Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s (STNJ) Outdoor Stage offerings are always something special. This year’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is truly tapping in to the zeitgeist of these times, which are SO different from 2011, when this play last was performed in the Greek Theatre at St. Elizabeth’s in Madison. This is a MUST see on your calendar, so make your reservations NOW.
William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has seen many treatments, but I doubt there has been such a theme of renewal as there is in this production, largely the brainchild of Artistic Director Bonnie Monte, who is also at the helm. She has her hand in set, costume, and sound design, and the poster gives away the theme of reduce-reuse-recycle. After all, so many players play multiple parts within that this is truly a recycling production. Also notable are Burke Wilmore’s lighting, and choreography by the deeply talented Felix Mayes, who also becomes a triple threat, playing Philostrate and Puck. Philostrate means “lover of battles” and, in both roles, Mayes kicks it out! His outfit as Puck should perhaps read “Punk,” as his rockstar wardrobe and dancing athleticism light up the stage.
Earl Baker, Jr. and Vanessa Morosco are Theseus and Hippolyta, the arch and urbane couple, whose nuptials are forthcoming. They are also the cunning Oberon and Titania, who lock horns with one another just for the joy of battle. In both of their roles, we see the dynamic range of this dynamic duo. He is as determined to have what she values by any means possible, and she is aptly named–her titanic temper and iron fist in a velvet glove are apparent in every aspect of her mien. Of course, we all know how it turns out, yet isn’t it fun! Oberon stalks the stage in an outfit of teal taffeta, reminiscent of the seven-fold Hakama worn by samurai, accessorized with chains of bottle caps and tabs, perhaps representing that made by man. Titania is garbed with the beauty of the natural world, truly Lady Nature, as lovely and sometimes as cruel.
The fairies are among the most brilliantly costumed including Peaseblossom (Courtney McGowan), Mustardseed (Austin Blunk), Moth (Jonathan Finnegan), whose wings are an impressive collection you MUST see, and Cobweb (Nike Kadri), as well as the stylishly turned out jingling Key Fairy (Tyshon Boone), a sparkling Ring Fairy (Katlyn Tilt), and a Button Fairy (Joelle Zazz), to round out the attendants.
Pop culture references abound, and you’ll feel very smart when you “get” them. The true star is the rendition of the interpolated play “Pyramus and Thisbe,” written by Peter Quince (Bruce Cromer), who agonizes over every aspect, and Ian Hersey’s Nick Bottom, who is a hilarious limning of an Actor. This band of players is priceless with McGowan’s Lion, Finnegan’s Wall, Kadri’s Man in the Moon, and expecially Blunk’s benighted Thisbe, creating delicious frictive fireworks with Hersey’s Pyramus, while Quince shouts stage directions from behind the curtain. I literally could not control my face, laughing out loud all the while. Add in your homemade picnic and potables, potent or otherwise, and you have a magic evening indeed.
Didn’t you get your tickets earlier, THEN read this review? If not, do it now at www.shakespearenj.org
. July 30 is your final chance to live this Dream.