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PRC’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Offers Accessible Shakespeare

MidsummerNightsDreamPOSTER-PRC2014

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a whimsical and funny tale. Unfortunately, for many younger viewers, it can also be a bit garbled and hard to understand, making it traditionally more popular with older audiences. Playmakers Repertory Company’s version, directed by Shana Cooper and performed in rotating repertory with “Into the Woods,” conquers the great divide between Shakespeare devotees and fledgling newcomers to create a show that’s comprehensible, relatable, and charming to members of both groups.

Ray Dooley stars as Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Ray Dooley stars as Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (photo by Jon Gardiner)

While many directors have sought to do something new and different with Shakespeare’s works, Cooper really pushes the limit on inventiveness. Her actors slink and slither across the stage, turning seemingly innocuous lines into searingly sexual ones and refusing to let a single chance for humor escape. A gorgeous and somewhat minimalist set by Marion Williams adds to the special mystique of the performance.

The show is also perfectly cast. The young and soon-to-be-confused foursome is made up of Allison Altman’s plucky-but-sweet Helena, Arielle Yoder’s wide-eyed, mischievous Hermia, Schuyler Scott Mastain’s oft-befuddled and devilishly charming Lysander, and William Hughes’ just plain devilish Demetrius. And while they do a fine job of carrying the leading story, it is veteran actors Ray Dooley and Julie Fishell who truly take center stage. Dooley is boyishly endearing and often painstakingly beautiful as Puck and also does a fine job as both Philostrate and Snug while Fishell embodies bawdy humor and brusque mannerisms in her uproarious turn as Nick Bottom.

Lisa Birnbaum as Titania cradles Julie Fishell as Nick Bottom (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Lisa Birnbaum as Titania cradles Julie Fishell as Nick Bottom (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Each actor, including the members of the ensemble, is so finely attuned to Shakespeare’s script that the words and, more importantly, the meaning is made clear from beginning to end. And, thanks to Cooper’s direction, anyone who happens to be feeling a little lost can make up the difference through body language.

PRC’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a beautiful, physical journey with lots of laughter along the way. Even those who claim to dislike the Bard and his works will likely find great joy in this ethereal production.

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14, 18, 19, and 22; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, 3, and 6; and 2 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec 7 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

TICKETS: $15-$45 ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel, except $15 (general admission) Tuesday Community Night performances.

BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, prcboxoffice@unc.edu, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single.

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-843-2311, prcboxoffice@unc.edu, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.

SHOW: http://playmakersrep.org/amidsummernightsdream.

PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.

PRC BLOG (Page to stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.

NEWS RELEASE: http://uncnews.unc.edu/2014/10/07/playmakers-presents-sondheim-shakespeare-repertory-starting-nov-1/.

VENUE: http://playmakersrep.org/aboutus/paulgreen.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://playmakersrep.org/visitorinfo.

NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.

NOTE 2: There will be an All-Access Performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Nov. 18th.

NOTE 3: There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the creative team following the Nov. 19th and 23rd performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

NOTE 4: There will be an Open Captioning Performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Nov. 23rd (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).

NOTE 5: The Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor a FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Dec. 7th.

OTHER LINKS:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (c. 1595-96 comedy): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night’s_Dream (Wikipedia).

Script: http://web.archive.org/web/20080504220930/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/ShaMNDF.html (1623 First Folio Edition, courtesy the University of Virginia in Charlottesville) and http://web.archive.org/web/20080821025001/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/MobMids.html (1866 Globe Edition, also courtesy UVa).

Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/Midsummer/nights.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).

Shana Cooper (PlayMakers Rep first-time guest director): http://www.shanacooper.com/ (official website) and http://www.playmakersrep.org/performances/embed_artist.aspx?id=6b82b654-7bfa-4cca-80ba-1e1fd5bcc3ae (PlayMakers Rep bio).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Reviews