Friday, December 13, 2019

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, Dec. 13, 2019
Jill Heinecke as Puck, photo by Pavlina Morris
There is much debate as to where “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ranks among Shakespearean comedies, among the funniest or near the bottom (pun intended), but there is little doubt that it is the most popular and most often performed. And it’s easy to see why. It is among the frothiest of romantic comedies, and few can resist the magic that takes place in the enchanted woods. In other words, it is a most delicious guilty pleasure.
Changing Scene Theatre Northwest is now performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Dukesbay Theater in Tacoma, directed by the company’s founder, Pavlina Morris, who is also responsible for the outstanding lighting, costuming and set design, and who appears on stage as Petra Quince, the director of a ridiculous play within a play.
The plot summary provided in the program is as succinct and clear as any I’ve seen, and since Shakespeare’s plots are often convoluted, it might serve patrons well to read it before the play begins.
Typical of Shakespearean plays, the plot is complicated by a large cast of characters, many of whom appear in various guises. Theseus (Nick Fitzgerald), the Duke of Athens, is preparing to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Marsha Walner, who doubles as Titania, queen of the fairies). Hermia (Cori Deverse) arrives with her two young suitors, Demetrius (Ton Williams) and Lysandra (Emily Saletan). Hermia is in love with Lysandra and does not want to wed her father’s choice, Demetrius. But she’s been warned that if she refuses to marry Demetrius she can be put to death or sent to a nunnery for life.
Further complicating the plot and turning it into a farce are (a) the makeshift theater troupe featuring a highly comical Bottom (Laurice Roberts) and (b) a group of mischievous  fairies led by Oberon (Fitzgerald) and his henchman, Puck (Jill Heinecke), who cast spells on the Athenians making Lysandra fall in love with Helena, turning Bottom’s head into the head of a jackass, and making Titania fall in love with Bottom (jackass head and all).
In the play-within-a play, Francis Flute (Mason Quinn) is forced to play a woman’s part. Further gender bending is provided by Morris’s casting women, as Lysandra, Puck and Bottom.
Roberts is hilariously perky and energetic as Bottom. Among the funniest moments in the play are the scene in which Quince is casting the play and Bottom insists on playing every part; and when Bottom dies – usually a delightful bit of over acting but in this case made comical by a hyperbolic prop, which can’t be explained without spoiling a great moment.
Saletan is highly expressive as Lysandra. The scenes between her and Hermia are very sensual and includes an uproarious bit of grabby hands.
Heinecke’s Puck moves with the grace of an accomplished dancer. Williams is fierce and funny as Demetrius. Fitzgerald as Theseus and Oberon and Quinn as Flute could put a bit more oomph into their acting.
Morris’s set and lighting are gorgeous, especially the large flowers and hanging drapery on the backdrop and the glow-in-the-dark paint on costumes, sets and masks.
For holiday fare worth the price of admission, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” might be just the ticket. Advance tickets are recommended because seating is limited.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, through Dec. 21
Where: Dukesbay Theater, 508 6th Ave., Tacoma, above the Grand Cinema
Tickets: advance tickets $18, adult, $15 seniors, students, military, all tickets $20 at the door
Information:, (360) 710-5440.

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