A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Wedding Day Party

The first hint that this was going to be a different sort of Midsummer Night’s Dream was obvious when we entered the theatre.  Puffy white bows adorn some aisle seats – we are guests at a wedding.  On the stage are the wedding guests, tipping back beer bottles, sipping from wine glasses.  Stratford’s thrust stage is totally covered in grass, a barbecue smokes in the corner, and strings of white lights, just like many back yards, dangle across the sky.

Sure enough, it’s a wedding, 2014 style – a gay, interracial wedding.  The guests/actors are dressed like the theatre-goers, and wander around, hugging audience members, greeting friends.  Finally, they are all seated around the stage, and the grooms enter.  The guests decide to put on the show for the happy couple.

We move into the show inside the show. The wedding guests are acting out roles in Midsummer Night’s Dream. In a side plot, a group of fairies living in the forest collide with the characters in their show.Midsummer Nights Dream Bottom

I thoroughly enjoyed the 2014 look of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The words and language are still Shakespeare’s, but the feel is today. Director Chris Abraham goes all out to give us an enthusiastic and novel look at one of Shakespeare’s standards.  Tunes are played at various times throughout the show, again modernized to make sure we have our bearings.

Egeus, Hermia’s father (Michael Spencer-Davis) is hard of hearing, and another character has to interpret for him using sign language.  In the program notes, Abraham admits there was a challenge translating Shakespearean language into American Sign Language.  Lysander, who is in love with Helena is a lesbian woman played by Tara Rosling, instead of the usual man.  Puck, an elf normally played by a young man, is portrayed mischievously by a woman, Chick Reid.

The Fairy King and Queen, Oberon and Titania, are both played delightfully by a pair of men, Evan Buliung and Jonathan Goad.  The men alternate roles each show, so each has the opportunity to don a dress as the Fairy Queen.

Mike Shara garners laughs as Demetrius who ignores Helena and loves Hermia – and appears a little baffled by the entire situation.

Stephen Ouimette as Nick Bottom who grows the head of a donkey on his shoulders was hilarious – first as the barbecue king and later as the donkey-man.

Fairies are played by endearing children.  All of them deserve credit for their excellent work.

Somehow all the silliness seems perfectly natural in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues in repertoire until October 11 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.  Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca

Photo: Stephen Ouimette as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Michael Cooper.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Chris Abraham
Festival Theatre, Stratford
May 31 to October 11, 2014
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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