Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by a community theater

Saturday, I attended a performance of William Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by the McClean Community Players (Virginia, Fairfax County).

The performance was held in the ballroom at the Vinson Hall Retirement Center.  I thought a facility in an retirement was an interesting community venue.

The performance by the McClean Players was directed by Rosemary Hoffman, produced by Bunny Bones and Jean Matich, and choreographed by Victoria Bloom.  It ran 150 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

The stage was wide, and set up with broken Greek pillars, over which trappings other settings, like outdoor forests, could be simulated.

The five acts are compressed into two, comprising eight scenes (with an intermission after five) .  But the 5-act structure of Shakespeare’s plays follow the Hauge screenplay structure reasonably well.

The plot centers around the wedding of Theseus, the Duke of Athens to the Amazon Queen, Hippolyta.  (I once got a musical composition mailed to me on a huge cardboard postcard from a high school friend, a heterosexual cis-male who would marry “normally” and have a family, who nevertheless signed the card as Hippolyta, and unfortunately I’ve lost it; it comprised some Irish folk songs, maybe like those in Stanford symphonies.)  Around this event there are various other love rectangles, all manipulated by wood fairies (or maybe the “wood spirits” of “Twin Peaks” from David Lynch), and a particular gremlin named Puck. The most important of these starts with the insistence by Egeus that his daughter Hermia accept an arranged marriage to Demetrius, when she loves Lysander.  The penalty for refusal would be either death of life in an convent as a nun, barren without children (Shakespeare’s language makes a lot of this).

Puck is the star of the show.  He has forfeited bipedalism, and gimps on all fours like most other primates. Unfortunately, he seems to have surrendered chest hair to tattoos.  He puts magic potions on people’s eyelids, which makes them fall in love with the next person they see.  This is a way to influence the outcomes of all these love triangles, arranged as in a 50s situation comedy.  It’s like the idea that you glance at someone whose trappings stimulate your fantasies, until someone else comes along.  (Remember the idea of the “catch of the month” of bab boy Shane Lyons in “Judas Kiss”?)

Critics have often noted that the play hints of feminism, gender ambiguity, and loss of individualism.  There are a few homoerotic moments involving Puck and one moment between rivals Demetrius and Lysander (who is much more “masculine” in a conventional sense). And a few times Lysander “gets it”. Lysander is forced to wear some awkward-looking leg garters; stage  actors go through a lot, every night.

The cast includes Catherine Gilbert as Hermia, Will MacLeod as Lysander, Mytheos Holt as Demetrius, Ilyan Rose-Davlia as Helena, Eleanor Tapscott as Oberon, and Gary Bernard DiNardo as Puck.

The background music included some of Grieg’s Peer Gynt as well as some typical Renaissance.  I didn’t hear the Mendelssohn.

The arranged marriage idea reminds me of the 1954 Sigmund Romberg musical and MGM film, “The Student Prince“. I also recall that the 1954 Fox spectacle “Demetrius and the Gladiators” was a sequel to “The Robe” and was maybe the second CinemaScope picture.  Finally, in noting movies based on earlier English literature, I wanted to note the curious and moving 1944 film “A Canterbury Tale” by Powell and Pressburger.

Wikipedia description of play.

(Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 4:30 PM EDT)