'Midsummer Night's Dream' from Mauckingbird
By Toby Zinman, For The Inquirer
Wherever the line is between the classical and the contemporary, between sex and sexual politics, between a campy wink and a theatrical nod, Peter Reynolds, artistic director of Mauckingbird Theatre Company, walks it. For this clever, festive, gender-bending production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he is joined by codirector Lynne Innerst. Together, with a young, energetic, talented cast, they make Shakespeare’s most familiar comedy seem surprising, a “new jollity” full of fun.
The play is about love - youthful, willful love among the teenaged and middle-aged, powerful love among the royals, and ageless, spiteful, delectable love among the fairies. The young lovers run off to the forest to escape the edicts of the courtly world (there is a brief PowerPoint presentation of Parental Privilege Law). Then the fairies’ magic undoes the couples and then redoes them and, as happens in any comedy, everybody’s sorted out and paired up happily in the end.
Lysander (Emily Letts) loves Hermia (Erin Mulgrew), but Lysander’s father wants her to marry Demetrius (Sean Gibson), but Helena (the outstanding Patrick Joyce) is crazy about him. The gender of the beloved isn’t the point: The feeling is everything. And with spell-casting flowers and the mistakes of a sprite (the excellent Brent Knobloch, who delivers the poetry with ease and speed), things get complicated.
Most dramatic of the love stories is the power struggle between the King (Charles Illingworth IV) and Queen (the spectacular Sean Thompson) of the Fairies, both played by men. They are surrounded by fairy minions, whose superb and silent dance scene was choreographed by Samantha Bellomo.
Mixed into the love stories is the comic relief of the Rude Mechanicals - a bunch of local workmen rehearsing a play to present at the royal wedding of Theseus (Ben Lovell) to Hippolyta (Melanie Julian, the show’s weak link, makes the Amazon Queen into a suburban matron). Often annoying and tedious, the Mechanicals here are hilarious and sweet; especially good is Danielle Pinnock as Bottom, who leaps and squeaks, in love with showbiz.
Everything about the production contributes to the pleasure: the funny technology touches (cell-phone photos, texting), the set (designed by Dan Soule and S. Cory Palmer, who expect our imaginations to meet theirs - fairy lights will do for fairyland), the sometimes jokey, sometimes wild costumes (designed by Lauren Perigard), and the irresistibly witty sound design by Chris Colucci.
This is a perfect way to spend a midsummer night.