The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reviews Midsummer
Original article can be found here.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” conjures Shakespeare at his most whimsical and mischievous; you can easily imagine the Bard having an LOL moment as he put quill to parchment and transformed a pompous would-be actor into an ass.
The Carnegie Mellon production directed by Don Wadsworth and performed by a merry band of grad students works hard for the comedy and mines a lot of laughs for their trouble. They bring a modern attitude to the court of Theseus, Duke of Athens, in particular the young lovers who could have marched right out of “Gossip Girl” if not for the 16th-century language. They punctuate conversation with cruelty and kisses and giggles and shrieks as befits lovestruck teenagers.
The dreamscape that these foolish mortals stumble into and that serves as habitat for forest fairies, from the royal Oberon and Titania to servants with names like Mustard Seed and Cobweb, has been rendered with simple beauty by designer Anne Mundell.
There are no sharp angles here. A huge full moon with shine that fades and brightens stands guard behind an elliptical platform with a pool at the center. Feathers flutter about like autumn leaves. One of the trees, like a wrought-iron fence tube, serves as an elevator for the mischievous Puck to exit and enter.The only person who seems to be still for any length of time is the guy curled up in the corner of the stage. That’s supposed to be Tim Harrington’s Bottom, who we gather is dreaming, but of course, he’s in his dream as well, at once cursed with a donkey’s head and hoofs and at the same time granted the love of the charmed Titania. She is being taught a lesson by the fairy king Oberon in this tangled tale of who belongs with whom and how they get to where they are supposed to be.
This production works best in the central dream sequence within the forest, where barefoot fairies glide with easy grace and Ben Ferguson’s impish Puck is in constant motion, prancing, tumbling or rolling on wheels, escalating from a skateboard to a Segueway.
Some of the biggest laughs come during the confrontation in which spellbound Lysander and Demetrius fight over Helena, with Hermia literally hanging onto Lysander to try to bring him to his senses.
A woman scorned is not someone to trifle with, and Sara Trapnelli plays Helena with determined comedic outrage as she is at first rejected by her beloved Demetrius (Corey Cott) then adored by him and Lysander.
With Ryan Melia as Lysander and Mimi Gianopulos as Hermia, any lines lost in translation over several hundred years were compensated for in delivery, and the audience on opening night laughed heartily at the funny bits, just as Shakespeare intended.