"A Midsummer Night’s Dream" Review

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the first production of the Davidson College Department of Theatre’s 2016-2017 season, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.

While the play followed the Shakespearean text, it got a few updates to make it a more “modern” production. The first of which was the addition of a beat to some of the monologues and dialogues. The actors worked with spoken word poets and a DJ to turn the iambic pentameter verse into rap. Anne Marie Costa, the director, also deviated from the original script by opting to break gender norms in terms of casting. Blaire Ebert’s character of Lydia is usually a man named Lysander. The change allowed for the portrayal of a queer relationship in the play, one which gets a “happily ever after.” Similarly, Hermia’s mother, played by Olivia Conley, is normally Hermia's father, which also breaks norms about familial power.

I can’t say that one actor stole the show because they were all incredibly talented. Colin Bye and Kanise Thompson nailed their performances as the fairy King and Queen, Oberon and Titania. They both had a mischievous and flirtatious air to their performance and showed their talent by also playing the Duke and his bride to be. Graham Marema made for a fantastic Puck (who may very well be the play’s most important character). She rapped out her monologues with apparent ease and made a delightful show of trickery. The two pairs of lovers played by Izem Ustun, Blaire Ebert, Ed Pritchard, and Sarah Kostoryz worked physical comedy magic by literally chasing each other about and wrestling on the floor. That’s still leaving out the hilarious group of performers who doubled as both actors for a play-within-a-play and fairies. The acting truly carried the performance, for even if you couldn’t understand the text, you got the plot from their expressions and style.

The production also featured the last set design of professor Joe Gardner before he retires from Davidson. The set was versatile and stylish. In the opener, the pieces were made of plain brown, but once the story transitioned to fairy-land, they turned around and revealed vines, potted plants, and other cool accessories. The set allowed for a diverse range of movement, including multiple actors rolling about on the floor and one hiding in a trash can of sorts. Costumes fit the style of the production, which seemed to be going for a back-alley city vibe in fairy-land and more proper business attire outside of it.

Now in terms of criticism, I have very few, although I’ve heard my views echoed by others who attended the show. The first issue was the randomly placed song and dance numbers. The numbers themselves were fine, although the dancing was about what you’d expect from a small liberal arts college theatre production. They appeared out of nowhere. The end in particular repeated the same song and dance number right before bows and right after, which didn’t make much sense. I think the numbers could have been integrated more smoothly than they were so as to feel less jarring to the audience. Secondly, the use of a leaf head for Bottom, rather than an actual donkey head detracted from a lot of the comedy in the play. Normally the jokes about the character being an “a$$” come off incredibly well, but I think they’d have gone over better if it had been clear that’s what the leaf head represented. Other than that, the production was fantastic!

Congrats to the cast and crew for all their hard work!

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About The Author

Just an English nerd drowning in words. English major with a Film and Media Studies minor. Aspiring to write many novels, films, television shows, and video games. Avid reviewer of movies, theatrical productions, videogames and pretty much anything you can possibly review.