Sara Clark’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is running through December 2, 2023, at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This is something special. It is a rich, hysterical, beautiful production of this beloved classic comedy. It gave me goosebumps even before the first line was spoken.
That is a great way to measure a show or a performance, right? Can it move you? Can it give you goosebumps? Most theatre people have at least one Midsummer productions on their resume (CSC has done it many times before). But, the genius breath of magical enchantment here is adding the Q-Kidz, tremendously talented local acrobatic dancers who embodied the fun, chaotic, mischievous energy of mystical northern faeries.
But wait, there’s more
Robert Carlton Stimmel (Projections) along with Samantha Reno (Scenic) and Aiden Bezark (Lighting) have designed a beautiful playing space, catapulting the technological possibilities of Cincinnati theatre forward. The projections move and change along with the mood of the show, from windows with butterflies dancing in the sunlight, to ominous dark trees bending during Oberon and Titania’s battle. The moment you walk into the space you are transported, as the lighting and shadows oscillate and the pre-show music tells you you are somewhere North.
The Plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Theseus, Duke of Athens and Hippolyta are preparing for their wedding day and are interrupted when Egeus (Gina Cerimele-Mechley) brings her daughter, Hermia to the Duke. Egeus wants Hermia to marry Demetrius, but Hermia wants to marry Lysander. According to the law of the land, Hermia has no autonomy to wed as she pleases. Either she follows her parents wishes or is condemned to death. (Sadly, this got a laugh.) The Duke offers a third solution – join a convent. Afterwards Hermia and Lysander come up with the fourth option–run away. She tells her tall friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, and they all eventually meet up in the forest.
Meanwhile, a merry band of Athenian tradesmen are planning to put on a play for the Duke’s wedding. If they win there will be a reward. It is a motley group of passionate part-time thespians, rehearsing in the forest, but Bottom the Weaver is a bombastic overly confident performer who wants to take over (providing some of the biggest laughs of the night).
As both groups enter the forest they are unaware of the battle between Oberon and TItania, king and queen of the faeries. Titania has “forsworn the bed and company” of Oberon. They are arguing big time. Oberon enchants Titania in her sleep and she becomes obsessed with Bottom, now turned into an ass by faerie Puck. Puck also enchants the lovers, but confuses the pairs. Does it all end happily? Of course – but you must see how.
How to begin? So much talent on one stage! The foursome of Hermia (Emilie O’Hara), Helena (A.J. Baldwin), Demetrius (Patrick Earl Phillips), and Lysander (K.P. Powell) is so well cast. All of these actors have pulled new and original takes on these lines and characters, making them fresh. The acting is quite physical, sliding down the entry stairs, lifted as if enchanted (strong corework), jumps, hops, kicks, and tackles. They are such professionals.
The merry band of mechanicals demonstrate they are as one in their running gags and repeated refrains. Peter Quince (Courtney Lucien), Snug (Elizabeth Chinn Molloy), Pat (Hannah Gregory), Snout (Billy Chace), Starveling (Carey Davenport), Flute (Jack Bausch), and Bottom (Miranda McGee) together and individually get a chance to shine as they attempt “The Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe,” to great comedic effect. Each has mastered timing. I would bet McGee’s Bottom taps even more bravado as the run progresses. Her ad libs as she channels machismo are hysterical.
Faeries Puck (Angelique Archer), Oberon/Thesus (Geoffrey Warren Barnes II), and Titania/Hippolyta (Dawn Stern) transform their movements so the audience knows they are non-human. Again, they deliver in physically demanding roles. Barnes and Stern have the presence and voice to command. Archer as Puck is a mixture of obedient puppy, jokester and agent of chaos. The audience loves her. She totally owns her costume and makes it move.
The Q-Kidz Faeries make this show something even more special. Cobweb, Queen Hadden; Mustardseed, Karlee Armstead; Moth, Zakari Clark; and De’Unniey Crawford, Mackenzie Roberts and Shalin Harmon are sassy, sweet, and superbly talented dancers. Their choreography (Mariah Jones and Chariah Jones) as Titania’s followers resonates with the audience. Even the littlest (or especially the littlest) transform and elevate this show into the pantheon of best Midsummer productions ever.
More about the Production Team
Sara Clark has pared down the show, given it some focus, and made it accessible, while respecting most of the key elements. She has placed this as a Fairy tale–in the land of “Frozen” or “Anastasia” or “Brave.” Clothing, hair and make-up (Rainy Edwards) indicate it is somewhere North–where, it doesn’t matter. It is in our dreams.
CSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and Art Midwest’s Shakespeare in American Communities Program. This Midsummer clearly meets and exceeds their goals.
This is a wonderfully enchanting production. Go for Bottom (Cincinnati and Australia’s treasure, Miranda McGee). Go for the Q-Kidz, the technical wonders, or just for yourself. Bring your school-aged kids, parents or grandparents and give them a gift of Shakespeare’s magic.
Get tickets to A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Tickets are selling fast. Get yours HERE. The show is about 2 1/2 hours including a 15-minute intermission.