A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Park Square Theater

1. I love pretty much every thing I see at Park Square Theater. The size of the venue is great and the kids and I can always see the stage. The production values are high. The casts are almost always racially and ethnically diverse. And the shows are just good. Well done, well performed, well produced. I just like ’em.

2. We took the kids to see a school matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As Shakespeare goes, this is a pretty good one for a brace of nine-year-olds. It’s funny. It’s about poor decision making on a level that makes sense to kids. And even if my kids aren’t in the realm of love and sex dramas yet, personally, they understand when people are behaving like idiots.

The theater was packed. Absolutely full, mostly of high school students. Who were loud and restless and talkative during all the waiting around, and were reasonably quiet and attentive during the actual show. I was pleased to see the show was nearly sold out — both for the continued health of Park Square’s student matinees, and for the future of cultural literacy in the world.

3. I always forget just how many quotable lines of Shakespeare come from this play. Sheesh.

4. I’ve seen MND at the Guthrie, and I’ve seen the movie, and I’ve seen snippets on YouTube. But I had never seen a production until this one that made the second act fight between the four young lovers abso-fucking-lutely hilarious. I was wheezing, I was laughing so hard. K fell off her chair. And the Pyramus and Thisby at the end? Riotously funny.

5. In a bit of casting which I am not-at-all-clear on the traditionality of, the actors doubled and tripled up on their roles. The Duke and Hippolyta were Oberon and Titania. The young lovers were also players, and also faeries. Only the actor playing Bottom had a single role. It worked very well, especially in the final scenes.

6. Dave Gangler played Puck. He did a very, very nice job with a role that is oft-borrowed in other stories. (Dead Poets Society, I’m looking at YOU.) He was athletic, and reasonably acrobatic, and capered very believably. He also did a bit of under-pitching some of Puck’s most famous lines, blending them into the rest of the speeches. I approve.

7. The young lovers were Hope Cervantes as Hermia, Ricardo Vazquez as Lysander, Adia Morris as Helena, and Eric Sharp as Demetrius. (We had seen Sharp recently, in the Mu Performing Arts’ Into the Woods. My daughter told me he played Rapunzel’s Prince.)

Cervantes was engaging and compelling right from the start. By the time we got to her big fight with Helena after the intermission, she was hilarious. I found Morris’s Helena kinda meh in the first act, but also incredibly funny in the second. I think that has more to do with Helena than with Morris’s skills — I find Helena kinda hard to take. Vazquez and Sharp were perfectly fine in the first act, and came to life in the second. Again, I think this has a lot more to do with the characters-as-written than with any deficiencies in acting. When given a chance to more more than harp on the single note each character starts out with, all the actors were good.

8. Terry Hempleman played Bottom. Now, I traditionally find the slapstick parts of Shakespeare to be the parts least interesting to me. Not so, here! Bottom and the the players were lively, engaging, and very funny. Much, I imagine, as they were intended to be all along. Hempleman did something I’d never seen before – Bottom was funny but still retained his essential dignity. Very well done, Mr. Hempleman.

9. The kids loved it. Not just my kids, either. The students in the theater were engaged. When Helena and Hermia began to fight? I distinctly heard someone a few seats over suck in her breath through her teeth in a way I cannot imitate, but which clearly means, “shit is going DOWN, my friends”. And the bit at the end, with the Wall? The actors had to wait for the laughter die back.

10. This is a good show. If you’re local, I recommend it. I also recommend you take a look at the rest of PSTs season. There’s a lot of fun stuff coming up. I intend to go to more of it.

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3 Responses

  1. “Hempleman did something I’d never seen before – Bottom was funny but still retained his essential dignity.”

    To me that’s the essence of — well, any given buffoon character in comedy (“Arrested Development” is really good at this, for instance) — but particularly of Bottom, I think.

    The double casting of Theseus/Hippolyta & Oberon/Titania is pretty common (to the point of being tired, really), but I hadn’t encountered that use of the rest of the cast, and I think that would be fun.

  2. @Caroline I expect this is a thing that I am Late To The Party on, but it never occurred to me that the fart-joke guy in Shakespeare is supposed to have dignity. It legit completely changes how I feel about things.

    tl;dr – Good Shakespeare is AWESOME.

  3. I wouldn’t say that ALL Shakespeare’s comedy characters have dignity, necessarily (though there’s probably room to play them that way) but it seems to be a theme he plays with a lot. I think the production where Kevin Kline plays Bottom does a good job of showing this.

    Also, Helena IS hard to take, though in a way that makes her almost the most believable character in the play — I can imagine encountering this person IRL, and avoiding her.

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