Magic, mayhem, music, and mirth. Stir up these four, add a generous portion of love, and you have William Shakespeare’s comedic romp, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” playing at Seattle Shakespeare Company (SSC).
But wait! Artistic director George Mount has reimagined the Bard’s 1595 comedy as a backstage musical, set sometime in the 1930s-1940s: Same plot; same language. But with songs, using Shakespeare’s words as lyrics for original melodies composed by Nir Sadovik.
Instead of the usual forest setting, SSC’s show unfolds inside a Broadway Revue house, the “Palace Woods, owned by “Duke” Theseus Athens. The Bard’s characters that you know and love are now theater folks. They sing, they tap dance, they squabble, trickery ensues, and love goes awry in this absurd and delightful fantasy.
There are fairies, ingénues, divas, divos, and tradesmen who put on a play within the play. There’s an onstage band called The Huntsmen. And of course, there is Puck, whose mischief is responsible for the romantic fantasy and chaos.
Four young lovers: Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius–cross paths with squabbling fairy royalty, Oberon and Titania, and a six-pack of fools— Quince, Flute, Snug, Snout, Robin, and Bottom.
As Shakespeare said, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Hermia and Lysander are in love and want to marry. But her father Egeus wants her to marry Demetrius. Hermia’s BFF Helena is in love with Demetrius, so Puck decides to help Helena by using magic on Demetrius. Good idea, but Puck accidentally applies his magic on Lysander, who as a result, now fancies Helena. Puck tries to fix things by casting a spell on Demetrius. Now both young men are in love with Helena, and Hermia has been abandoned. What a kerfuffle!
In Mount’s concept, the Bard’s blue-collar fools work in the theater as carpenters, costume stitchers, usherettes, plumbers, or stagehands. They differ from the Bard’s other fools, who are known for spouting wisdom. These bumbling “Midsummer” laborers—there’s no nice way to say it—are nincompoops (Shakespeare’s version of Trump’s base). When they decide to write a skit to celebrate the marriage of Hippolyta and Theseus, the egotistical bumpkin Bottom is cast as leading man in their outrageously funny rendition of “Pyramus and Thisbe.”
Meanwhile, Oberon orders Puck to use his magic on Titania, so she will fall in love with the first thing she sees. To make it more fun, Puck transforms the arrogant arse Bottom into a donkey. And of course, he is the first creature the fairy queen sees and she is besotted. So is he, as a preening ass totally ignorant of his new look. The result is hilarious.
Puck tries to blame his mess on the mortals—“What fools these mortals be!” he crows. And then, it’s up to him to undo his tomfoolery.
Four centuries after its debut, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” still delights, whether or not you’ve seen it hundreds of times, or if you’re seeing it for the first time. In SSC and Mount’s hands, you’re in for a treat. Now wouldn’t be fun if we could turn Puck loose on POTUS and his DC gang.
Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs through May 21st at the Cornish Playhouse (former Intiman Theatre); tickets range from $27-$50 for adults and $27-$35 for the military, seniors, and students; discounts available for groups of ten or more; Seattle Shakespeare Company box office (206) 733-8222 or go online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.
Cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Mallory Cooney King as Hermia
Keiko Green as Helena
Casey Raiha as Lysander
Adam St. John as Demetrius
Vanessa Miller as Titania
Terence Kelley as Oberon
John David Scott as Puck
MJ Sieber as Bottom
Brandon Felker as Egeus/Quince
Bob Downing as Snout
Steven Davis as Robin
Shanna Allman as Flute
Marco Voli as Snug
George Mount as Theseus
Crystal Dawn Munkers as Hippolyta
Fairies: Maddie Brantz, Sarah Dennis, Devyn Grendell, Tziotis Shields