review: A midsummer Night’s Dream

The students of Purdue did a excellent job portraying the Bard’s masterpiece. His work was accurately honored.

Four/Five stars

Pao Hall, Hansen Theater: September 26th-30th

The Purdue Theatre’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Pao Hall on Purdue Campus was entertaining and met the expectations I had as far as entertainment, though it did disappoint me in some areas like continuity.

It opens with a chaotic scene from Quince’s house, a common wannabe playwright of Athens, Greece. Immediately I am lost, and it is not even because Shakespeare’s sentences doth no sense make. No, I am lost because this is a deviation from the original play. Usually it begins with a great monologue of nuptial hours by the Duke of Athens, the great Theseus.  This was an interesting change that set up the play into three separate story lines. Though this change helped with clarity, it made it harder for the actors to tie the different tangents of the story together cohesively.

As the play continued, my original confusion was cleared when the next scene was the one I supposed to be first and the play continued as expected from there.

The cast consisted of graduate students and some introductory level acting teachers as the four love-smitten Athenians.

As a Shakespearean play there are some certainties you can expect. First, you have to pay close attention if you want to keep up with the rhyme scheme. Second, you will most likely know the plot, as the playwright is one of the most celebrated in history.

What is interesting to me, are the things that are uncertain. Because Shakespeare never gave much attention to scenery, and his costumes were just the high fashions of the day, modern productions are free to decide what their players will or will not wear.

Therefore the characters, no matter how many times a person has seen a production, never wear the same thing. In this production, the Athenians seem to progress from some clothes, to less, and less. For example, Helena, a young Athenian desperately in love with Demetrius, starts wearing a hooded floor length dress, and ends in a mini semi-transparent sleeveless slip.

Other costumes included the forest spirits and fairies, who never wore much besides body jewels, spandex, and feathers. The townspeople stay constant in their common clothes. These ideas for costumes were humorous because of their crudeness. Even in the townspeople’s production, their costumes are meant to show the best a townsperson could do with limited resources. The character that played the lion wore exactly the same clothing with a doily around their face to look like a lion’s mane.

Finally, even though Puck’s sign off at the end is one of my favorite closing monologues, I appreciated the out-of-the-blue lip sync of Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver,” which led to curtain call. It was a quirky transition back to the real world, and added that interesting flare all college productions seem to capture: not quite professional but still impressive to an audience.

The play was interesting and impressive for a college production. It kept my attention and did good credit to its author. The use of scenery was creative and made the transitions just as interesting as the dialogue. As an example wooden frames starting above the stage, in a rafter-like configuration, were lowered on the stage and set up as the trees that represented the forest. It made it possible for scenery to be props later in the production.

Though the change to the original script was confusing, and the loss of clothing on actors was distracting, the production managed to be funny and charismatic from beginning to end. It was good entertainment for a Thursday night and made me laugh all the through.

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