The Bard would have been thrilled to see one of his most beloved works performed so well. Sycamore Rouge’s large-cast production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at historic Battersea was staged in a perfect rural setting: A grassy clearing circled by trees, with stone pillars and benches cleverly lit, music of drums and a cappella singing by the cast. Even the moon cooperated.
Shakespeare’s story of two pairs of star-crossed lovers is set in a magic wood, with King Oberon and Queen Titania ruling over the fairies, and Puck creating chaos when they quarrel. Comic relief is provided by rustic actors who enter the wood to rehearse a play to be performed before the Duke on his wedding day, and by Bottom the Weaver, who is transfigured by a mischievous spell.
From the start, I knew we were in for a theatrical treat. Lines with strong projection could all be heard, even when competing with passing trains. The whole cast was superb. Actors complimented each other with movement and dialogue. Puck (Bonnie Gabel) cavorted lyrically and cast a spell on us all. Duke Theseus (David White) spoke with strength of purpose and moved with authority, supported by bride-to-be Hippolyta (Katrinah Lewis). Peter Quince (Adam Mincks) delved into his character and acted with conviction. Bottom (Dean Knight) was comic and believable in a key role without overacting, and gave a memorable performance. Oberon (Iman Shaboze) gave a forceful interpretation and Titania (Irene Kuykendall) looked beautiful and moved with grace, with strong and meaningful delivery of her lines.
The four lovers, played by Emma Mason (Helena), Taylor Daniels (Lysander), Jay Welch (Demetrius) and Liz Blake White (Hermia) were well matched and attractively athletic. Terry Gau played a strong, dominating and somewhat sexy mother to Hermia. The lovers’ fight scenes were exciting and vigorously choreographed. The fairies, chiefly Peaseblossom (Brittany Summers), Cobweb (Carolyn Hayes), Moth (Shalandis Wheeler Smith) and Mustard Seed (Liz Blake White) were decorative and graceful in their scenes with Titania and Bottom. The rehearsal scenes of the rustic actors, and the performance before the Duke, were hilarious. Shanea Taylor directed superbly and should be pleased and proud of her cast.
Costumes were period and attractive, though Egeus’ outfit seemed modern, and Oberon could have worn something more kingly. Body and face makeup by Leftwich FX was artistic and magical.
Take your family, your lawn chairs and a picnic basket, and experience this free, accessible and enjoyable production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And thank you, Sycamore Rouge and Producing Artistic Director K.B. Saine, for bringing the classics to our community. The production at historic Battersea in Petersburg runs until Aug. 7. For more information, call 957-7507 or visit Sycamore Rouge online at www.sycamorerouge.org.