Monday, November 19, 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Portland Center Stage, Portland, OR

"The Stuff of Dreams"

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through December 23rd at PSC.  It is directed by OSF veteran, Penny Metropulos.  Information on times and prices are at or call 503-445-3700.

This is the second time I’ve reviewed “…Dream” in the past few months.  Check out  my review on this blog for MilePost5’s production last July.  A third production of this classic play is looming next year at OSF in Ashland.

Shakespeare’s “…Dream” is one of the loveliest fantasies every written.  It stirs in romance, adventure, comedy, status, politics, mistaken intentions, merry mix-ups and magic in a veritable quandary of a delicious feast.  Most of these elements are wonderfully realized in PCS’s production.

The story involves two sets of lovers but, both men, Demetrius (Joel Gelman) and Lysander (Ty Boice) love the same woman, Hermia (Kayla Lian), leaving Helena (Jenni Putney) on the outside looking in.  They escape to the forest to sort out their troubles and are beset by the Fairies, who have their own share of problems.  The merry prankster, Puck (Daisuke Tsuji) manages to screw things up even more for the lovers, by putting a love potion onto the wrong people, turning the triangle in favor of Helena.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Nick Bottom (James Newcomb) and a motley crew of tradesmen, have decided to put on a play for the nobility of their fair town, Theseus (Richard Baird) and Hippolyta (Dana Green), on their nuptial day.  But, again thanks to Puck, Bottom ends up making a perfect ass of himself.  Needless to say, all turns out as it should, and every Jack will have his Jill.

Most of the cast play dual roles and this transition makes for some acting challenges, which the actors are well-suited for.  And the Bard’s text is conversationally spoken, which makes it easier for the audience to understand.  Especially clear and concise are Mr. Baird and Ms. Green (also playing the Fairy King and Queen, Oberon and Titania).

Much of the success of the show is due to the physical antics of the characters, little nuances that make them so endearing, such as Demetrius constantly tripping over the  same  step, or Pyramus’s sword that has a mind of  its own, or the Changling Boy (Dylan Earhart) as Puck’s  assistant, et. al.  Kudos to the Director, Ms. Metropulos, for these additions.  And thanks also to some top local professionals in smaller roles, such as Linda Apler, a veteran of  OSF  (Quince, et.  al.), Todd Van Voris (Starveling, et. al.), a member of ART’s acting company, and Tim True (Snug, et. al.), founding member of Third Rail Theatre.

Mr. Newcomb is a fine Bottom, especially effective in his revelation speech near the end.  And the lovers are good with Mr. Boice and Ms. Lian being particularly notable.   Mr. Tsuji is a little too subdued in his presentation of Puck.  The role calls for a mischievous energy which isn’t there some of the time.

A couple things seem to be missing in this production.  The setting, although having a couple of terrific trees and a backdrop with images of the moon phases and dawn, don’t have the magic that is needed for such a  cavernous space.  It’s okay to do a stripped-down model of the play but it would need a smaller space for that.  This stage has the space to fulfill the fantasy but is not as well realized as it could be.

The costuming, except for the Fairy King and Queen and the tradesmen, do not suggest any time period the play may be set in.  And the Fairies’ garbs seem to be more silly than magical.  Also the Pyramus and Thisbe scene could use a dose of drama like, as mentioned, Bottom’s revelation speech.  The humor comes from the fact that these tradesmen are trying to be serious but are inept as actors.  They are not trying to be funny.  Some grasped this concept, some did not.

Overall, the show was enjoyable.  It is good to see a clear and clean interpretation of the dialogue.  If you go, tell them Dennis sent you.

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