by Terrance Mc Arthur
Two couples get lost in the woods and run afoul of supernatural creatures. Sounds like a horror movie, right?
It’s Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, now playing at the Selma Arts Center through November 17. Director Casey Ballard has moved the play from ancient Athens, Greece to semi-modern Athens, Georgia, and peppered the cast with veterans of the SAC and the Woodward Shakespeare Festival.
Don’t sit in your seats, waiting for the play to start, or you’ll miss the beginning, which plays out on the patio in front of the Arts Center. You’ll find yourself in a cocktail party thrown by the ruler Theseus (Peter Boldt), to celebrate his coming marriage to Hippolyta (Nicolette C. Anderson), the queen of the Amazons he captured and wooed. Inside the building, we meet the lovers and would-be lovers of the story, and the working-class amateur players who hope to find fortune as wedding entertainers.
Lysander (Josh Plowman) and Hermia (Christina Johnson) elope through the woods to escape her father’s (Oz Monroe) chosen suitor (Ethan Magill). The woods are also fairy territory, where the feuding Titania (Kate McKnight) and Oberon (Daniel Serrano) have come to await Theseus’ wedding. Hermia’s friend Helena (Laramie Woolsey) leads Magill into the forest, hoping to win back his love by her loyalty (Like that would work, huh? You’d need supernatural help to make that happen.). Oberon’s fair friend Puck (Renee Newlove) is sent for a love-flower, but gets Athenians mixed up, and now “Everybody Loves Helena.”
The wannabe actors are punk’d by Puck, and Bottom (Laura Dodds) becomes an Ass (in the barnyard-animal sense) and winds up in the arms of the be-spelled Titania. After everyone sleeps off their spells, the properly aligned lovers are returned to Athens for “Three Weddings and a Play.”
Newlove’s “Southern” drawl takes Puck into “Dixie Pixie” territory. She’s frustrated by her demeaning chores, and lashes out by causing trouble for mortals. Dodds is a wild, Melissa-McCarthy-esque explosion of sound and action, bounding across the stage. Woolsey doesn’t bound much, encumbered with a knee brace, but she is sweetly woebegone in a party frock of the goofy kind; her lovelorn attitude turns to confusion as men buzz around her like bees fighting over a daffodil.
McKnight veers from imperious to delirious as the fairy queen under the influence. Andersen is steely as the captive bride-to-be, loosening up for the wedding party. Boldt is more restrained than in his more comic Reedley performances.
Jessica Reedy, usually majestic and dominating, has never looked so small and waiflike as a craftsman chosen to play a lion. Marlena Eckle makes an ethereal Wall in the play within a play.
Casey and Melinda Ballard’s costumes range from urban-sophisticate to chemotherapy headwear, and Andersen’s woodland scenery is full of nooks and crannies and levels. It’s an evening of gentle mirth, a dreamlike-environment for a mid-autumn night.
Midsummer plays at the Selma Arts Center, 1935 High Street, through November 17, so see it while you can. For information and tickets call (559) 891-2238 or go to their website.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 9 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.
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