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Door Shakespeare Presents “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

“I liked it a lot,” my grandson Robert said as we were walking back to the parking lot. “It was really funny!”

The praise was eloquent coming from a 14-year-old boy who had just seen his first Shakespearean production, and sincere as well; from time to time during the play I had glanced in his direction to see him smiling and chuckling at the performance.

For those wishing to introduce a child or grandchild to live Shakespeare, the current Door Shakespeare production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be the one to choose. And chances are, any adult accompanying that young person will enjoy it even more.

The story begins with the impending marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta in Athena, and the protest of Egeus that his daughter Hermia refuses to marry his choice of husband, Demetrius, but insists on marrying Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius, who ignores her.

Hermia and Lysander run away into the nearby forest, followed by Helena and Demetrius, where they become the victims of the magic of fairies who reside there, their quarreling fairy king Oberon and queen Titania, and the misguided machinations of the fairy servant Puck.

Coincidentally, a group of bumbling workmen have chosen the forest as a rehearsal space for the play they hope to perform at the marriage celebration of Thesus and Hippolyta.

Mistaken identities, inept plans, and general mayhem – all within the darkness of a woods – lead to frustration for the characters and laughter for the audience, until everything is ultimately sorted out, and all ends well.

The lovers quarrel in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Joseph Hanreddy. Photo by Torey Byrne.

The lovers quarrel in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Joseph Hanreddy. Photo by Torey Byrne.

The Door Shakespeare production succeeds for a number of reasons. The garden setting for the outdoor theater is ideal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the audience literally transported into a forest where the story occurs. The intimacy of the theater, with the actors at times a hands-reach from the audience and on one occasion joining them, adds to the immediacy of the production.

The acting is strong, with outstanding comedic performances by Anne Thompson as Helena, Demetrios Troy as Puck, Neil Brookshire as Nick Bottom, and James Carrington as both the workman Frances Flute and the fairy Peaseblossom.

The production is fast paced with seamless set changes, occasionally with “invisible” fairies remaining on stage rather than exiting at the end of their scene. The 5 pm performance was lit by the sun but with no loss of production values. Characters intriguingly could be seen in advance making an entrance along a path in the woods, arriving at the stage area at the precise moment they were required to make their scheduled entrances.

The contemporary modern dress costuming added to the tone of the production. The lovers Lysander and Demetrius were frat boys with Greek letters. The workman at their play rehearsal looked as if they had arrived directly from a work site (despite Bottom the Weaver’s puzzling knee pads!); the costumes for their fumbling play were delightfully vulgar. The otherworldly costumes of the fairies were abstract works of art.

The color-blind casting enhanced the production, and the double casting, especially of the macho workmen also serving as fairies, added to the humor.

Directer Joseph Hanreddy is to be congratulated for a production in which well-chosen details added up to a sum that is greater than the whole.

Coincidentally, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the first show presented by Door Shakespeare in their inaugural 1995 season.

This year A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 pm) alternates with Julius Caesar (Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays at 8 pm). Visit doorshakespeare.com or call 920.839.1500 for information and tickets.

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