A Midsummer Night’s Dream
New Phoenix Theatre
95 Johnson Park, 853-1334
Through May 23. Thu, Fri, Sat 8pm; Thursdays are Pay What You Can
Audience members entering the New Phoenix Theatre for a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will find themselves in a substantially transformed space. Seating has been removed from much of the area before the stage, and in its place is “A wood near Athens,” the enchanted woodland where the largest part of this comedy of several very unsmooth courses of love is laid.
Dominating the transformed space are two large structures strikingly representative of the forest primeval. Rising toward the ceiling and constructed of wire mesh, they’re effectively illuminated by green-tinted light and surmounted by spreading “branches” of silvery, leafy shapes. They very nicely evoke the magical fairyland setting for the play’s romantic adventures. (The set is the combined product of set designer Paul L. Bostaph and lighting specialist Chris Cavanagh.)
This setting may be a trifle misleading, however. Director Kelli Bocock-Natale and her cast haven’t sought to deliver delicate or intricately fantastic effects so much as a rollicking, occasionally boisterous version of the play. It’s geared to channeling and discharging high energy, and, judging by the appreciatively amused reaction of the audience last Friday, they’ve been successful in this effort.
The actors play in loud, knockabout style, with the occasional out-of-character aside and un-Shakespearean verbal business, which elicited laughter. Sometimes, there seemed to be a broad, British music hall flavor to the proceedings.
The cast members have various degrees of success with this approach, the most accomplished, perhaps, being Eric Rawski’s Bottom. The scenes with him and his fellow “rude mechanicals” seem to work the most consistently and Rawski’s Bottom is properly spirited, and then puzzled by his adventure in fairyland.
In the production’s rambunctious burlesquing playing, the poetic meter and lyricism may be obscured, but on one night last week, those in attendance didn’t seem to mind a bit.