A Midsummer Night's Dream
Strong Actors, Humor Carry Play
On Friday, to a nearly-packed house, IPFW’s Department of Theatre opened William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream under the direction of Jeff Casazza, associate professor of acting, movement and voice. And the production is, overall, a delight. Shakespeare is being discussed more than normal at the moment since this past weekend marked the 400th anniversary of his death, and this lively staging is a sweet reminder that the bard is still relevant and hysterically funny as he offers insights into humanity and its frailty. Since this was part of IPFW’s season, I was happy to include it on the syllabus of a college introduction to literature class I am teaching this semester. So, having revisited it repeatedly over the last few months, seeing a new interpretation of it on stage was quite welcome, as I was watching students in my class react to it, both on paper and at Williams Theatre, and to Shakespeare overall. My thought watching it again on opening night, carrying the baggage of recent student commentary, was that parts of this play, like any other, sparkle a bit more than other parts for modern audiences. For Midsummer, the scenes of high comedy are the highlights, and the audience seemed to agree. Though the varied groups of characters and actors playing them were all well represented, the most impassioned rounds of applause went to the actors organizing and performing the play within a play about lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, as led by characters Peter Quince and Nick Bottom. When the play is performed for the duke and the four lovers who had finally matched up correctly after a fairy’s love potion complication, it truly is a riot in the hands of this director and fine young actors. In addition, of course, there are the royal fairies and their attendants, who shape the action of the very human lovers we first meet. These subplots come together well thanks, in part, to effective use of the Williams theatre stage and its many entrances. As is generally rightfully the case on IPFW’s two stages, all but a couple of actors cast are students, and overall they are quite well cast, indeed. Several have grown into very strong performers and will be missed when they graduate and move on this year or next. Darby LeClear (Titania, queen of the fairies), Brady Shrock (Lysander, one of the lovers), Riley Lorenzini (Cobweb, a fairy), and Brock Ireland (Oberon, king of the fairies) are all seniors and have turned in remarkable performances in varied roles during their time at IPFW. Luckily, many strong and reliable actors will be here for another year or more. Evan Hart, a junior, who plays Nick Bottom, is truly one of the best actors I have seen on a local stage. Zach Hunnicut, a freshman, is an incredibly nimble and funny Puck. Some actors were a bit more effective than others at articulating language that is so different from our own but all deliver. This production, running through April 30, makes a fine opportunity to celebrate Shakespeare and his timeless contribution to theater.