A Midsummer Night’s Dream ★★★½
Bella Vista Farm, December 17
Last year it was 30 degrees in Bella Vista for Sport for Jove’s whatever you want, fruit bats play a minor role. This year, the Beacon Shakespeare Company’s 14th edition summer show is at 12, minus the wind chill, which is before it really starts to blow, which is before it starts to rain. But outdoor theater is always a challenge, which is why Shakespeare has to keep people engrossed on as many levels as possible.
Including magic. There is an ephemeral quality to it now.We smell it in the current version of the STC stormBut here, director Sean O’Shea chooses to prioritize comedy, and while the results are often hilarious, no bit of magic can go astray in the performance of this great drama.
It’s a nod to how funny this production is, we can laugh while our teeth chatter.That’s thanks in large part to O’Shea’s brusque handling, especially in game-in-game Pyramus and Thisbe, ended with a massive wedding celebration. In an inspirational move, O’Shea brought Bishanyia Vincent’s massive presence and voice to Bottom, and while she knows Bottom better than some, she didn’t miss any laughs and added a few more, including via a red scare wig Accompanying the weaver’s ears when he turns into a donkey.
Giles Gartrell-Mills is just as entertaining as Peter Quince: Scout master turned theater director whose life and death depend on the performances of his humble actors (which means he’s dead most of the time), and, just to add to the amount of desire in the wider game, he likes Barton. So, of course, there’s Titania (gender reversed here, played by Jake Speer) and Thisbe (when Bottom is Pyramus), and Toby Blome’s Thisbe is funny enough to make one stop shivering entirely.
Helena becomes Helenus, played by Rupert Bevan (who is also a very funny lion with a misbehaving fake beard). The switch wasn’t a gender-blind selection, but O’Shea’s conscious notion that with so many matings going on, some of them should be of the same sex. And, as the young lovers chase, grope, and wrestle rather tediously through the woods, the transformation adds poignancy to many of the lines, including Helenus and childhood friend Hermia (an excellent Jed Fuda) between the lines.