If there’s any play that’s more appropriate to perform in a park than William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” I don’t know one off hand.
The popular late 16th-century comedy – a literally fantastic, fun flight of fancy – is set in a forest. Four Athenians run away to the woods, only to have the impish Puck the fairy make both of the boys fall in love with the same girl. Much silliness, frivolity and hilarity ensue.
A stellar cast in the latest production at Rock Island’s verdant Lincoln Park, made Sunday in the park with Genesius a perfect, 90-minute entertainment. A welcome distraction from more worrisome aspects of life, my only complaint is in that very attractive outdoor environment – the inherent distractions on top of the distraction are most unwelcome (i.e., train horns and motorcycle vrooms).
This “Midsummer Night” is a dream, a complete delight from top to Bottom (with much credit due to Ben Graham as Bottom). Last staged by Genesius Guild in 2010, the new playful version is confidently directed by QC theater veteran Jeremy Mahr, who clearly knows how to satisfy audiences.
Penned by the Bard in 1595 or 1596, the irresistible, humane play — pointing out the foibles and conceits of mere mortals, and the magic of fairies — consists of several subplots that revolve around the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta (here portrayed by Joe Sager and Sarah Willie, who double as Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies).
One subplot follows a madcap group of six amateur actors rehearsing the play which they are to perform before the wedding. Both groups find themselves in a forest inhabited by fairies who manipulate the humans and are engaged in their own domestic intrigue.
The two couples, Mattie Gelaude as Puck, and the “actors” within the play all embody their parts with breezy brashness, poise and good humor (depending on the colorful role).
Calvin Vo as Lysander and Cayla Odendahl as Hermia are originally a couple, but Vo and T. Green as Demetrius comically fight over the statuesque Emma Hughes as Helena.
The two energetic, funny guys are aptly cast as well, since Vo and Green are co-artistic directors of Haus of Ruckus – a new production team of “queer writers who aim to uplift artists and audiences with avant-garde and stupid works.” (FYI, they also will lead the Genesius last show of the summer, an update of Aristophanes’ “The Frogs.”)
Peter Quince and his band of “rude mechanicals” stumble into the same enchanted woods to rehearse a play that’s loosely (and comically) based on the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. It’s a hit and a myth.
Other highlights of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” include the boisterous Graham as the ass Bottom (fittingly with streaks of green in his hair); Odendahl as the feisty, frustrated Hermia; Michael Carron as Snout/Cobweb, who brings sarcastic three-dimensionality as a crucial, cracked wall; Mischa Hooker as the noble Quince/Goblin; and Angela Rathman as a wild, mischievous Snug/Mustardseed.
Gelaude also doubles as the sage old Egeus, and has a plum, capping monologue and trick toward the end, where Puck emerges much closer to the audience.
As with much of Shakespeare, this “Dream” boasts a number of choice quotes, including:
- “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
(Lysander, Act 1 Scene 1)\
- “Methought I was enamoured of an ass.”
(Titania, Act 4 Scene 1)
- “I have had a most rare vision. I had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was… The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.”
(Bottom, Act 4 Scene 1)
Genesius Guild continues with free performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23, and Sunday, July 24 at Lincoln Park, 1120 40th St., Rock Island. For more information, visit the group’s website.