The Center for The Arts opened with William Shakespeare’s mystical comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ about love and romantic mischief on Friday, Nov. 2, and will run to next Friday and Saturday evening and on Saturday and Sunday matinees, ending Nov. 11.
This delightful production filled the stage with frustrated love affairs, a Duke’s wedding celebration and fairies wanting to play havoc with it all.
The husband and wife directing team of George and Connie Downer charmingly set, the classic comedy, originally set in ancient Greece, in New York in the early 1920s. The beautifully designed set by George Downer recreates Central Park in the 1920s complete with the well-known arched stone bridge.
Theseus the Duke of Athens (played by Ryan Green), has now, in this version, expatriated from Greece to America in the 20's, but, he still holds court and power over local Greeks. At the opening of the play, they are all looking forward to the Duke’s wedding to the Amazon, Hippolyta, who is played to perfection by Rebekah Thoe.
Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, is not to be confused with a corporate executive of the massive internet sales company of the same name. This Amazon is a strong willed, over sexed, sword wielding, (and enjoying every blade flying moment of it), dominating woman whose wedding to the Duke is to be at the end of a four-day celebration filled with special events including a play about tragically failed loved, put on by local blue collar artisans.
Before the festival begins, Egeus, the father, (played by Eric Massengil), of Hermia (played Rachel Hortert) brings his daughter to the Duke, demanding his daughter wed Demetrius (played by Benjamin Hansen). However, she loves Lysander (played by Sam Downer), and to confuse this more Hermia’s friend, Helena (played by Aurora Boe), loves Demetrius, even though he loves Hermia.
Because a father still has power even in the early 1920s, the Duke gives the mixed up lovers before end of the celebration, to get it right or suffer dire consequences. They decide to chase each other into the woods of Central Park.
Now in this wood live the Fairy King Oberon (Adam Boe), and his very independent wife, Queen Titania, (Valerie Conover), their frisky bunch of fairies, and a young fairy boy know as Puck (Jordan Scott, who also is the narrator of the play).
Now Central Park (also known as the woods) is now starting to get crowded because the inept tradesmen have also decided to rehearse their play for the celebration in the woods. Then add to this group the fairy natives of the woods that are ruled by fairy King Oberon and Queen Titania. However, Oberon is angry with his wife and wants to get even with her. So, he gives Puck a love potion for all of the young lovers, and for his wife asleep in the woods. However, for Titania, he has her fall in love with one of the play’s performers, Bottom, a weaver by trade, (played hysterically by Dakota Green) who has gotten lost in the woods, and has before the evening falls, been turned into a donkey.
This sets up the crazy Midsummer night’s dream that all have to look forward to at night in the woods. The play is considered to be Shakespeare's most loved comedy, which is interesting because he is to have written it at the same time he was writing his greatest romantic tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet.”
The cast is excellent, especially the exceptional young actors who play the suffering young, devoted lovers whose confusion over how they each feel for each other is turned into great comedy.
George Downer actually spent time early in his life training at the famous Clown College, which explains many of the very funny physical routines during the lovers chase scenes.
The play producing tradesmen were also equally brilliant and very funny in their attempts to present their inept play of failed love. Since the play is now set in the 1920s it was amusing to see each man dressed in garb similar to great comedians of the period, like Groucho Marx, The Three Stooges and even Pinky Lee. The directors had the actors all watch old silent comedy films.
The talented Royal fairy couple and their controlling family squabbles, along with their court, were a delicious treat to watch, and the fairy songs and dances performed by the magical young sprites were truly enchanting.
The Downer directing team brought new light to an old classic. The costumes and sets recreating the 1920s truly gave the beloved play a creative new look. It was as if “The Great Gatsby” was on fairy dust, and it was fun.
For play information, go to www.boroarts.org or call (615) 904-2787.