A review of Shakespeare Dallas’ “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
In some ways, this is an easy play to review: it was terrific. How do I know? Is it my well tuned sense of humor? My finely crafted taste? Nope. Just me and audience laughing for almost the entirety of the show. It was also a blast teasing out all the subtlety in Shakespeare Dallas’ “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” now playing through 7/23/22 at Samuel-Grand Amphitheater (1500 Tennison Pkwy Dallas TX).
Watching the deft character development from the actors and director Raphael Parry, was a joy. Such lovely layers slowly peeled back as well as changes in the characters depending on who they are talking to that are usually glossed over in most productions. Seeing these fully formed human characters (I’ll include the gods and sprites in this descriptor as well) adjust their tone and actions and reveal more of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish was just a delight. The close attention the actors played to the language, matching so adeptly the word with the action made this one of the best shows I’ve seen at Shakespeare Dallas.
The list of actors who stood out is almost too long to list. Alysha Gonzalez as Helena was the perfect example of this character adaptability mentioned above. Her first appearance on stage shows her as a boy crazy adolescent, but then her first soliloquy to the audience shows an intricate inner life that weighs all the pros and cons of the gender politics she exists within. The leading men/love interests in the play, Lysander (Caleb de la Toure) and Demetrius (Ben Stegmair) were both pitch perfect and hilarious. Also, Donjalea Reynolds Chrane as Petra Quince (one of many gender switches from a traditional production) was uproarious in the Rude Mechanicals scenes. Usually Bottom (Greg Lush) is the main comedic focus in these scenes, but the audience (and I) didn’t respond too energetically to Mr. Lush’s performance so having Ms. Chrane’s comedic presence as well as the wonderful performance of the other Mechanicals carried these scenes. Those other members of the Mechanicals were terribly funny and talented, very much on display in their frequent musical interludes when doubled as the fairy sprites. Nick Hone as Puck just chewed up the stage and brought a wonderful degree of energy and mischief to the show.
Hermia (Francine Gonzalez) was such an earnest soul. I’d love to write another 2000 words just on the character interplay between Hermia as a person who knows and likes herself and thinks the world should be an orderly place and is capable of love, versus Helena as someone who deep down doesn’t like herself: “I’m ugly as a bear” she yells — which nobody believes, but it seems she does. “You see how simple I can be” — which she may believe, but after her soliloquies I don’t. Especially as it relates to Puck, who on some level is either something slightly sinister and sexual, or just a type of sexual energy that causes chaos. Stay tuned for me to get around to that philosophical treatise (which like most of my “writing to do list” items will be 4–6 years from now).
The early choice by Michael Johnson to play Theseus, the Duke of Athens, as a fumbling and doting husband was, I thought, a great choice that the audience really responded too. But something in his character had mellowed by the end of the play. The same goes for his performance as Oberon, King of the Fairies. His palpable sexual desire for Bottom when awakening from his sleep and being infected with Tatania’s love potion was absolutely hilarious. But again, it seemed there was a mellowing of the character as the show went on. It felt like there were some laughs just left on the table.
The costuming by Aaron Patrick DeClerk was just lovely, especially the sprites and fairies as well as the costume changes of the lovers as the play went on. The set design by Uldarico Sarmiento and lighting design by Adam Chamberlin gave the audience such a good grounding in whether we were in fairy land or in the realm of mortals. Sarah J. Romersberger continues to get great physical comedy from the actors through her fight and movement choreography. And the music direction and composition from Cherish Robinson and Sound Design from Kellen Voss is just the best in town.
I know that reviews can’t really be “true” nor do justice to art, because art is “more than cool reason ever comprehends.” So go see it for yourself and if your not happy, if this review hath offended, think but this and all is mended: nobody would be crazy enough to actually pay me to do this, so you’re just reading some random dude on the internet.