Mauckingbird’s MIDSUMMER Is Dreamy

by John Van Heest

Emily Letts as Lysander and Erin Mulgrew as Hermia in Mauckingbird Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, running in Philadelphia through September 12.(Photo by John Flak)

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM takes a queer turn with the Mauckingbird Theatre Company’s rendition the Bard’s most beloved romantic comedy. For this production, it’s definitely a turn for the better. While only ninety-minutes long, don’t let the rapidity fool you – Mauckingbird’s MIDSUMMER moves at a pace as quickly as the cyber-techno-punk music that drives its inner pulse.

This queer-themed Shakespeare will draw you in and the charm and enthusiasm of the stellar cast will keep you not only in your seats, but also in continuous, uproarious laughter.

The Mechanicals, without a doubt, are infamously known as Shakespeare’s greatest comic relief. Slightly resembling the cast of Glee (that’s a compliment), the Mechanicals of Mauckingbird’s production were absurdly brilliant – or brilliantly absurd – and it works completely in their favor. The troupe, comprised of actors Stephanie Cryor (Quince), Owen Pelesh (Starveling), Danielle Pinnock (Bottom), Will Poost (Snug), David Quinn (Flute), and Rebecca Sherman (Snout), is determined to present a play to the newly married Theseus and Hippolyta, played by Benjamin Lovel and a lovely Melanie Julian. Mix in a little slap-stick, some well-timed banter, and earnest confidence, and what emerges is sheer buffoonery at its very finest.

Although the stars of the show (and the show within the show) are the Mechanicals, we cannot forget the lovers. Emily Letts (Lysander), Patrick Joyce (Helena), Erin Mulgrew (Hermia), and Sean Gibson (Demetrius) exude youthful desire and teenage stubbornness that transcend any sexual orientation or preference. The lovers escape into the woods near Athens (in this production, Athens Academy), only to get caught up in a turbulent chase, no thanks to club-kid Puck played by Brent Knobloch. With these actors, there are no labels like ‘gay’, or ‘lesbian’, or ‘straight’ – we only see young people in love. So much so, you can easily forget that Helena was written originally as a woman, and Lysander a man.

A special cheers to Joyce in the role of Helena, Shakespeare’s new gay bff.

Ultimately, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is not about she-loves-him, he-loves-her (or she-loves-her, and he-loves-him), but about the ridiculousness that dictates the rules of attraction and love. There is no logic, no conventions, and certainly no guarantees when it comes to love and these actors did a fine job of exposing the farcical nature of desire. If an audience’s uproarious laughter is the true measure of a show’s success, then consider this production a knock-out.

Overall, directors Peter Reynolds and Lynne Innerst have put together a vivacious re-telling of Shakespeare’s work. What really makes this play is the cast – they are lovable, they are endearing, and they are fabulous.

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Peter Reynolds & Lynne Innerst
August 20 – September 12, 2010

Mauckingbird Theatre Company
Randall Theatre at Temple University
2020 N. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA

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