Photo Credit: Kendall Whitehouse
Theater review: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ offers up can’t-miss comedy, and a little magic
Mark Cofta, April 13, 2015
With all the Shakespeare playing on area stages — Hamlet at the Wilma, Macbeth at the Arden, and the Lantern’s Taming of the Shrew — overlooking the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream could be easy.
Don’t do it.
Although Artistic Director Carmen Khan’s production isn’t particularly ambitious — no nontraditional casting, edgy concept, or metaphorical overlay — her staging is warm, witty and wise.
Designers Bethanie Wampol (set), Jerold Forsyth (lights), Fabian Obispo (sound and composer), Colleen Hughes (choreography) and especially costume designer Vickie Esposito draw inspiration from the Festival of Colors in Jodhpur, India’s Blue City, with a nod to magical realism — bright choices for a romantic comedy infused with magic.
Melissa Dunphy’s mischievous Puck leads the cast, darting in and out of the action, often bowing a fascinating instrument called a Waterphone, producing a haunting sound somewhere between violin and theremin.
Brian Anthony Wilson plays her fairy king Oberon, with Eleni Delopoulos as his disobedient queen Titania; they’re also their human counterparts, Duke Theseus and his bride Hippolyta. Their fairy sprites are black-clad and faceless, with expressive colored lights on their fingertips.
Jessica Giannone, Jenna Kuerzi, Arlen Hancock, and Josh Kachnycz excel as the four young lovers whose affections are magically altered by Puck, with hilarious results.
John Zak makes a dourly pompous Nick Bottom, leader of the “rude mechanicals” who prepare a play for Duke Theseus’ wedding. Michael Gamache, John Schultz, Greg Giovanni, Aaron Kirkpatrick and Ife Foy are his castmates for “Pyramus and Thisbe,” the “merry and tragical” Romeo and Juliet-like tale they perform.
Khan’s brisk staging emphasizes music, fun and clarity; it’s a great production for those who think Shakespeare is incomprehensible, an involving primer on how to produce Shakespeare for a modern audience without condescension or frippery, but with balloons (and a full-cast Bollywood dance number).
Through May 17, $20 – 35, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom St., 215-496-8001, phillyshakespeare.org.