one loved before, is suddenly pursued not only by Demetrius, but Lysander as well. Predictably, Hermia is not pleased.
The principal maker of romantic mischief is the fairy Puck. Director Joel Gruver’s Puck is a woman — part of his effort to add figurative muscle to the play’s distaff element — and Amanda Cash’s portrayal of the prankish fairy is a high point of the show.
Though Shakespeare hardly ignores the jealousy, anger and bitter disappointments of love, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” of course ends happily. Puck, in fact, suggests that the whole fantasy-tinged exercise has been a dream.
Aside from the aforementioned Kennerly, Reid and Cash, note should be made of actors Heather Sexton (Hermia), Kelly Anglim (Helena) and Kevin McAlexander (Lysander) for their standout performances. Set designers John and Heather Simpson deserve a special nod, as do costumers Raynelle Landford, Jane Neighbors and Salena Sullivan.
And finally, credit is due director Gruver for bringing it all together into a lively and inventive whole. If you’re due a Shakespeare booster shot, this one is recommended.
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