Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rick Nelson and Andi Dema (l-r)                                    Photo by April Porterfield

By Larry Laneer
June 3, 2018

Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has opened its summer season with a tedious, butt-numbing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The company is promoting the show as “family friendly.” If that means bring the children, it may not be a promising idea. Almost three hours of this muggy, sticky production could turn off youthful minds to Shakespeare, if not theater generally, forever.

It needn’t be this way. Dream lends itself to wide and creative interpretations by directors. It’s hard to say what director D. Lance Marsh is trying to do here. The costumes (by Elisa Bierschenk) look to be from an indeterminate time and place but not the present, with notable exceptions (those tee shirts and boxer shorts in the second act). It doesn’t look like ancient Athens, where Shakespeare set the play. Or any other Athens for that matter (Ohio? Georgia?). Flowers sprout from Puck’s head, while Oberon has grown several horns on his. Marsh throws in a few anachronisms, seemingly as an afterthought: one of the “rude mechanicals” wears modern eyeglasses; in an early scene, a fairy reads “Fairy Beat” magazine; Peter Quince pulls out a cellphone to check if the moon will shine the night of Theseus’s nuptials, among others.

Although they do the expected fine acting jobs, even seasoned professionals Rick Nelson (Theseus/Oberon) and Alissa Mortimer (Hyppolita/Titania) can’t lift the overall production. One problem is Nelson and Mortimer are mere humans. They need the extraordinary powers of the King and Queen of the Fairies to work the magic needed here. Wil Rogers’s hammy Nick Bottom bookends Andi Dema’s over-the-top Puck. The young actors who play the love quadrangle—Carley Dickey (Hermia), Harrison Langford (Lysander), Rachel Necessary (Helena), and Preston Chapman (Demetrius)—give performances filled with youthful exuberance. Mark Johnson makes kind of a sweet Peter Quince.

It doesn’t help that the moat around the Water Stage is horribly polluted. Trash and some kind of scum are floating on the water. I saw those giant gold fish or whatever they are nibbling at the pond scum. It looked tasty to the fish and watching them feed was more interesting than what was happening on stage at the time. Okay, here’s one good thing: I didn’t detect a foul odor from the moat (as has been the case in other summer seasons).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be sassier and saucier than the unfocused production OSP is putting on here. So, nobody’s perfect. The company is just starting on its 34th season. They have more theater to come.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
8:00 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, through June 23 (no performance June 9)
Water Stage Myriad Gardens
301 W. Reno Ave.

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