There are few shows closer to my heart than A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was the first play by Shakespeare that I read, understood immediately, and fell in love with. It’s the show I have acted in most frequently throughout the years, the very last show that Lacy and I both acted in together, and the very first that we directed side by side. In my eyes, it is the most perfect script in the history of the world. It is effortlessly hilarious, easy to understand even if you aren’t familiar with the Bard, touching and captivating, regardless of how it is produced. You don’t have to try very hard to get swept up in the magic of it all. Rouge Theatrics’ darker more gothic re-imagination is different than most of the versions I have seen of this show but it still captured my heart just the same. Blending ghouls with the faeries and highlighting the dramatic where others have focused on the comedic worked with surprising ease. I always get excited when theatre companies decide to think outside the box with the classics, and this show does just that. It honors the script and the characters beautifully, and throws in an original pinch of darkness. For me, this only adds to the mystique.
Before the show, we hear wind rustling through trees over the speakers, bringing us into the moment. Without much effort, since we came in from the blustery cold, the audience is instructed to take our minds deep into the woods. Somewhere close, a supernatural storm is brewing. The set exemplifies this without being too much. It illustrates the otherworldly forest and the mortal ground equally and lets the characters do the rest. If you know nothing about Midsummer, it is a show entirely about relationships, the endless plight of male versus female, and the fight for understanding in the opposite sex. Even the King and Queen of Faerie land, with all their magic, have domestic quarrels.
I have to admit that I am a little biased, but I was supremely impressed by the cast of this show. Each actor was spot on in their role. There were some obvious technical issues throughout the first two scenes as lights changed erratically and the actors were left with no lights at one point, but not one line was dropped and the energy of the actors shone bright even in total darkness. The Lovers, as mortal and human as ever, are impossible not to relate to. They bring the audience right back to high school, loving with teenage urgency and fighting with uneasy angst, emotion always boiling right below the surface. The choice to cast a woman as Lysander was inspired; especially with the election right around the corner and Referendum 74 on the ballot. It gave their marriage at the end much more meaning. Elaine Huber brings a quick wit and gentle tenderness to her character, making it impossible to question why Hermia would so quickly run away to Athens in order to be married. Helena, played by Amberlee Williams, is a tortured, complicated girl with the emotional maturity of a 14 year old. Amberlee plays her like a fiddle, never annoying, and extremely eloquent. When you give her a chance, and listen, Helena actually understands more about relationships than she leads on, honestly knowing exactly what she is doing. The portrayal of Puck by Kyle James Traver is twisted and erotic. I enjoyed seeing this different side to a beloved character, he hisses and groans, raspy and intense, like he is telling the audience a well-kept secret. I loved it at first; we are hanging on every word, Puck is such a dramatic gossip after all! Although I am confused about the decision for him to constantly use this stage whisper. It was great when we could hear him, occasionally coming through in a raised cackle, then drops again and we strain to hear anything at all. I understand the intention but it was somewhat distracting, especially while interacting with the rest of the faeries.
Oh! The faeries, or should I say ghouls? They are feral but enticing, as if they combined zombies with forest spirits. As they emerge from the trees, the troupe makes guttural, ravaging noises, inhuman and hungry, it was very intriguing. I only wish they used those noises more frequently through the show. When they come together and unite, the effect is wonderfully unsettling. I would be remiss to not mention the Mechanicals, the players within the play, the comic relief, who perform the funniest end to a play ever written. Every single time I see Pyramus and Thisbe, I laugh just as hard as I did the very first time. Patrick Svensson portrays the great balancing act of Peter Quince with consistency, appearing both (appropriately) anxious and stable, at the same time. Kieran Adcock-Starr plays a pitch perfect Bottom the Weaver, sincere and genuine with just the right amount of “modesty,” his comedic timing is something to be observed. Several times throughout the show you think he will absolutely steal the scene, as Bottom would do, but instead his energy only boosts everyone on stage to perform at his level. This comedic camaraderie, is something I adore seeing on stage, and such a testament to the great direction of Jennifer Nöel Klouse.
All in all, this show is pretty stellar and I highly suggest it; if you can afford it. That is one drawback that I do have to mention, the tickets prices are a bit steep for TPS Room 4. The average price is $20 with the student/TPS discount at $17. To be honest it was a little more than advertised on the Facebook event, which said $15-$20 day of the show. Good thing we brought extra cash or we wouldn’t have been able to attend! For more info you can visit www.roguetheatrics.com.