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A Midsummer Nightís Dream

By Anna Ditkoff | Posted 6/8/2005

Iíve seen A Midsummer Nightís Dream a lot, probably because performances of the play are nearly as inevitable as midsummer itself. The Chesapeake Shakespeare Companyís new rendition is set in the 1920s and offers beautiful costumes, amusing props, and fairies dressed as belly dancers and Valentino-style sheiks. Overall, itís an energetic production with some wonderful scenes, but awkward blocking and some poor casting keep it from being the romp it aspires to be.

Midsummer follows the adventures of four lovers: Lysander and Hermia are in love, but Hermiaís father wants her to marry Demetrius, who has spurned the lovesick Helena. Lysander and Hermia run away, followed by the other two, and they get sucked into a loversí spat between Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, whose minions use magic to change the loversí affections. Meanwhile, a group of tradesmen, called the Mechanicals, have decided to put on a play. They too end up embroiled in the fairy feud when Nick Bottom, one of the actors, is turned into a literal ass and Titania, under a spell, falls in love with him.

Chesapeakeís production takes a while to warm up. Director Ian Gallanar, also the companyís artistic director, uses a peninsular stage. In trying to offer everyone a view of the action, he often provides it to no one. Characters are introduced with their backs to half the audience, actors obscure each other from view, and with all the noise that accompanies an outdoor production, itís hard to hear much of the cast.

Hermia, played by Aimee Lambing, initially comes off as cloying and self-satisfied, and Rebecca Ellisí Helena begins the play as a harpy, making it hard to care about either of them, though they eventually turn things around and provide some of the productionís funniest moments. The men are more consistent. Jonathan Judge-Russoís Demetrius seems to care more for Helena than she does for herself, and Jacob Rothermel is excellent as Lysander, making the most out of every word and reaction. The Mechanicals, often the worst or best part of any Midsummer production, are highly entertaining, especially Patrick Kilpatrick (pictured right, with Bob Alleman) as the obliviously cocky Bottom. Kilpatrick, who is often stiff in dramatic roles, throws himself into the absurdity of his character with gusto. But the playís standout performance comes from 8-year-old Regan Hall, who plays a beleaguered young fairy. Even without lines, Hallís expression, as she toils for Titania, steals every scene she is in.

Unfortunately, not everyone does as well. Lesley Malinís Titania is stiff and lacks the ethereal quality of the fairy queen, and Wayne Willingerís overly aggressive Puck is more Hulk than mischievous spirit. Still, the chemistry between the actors and the verve they bring to the roles make this occasionally clunky production an enjoyable confection.

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