Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Great Lakes Theater
Review by David Ritchey

Also see Mark's reviews of Marjorie Prime and Well and David's reviews of Hamlet and The Hunchback of Notre Dame


Jillian Kates and David Anthony Smith
Photo by Roger Mastroianni
A Midsummer Night's Dream has been a stage favorite since around 1590-1597. The play shared my high school English class with Macbeth (what an unusual pairing for high school students to use to learn the basics of Shakespeare). When I finally tackled Shakespeare again in college, the professor who taught my Shakespeare class was nicknamed "Dr. Bawdy", and how he loved the naughty scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream. In graduate school, I minored in English literature and once again studied A Midsummer Night's Dream. Now, as a reviewer, I've seen many productions of the Shakespeare comedy.

How my professors would have enjoyed the Great Lakes Theater's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I suspect William Shakespeare would have enjoyed this clean, sharp production of bawdy characters preparing for a wedding celebration. Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream for a specific acting company, meaning each role was tailored for a specific member of the company. The first performance was presented for about 1600 theatregoers. He wrote the comedy for a celebration, perhaps, a wedding.

Shakespeare provides three sets of characters. The first group represents royalty. They are involved in falling in love, planning the weddings, and making sure each human falls in love with the right person. The second group of characters consists of the fairies and spirits who organize the wanna-be-married into correct pairs of lovers. These mystical characters use magic potions to move certain characters to fall in love. Third, the "mechanicals" are the low characters who provide madcap humor. They write a play for the royals' wedding celebration. As the low characters evolve, the play they've written becomes the highlight off the story.

Nick Steen plays both Theseus (The Duke of Athens) and Oberon (King of the Fairies). Steen is as handsome as a soap opera star and as talented as a he should be. But, despite all of the good things going for him, Theseus has love problems with the beautiful Hippolyta (Jillian Kates). She wants out of the engagement or maybe she doesn't want out—no one knows. The two characters as love and the plans for marriage change their lives.

Egeus (Aled Davies) is terribly upset with his daughter Hermia (Michelle Pauker). She wants to marry Lysander (Cory Mach). But earlier, she wanted to marry Demetrius (Keri Rene Fuller). Lysander makes his first entrance in jeans, a t-shirt and chewing a mouthful of gum. He postures and poses like James Dean. The audience can almost see Egeus' blood pressure elevate. He demands his daughter marry the man her father selected for her. As Lysander, Corey Mach displays his talent as a superior actor as much as he does in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, running in rep with this play. Audiences should see him in both roles and watch a talented actor show his stunning abilities.

Puck or Robin Goodfellow (M. A. Taylor) helps with the magical powers. By placing the juice from the magic flower in the eyes of certain characters, they fall in love with the first person they see when they awake from sleep. Hippolyta awakens and is in love with Nick Bottom (David Anthony Smith), who has been turned into an ass, with donkey ears and a long tail.

The mechanicals have written Pyramus and Thisbe, their play. Philostrate (M. A. Taylor) provides a classic description of the Pyramus and Thisbe play: "A play there is, my lord, some ten words long ... But by ten words, my lord, it is too long." Peter Quince (Tom Ford), a carpenter, serves as the director or organizer of the entertainment. He casts the play and helps with the stage business. Francis Flute (Mack Shirilla), a bellows-mender, takes a role in the play. Tom Snout (Alex Syiek) plays the Tinker and Robin Starveling (Jodi Dominick) is a tailor.

Finally, the play is offered by the mechanicals and becomes a humorous, comedic event designed to occupy the royal family after the wedding ceremony and before midnight. Following the comedic play, the wedding party begins to dance and all enjoy the wonderful comedy Pyramus and Thisby, leading the appropriate couples into love with the proper persons and the opportunities for marriage.

This production divides the play into two acts (not the five acts as Shakespeare originally wrote it). Unfortunately, the first section moves much too slowly. However, this section carries the exposition, which the audience needs to establish the plot and the identity of each character. The second act opens like an 18-wheeler roaring through the theater. The production becomes loud, action packed, and about as much fun as possible in the Hanna.

Joseph Hanreddy (director) has done an excellent job of bringing the humor and physical comedy from the script. His work is especially strong in the second half of the play.

Scott Bradley (scenic designer) provides a visually exciting set for the show. Rachel Laritz (costume designer) dresses the actors in a variety of costumes, which are colorful, bright, and help tell the story.

Great Lakes Theater brings this humorous, exciting script to the stage once again and helps Mr. Shakespeare create a pleasant evening in the theater.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, through November 5, 2017, in repertory with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, at the Hanna Theatre in Playhouse Square, 2067 E 14th St, Cleveland OH. For ticket information, telephone 330-640-8869 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org.

Theseus, Duke of Athens/ Oberon, King of the Fairies: Nick Steen
Hippolyta, Queen off the Amazons/ Titania , Queen of the Fairies: Jillian Kates
Puck, or Robin Goodfellow/ Philostrate, Master of the Revels to Theseus: M. A. Taylor
Egeus, father to Hermia / Snug the Joiner: Aled Davies
Hermia, daughter to Egeus, in love with Lysander: Michelle Pauker
Lysander, initially in love with Hermia: Cory Mach
Helena, in love with Demetrius: Keri Rene Fuller
Demetrius, initially in love with Hermia: Jon Loya
Peter Quince, a carpenter, Moth: Tom Ford
Nick Bottom, a weaver: David Anthony Smith
Francis Flute, a bellows-mender/ Mustardseed: Mack Shirilla
Tom Snout, a tinker/Cobweb: Alex Syiek
Robin Starveling, a tailor/ Peaseblossom: Jodi Dominick
Followers of Oberon/ Servants to Theseus: Dan Hoy, Andrew Kotzen, Mickey Patrick Ryan
Followers of Titania/Servants to Hippolyta :Olivia Kaufmann, Mackenzie Wright
Robin Starveling's Dog: Sir Rupert III


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