Though Shakespeare may not have expected his plays to be performed on anything but a theater stage, Studio 301 makes it seem like A Midsummer Night’s Dream was designed for the outdoors. The independent student theater group’s production debuted last night and will continue performances Thursdays through Sundays until May 24.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows three intertwining tales of love and bewitchment. First the audience meets the four youths: two men and two women who are all a bit crossed in love. Their story begins calmly but quickly escalates to an uproarious scene of infighting and competitions of machismo.
It is in this scene that freshman dramatic arts major Michael Lutheran and junior English major Brendan Ward shine in their characters Lysander and Demitrius, respectively. Their performances up to this point seem ordinary, but their complete and creative commitment to one-upping their counterpart gives their characters real charisma. The two women stay consistently wonderful throughout, especially the marvelously expressive Helena (played by sophomore comparative literature major Cody Messick).
Second, the audience observes the spouse’s quarrel between the fairy king and his queen. This production seems to downplay this story’s importance, as do the two actors with their roles. This subplot is the only easily forgettable part of the play.
Lastly, the audience meets a motley troupe of actors rehearsing a play who are continually held back by their own absurdities. Unique directorial choices, such as the inclusion of an earnest foreigner and a lazy yet potentially dangerous simpleton, reinvent the familiar characters in a hilarious way.
The play is dominated by physicality. In this version, characters rarely listen to the monologues they’re supposed to hear, which allows the audience to revel in their antics occurring elsewhere on stage. Few and far between are the moments in which characters stand still.
The most fantastic of the remarkable physicality choices are those of the fairy characters. Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed and one nameless fairy draw upon the mannerisms of primates and the vocal abilities of parrots and dinosaurs. Their lithe motions and wordless language allow them to tell their own original stories, deftly woven into Shakespeare’s aged text.
The play is the first full-length production to be performed on Wyatt deck, an outdoor patio in the arboretum across from Wyatt Pavilion. Its exposure to the elements increases the performance’s unpredictability, but the play adapts to the space well. The production makes marvelous use of its set with creative stage entrances and interactions with the environment.
The show never ceases to keep the audience engaged, whether through visual wonder (any time the fairies are onstage) or through humor (which permeates too much to limit to one scene as an example). Even after mischievous Puck speaks the last line of the play, the final bow is an event to behold.
All in all, the performance is so vibrant and wonderful that you won’t want to leave. That is, of course, unless you forgot your sweatshirt. Bundle up; it’ll get chilly out there.
Tickets are $10 general admission and $8 for students. Seat reservations can be made by e-mailing the number of seats requested to email@example.com or by calling (408) 838-7551.
LAURA KROEGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.