“Midsummer Night’s Dream”…fun in the woods Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

e·pon·y·my  (-pn-m)noun: Derivation of a name of a city, country, era, institution, or other place or thing from that of a person. [American Heritage Dictionary]

‘Puck’- a character from Shakespeare’s MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM’, is one of those roles a talented thespian would die for. Call someone ‘puckish’ and the image of comedic, chaotic and mischievous immediately come to mind. THEATRE ERINDALE’s director Sue Miner has fortuitously allowed her charges to ‘go on stage & have 3 hours of fun’. Wes Payne has taken her at her word and the result is one of the funniest and most enjoyable romps this writer has ever spent in a magical forest. His constant façade of insouciant disrespect, glee at the misfortunes and havoc he creates, as well as that delightfully patronizing attitude (Lord, what fools these mortals be!) he has for others, make him just about possess the play. He’s a close tie with Ali Richardson whose Helena will steal your heart. She has a mobile face that underlines every bit of dialogue she recites.   {Photo courtesy of Jim Smagata  UTM}

Puck overseeing the wedding ceremonies

Puck overseeing the wedding ceremonies

The major manipulator of the action and one of the four romantic sub-plots that comprise the play is Oberon, who rules the fairies. Marcus Haccius (not a role from Julius Caesar!) has all the charisma and class that one would expect from a king! Even his hand-manipulating puppetry of those under his spell is performed with aplomb. Much deserved directorial credit is for the immediate and on-cue responses by Oberon’s quarries… each incident works! His queen is the oftimes misunderstood Titania. Elizabeth Stuart-Morris portrays her with an independent and definitely non-Elizabethan mien. Though Miner has re-set the era to the Industrial Revolution; Women’s Lib was long into the future so progressive enlightenment certainly would have pushed the envelope. Titania’s relationship with her husband; her fairies, and even the hilarious Ass-interlude are fraught with a subtle message.
There are some interesting changes, Hermia’s mother rather than her father is the one insisting on arranging the daughter’s match. Even the character’s name is altered… but the same ‘mishagas’ occurs plot-wise. Julia Taylor unfortunately lacks some zing in her efforts to fix Hermia up with Demetrius in spite of the young lady being hot for Lysander. As the suit-ee, Lindsey Middleton is a pratfall-prone Gracie Allen who constantly mangles up her desires and chastity, keeping the audience in stitches every time she’s on stage. Her yen for Josh Wiles is reflected in a creatively edited give & take especially in the run-away-to-the-woods episode. The other suitor has his own problems… Victor Pokinko is constantly being pursued by Helena. Every male should only have such a problem!
The mechanicals or local labour union that must entertain the three weddings are a composite hoot! There is the boastful Fraser Woodside (Bottom) who must also make an ass of himself; Brian Postalian who will demolish transvestitism for the next decade; Mark Snetzko whose wall will never meet construction standards anywhere but the Middle East. April Leung & Megan O’Kelly round out the troupe as ‘Lion’ and ‘Moonshine’ respectively.
The costumes are a visual delight. Fairies wings are diaphanous silk rather than the corny wire things endemic to Halloween, and the period outfits look tailored rather than ‘pret-a-porter’. Patrick Young’s set is creative and adaptable to both England (Athens) and the magical forest. Stage managing, usually a not-noticed aspect of crew (unless shi*t happens) is split-second and Barbara Wright’s contribution is incalculable. The background music is familiar Mendelssohn adapted by Anthony Bastianon. Miner has the audience actually stand up for the Act II wedding ceremonies… another comedically delightful moment. Puck closes the play by stating “If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is amended”… Never fear; Robin Goodfellow & Company, this is the funn-est [sic] ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ this writer has ever seen, so …All’s well that end’s well!                                   Olde England, Ancient Athens & magic Forest will be at Theatre Erindale until March 3rd.

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