And that is what sets director Simon Pringle's production apart from all the others that I've seen. Pringle brought the Studio East Teen Ensemble--performing "A Midsummer Night's Dream" this weekend and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" next weekend--into balance in a play that is often a star vehicle for the characters of Puck and Nick Bottom. Don't get me wrong. Syd Coan as Puck and Zach Barr as Bottom gave fresh, lively, professional depth to the characters. When they were on stage, they owned the stage--as is their due. But in many productions I have seen in the past, the remainder of the play is spent waiting for their appearances. Not so with the Teen Ensemble production.
Each set of characters rises to center stage as appropriate. Kevin Wyatt-Stone's Oberon is a dominant presence as he directs the action and sets in motion the events that provide much of the comedy. He resonant voice, costume, makeup, and flowing golden locks are instant evidence that he is the king. This is played with a rebellious counterpoint from Aubree Kloes as Titania. The remaining faeries, Hailie Costa, Quinne Everett, Abby Burlingame, and Alexi Jordan, are delightful, ethereal beings that respond to Puck and curiously pick at the Ass, Nick Bottom.
The rustics preparing the festival play for Theseus each claim their time in the spotlight. All except Nick Bottom are played by women playing men, which makes scenes of Flute (Tara Sodoma) playing a man playing a woman far funnier. The momentary loss of her wig as she died may have been accidental, but should have been planned. Snug, Starveling, Quince, and Snout executed their parts during "Pyramus and Thisbe" so well that even the other actors were having difficulty keeping their smug demeanor in place.
And that brings us to the royal court. The four faeries doubled as Hippolyta, Theseus, Egeus and Philostrate. The interactions were precious, especially the understated drollness of Alexi Jordan as Philostrate. The costumes of the entire court were stunning, Edwardian compositions that gave instant distinction between the royals and the rustics.
The four lovers have often been seen as an interruption in the real action (faeries and rustics) in past performances. But Katie Santos as Helena, Erin Dwyer as Hermia, Zach Brockman as Lysander, and Cole Ziegler as Demetrius brought out the humor in their scenes. For the first time in any production of Midsummer that I've seen (and that's a lot), I could tell the difference between Helena and Hermia. Tiny Hermia and statuesque Helena made the contrasts that the two beautiful ladies continually talk about make sense. Brockman and Ziegler make the arguments, chases, and love scenes into a riotous subplot. The two have worked hard together in many productions at the Studio and their timing is precise. You know you are going to laugh everytime the two look at each other.
Scenery and lighting by Marty Eagleson and costumes by Rachel Wilkie were nothing short of stunning. The elegance and simplicity of the scenery accented the three contrasting costume groupings and brought the entire play into a unified whole.
This afternoon, Saturday 1/22 at 2:30, the Studio has declared two-for-one tickets at the door ($14). Doors open at 1:30. There are also still tickets available for the 7:30 show. This production will give you the opportunity to see Midsummer performed as a true ensemble. You will cheer them all.