Tom Wood’s William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Playing April 7-29, 2012 (and April 22 – May 21, 2000) in the Citadel’s Maclab Theatre.
I went to the Citadel today.
I don’t want to dis things here. I told myself that if I had nothing good to say about something, I wouldn’t write about it. So . . .
This production is very prettily designed. Here’s how I described it in my notes as I waited for the play to begin:
Submarine rather than sylvan in tone. Bird song sounds help. The columned and pedimented balcony is a suitable classical touch.
Something Disneyesque faux-stone about the stairway — left over from Beauty and the Beast?
A rope hanging stage right. There will be swinging, it seems.
To be fair, later the set seemed more nocturnally sylvan.
The performances of the young cast ranged from very good to excellent. Shannon Taylor as Helena was outstanding and Lora Brovold as Titania was magically charming. These two gave glorious performances in very different roles.
The Rude Mechanicals, led by Julien Arnold as Bottom, were suitably hammy in the Disney cartoon sidekick way that sadly seems de rigueur these days. The audience was very appreciative and the louts (on stage) were enjoyable.
To the audience (this is not a toast):
I really appreciated the synopsis the lady behind us started giving to her companions five minutes before the play began. I thought she had completely forgotten the young lovers at first. Imagine my joy when she got to their part sometime after Theseus (Marc R. Bondy) finished his opening lines to Hippolyta (Sochi Fried). Imagine my further joy as she continued, only petering out somewhere toward the end of scene 1, just in time for the Mechanicals to hold her attention in scene 2.
My first experience of the Citadel was in the old building, a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat staring Brent Carver, during the 1975/76 season. I also enjoyed the inaugural production of the new Citadel the next season, Romeo and Juliet, staring Carver again. A wonderful thing. I went to the Citadel ,regularly for years and I still go when there’s a bit of Shakespeare or Stoppard on the menu. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Tom Wood’s Romeo and Juliet, but I don’t remember it. I’m sure I saw his previous Midsummer Night’s Dream but the only thing I remember is the late Wally McSween as one of the Mechanicals, and I may misremember that.
After all that experience, I was pleased today to see that there is still a large segment of a Citadel audience which rises in ovation whenever a company reaches the end of a script. Don’t get me wrong, the company did a wonderful job (with a few slips) and some performances were magnificent. But, I’ve always felt the standing ovation needs to be reserved for a truly outstanding production and performance, which this was not.
On the evening of April 1, 1978 (I still have the ticket stub!) I saw a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, UK. (One day to be Sir) Patrick Stewart played the role of Oberon. The only thing I remember of that production is Oberon’s hairline. The production I saw today at the Citadel was more memorable, more exciting, than the one I saw thirty-four years ago (goodness!) in Stratford. But, like that RSC production, today’s show took no risks, there are no cutting edges here: the glory is Shakespeare’s words and some remarkable work from the young cast.
Apart from a few performances and parts of performances, Tom Wood’s Midsummer is a cheerful, pretty piece of live Shakespeare. It is a comfortable and reassuring – not challenging – way to spend an afternoon or evening.
I do want to single out for mention again Shannon Taylor as fiery Helena and Lora Brovold as the truly enchanting Titania. As well, Eric Morin as Lysander really took off in the second half, as did Jonathon Purvis as Puck.
And, a final note about the impression made on me by Michel Antonakos’ brilliantly understated turn as Oberon – and it’s not his hairline: I really want to start a “Draft Jian Ghomeshi to play Oberon at Stratford” Facebook and Twitter campaign.
Seriously, go see a Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Citadel. It’s a cozy, happy time and succeeds admirably at what little it attempts. Those shadows have not offended and nothing need be mended. I give the company my hands and hope that we are friends. I had a great, fun, comfortable time.