William Shakespeare has, perhaps deservings, earned a reputation for the dense, nigh incomprehensible writing style present in many of his plays. This status is easily understood if one attempts to read any of Shakespeare’s plays as though it were a novel, however, reading it while being mindful of its proper medium, or better yet, seeing one of Shakespeare’s works performed dissipates the fog of antiquated dialog.
In such a performance, each actor, as opposed to a single reader, is then responsible for comprehending the intended meaning and translating the written words into a captivating narrative. Such is the case at Shakespeare Tavern with each of its actors dedicated to creating coherent and entertaining performances.
Currently, the playhouse is performing Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and will be doing so every weekend until Aug. 7. This play follows four hopelessly intertwined lovers and an acting troupe as they wander through a fairy infested forest.
The performance opens with a man upset that his daughter Hermia (Sarah Beth Moseley) wishes to marry Lysander (Stephen Ruffin) instead of the father’s choice for a husband (Demetrius, Brandon Partrick). To complicate this further, Hermia’s friend Helena (Jennifer Lamourt) is madly in love with Demetrius, who ignores her completely.
Upset with her father’s stubbornness, Hermia and Lysander run off to be married. Demetrius follows her, and then Helena follows him despite being told that their respective quarry do not return their love. The forest’s fairies and love potions get involved, and hilarity ensues.
While this whimsical play might be as well-known as “Romeo and Juliet,” audience members can never be quite certain what to expect, as each rendition tends to differ from the rest that have gone before. The vague nature of the fairies lends itself to a wide variety of interpretations, and, although the main plot points will forever be the same, the tone of delivery or the props used make each “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” portrayal unique in a way that a straightforward play such as “Romeo and Juliet” could never achieve.
Perhaps the most defining change (or at least the most readily observable change) in each portrayal of the play is the character of Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, the fairy servant of King Oberon, Lord of the Fairies. His appearance (and gender) changes from performance to performance, sometimes appearing as a ballerina or even a robot.
The Shakespeare Tavern performs this play every summer, and has also seen its share of Robin Goodfellow personas.
This year, the mischievous Puck, played by Jeremiah Parker Hobbs, was a satyr. His performance was commendable, and sometimes his mere presence on stage was enough to make the audience laugh.
Even with this fascinating character to contend with, Moseley’s Hermia and Lamourt’s Helena were by far the best acted characters and provided much of the play’s comedy. These two actors played their roles well and, while some interpretations of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” portray these women as incompetent or whiny, Moseley and Lamourt seemed to believe in their characters’ passions and motivations.
At one point, the two, thinking the other has stolen their boyfriend, get into a rather unladylike shouting match as the two men in question fight in a decidedly undignified manner in the background. Even though the content of the shouted argument is basically both women telling the other who they love, seeing the four fighting in such a ridiculous manner is quite humorous, especially since the fighting of the men includes the occasional bout of thumb wresting (albeit intense thumb wresting complete with vindictive staring).
With such entertaining scenes being the norm throughout this version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” those interested in a lighthearted comedy without much thinking involved would enjoy this Shakespearean play, as laughs abound, and the plot is not particularly detailed beyond the initial setup.