‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ lights up the sky for Shakespeare Theatre

By Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ – For its annual outdoor production at the amphitheatre at St. Elizabeth College, the Shakespeare Theatre choice of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the perfect gossamer fantasy.

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This well known play of loves lost and found, changing personalities and fairy dust is ideal for a summer’s evening under the stars. The play moves swiftly and lightly under the direction of Bonnie J. Monte. Costumes are lavish, especially in the scenes with Titania and Oberon and the dream-like characters of Cobweb, Peaseblossom, and Mustardseed.

Vanessa Morosco, in her dual role as Queen Hippolyta and Titania, the queen of the fairies, is well matched by Earl Baker Jr. as Theseus/Oberon. Oberon engages Puck  (Felix Mayes) to cast a spell on Titania. She will fall in love with the first person she sees when she awakes. That turns out to be the wandering actor, Bottom, who has been transformed into an ass.

Meanwhile, Puck cause more deviltry when he casts spells on Lysander and Demetrius, who initially both long for Hermia. But under a dusting of magic, they fall in love with Helena and reject Hermia during the night in a wooded glen. How everyone will dig their way out of this dilemma forms the basis of the play.

Courtney McGowan as Hermia and Nike Kadri as Helena spar effectively. Recent productions of “Midsummer” have made the most of their scenes, kind of an acrobatic free-for-all, which grows even stronger when Demetrius (Austin Blunk) and Lysander (Jonathan Finnegan) enter the fray.

The traveling players put on a performance for the king and queen, Theseus and Hippolyta, which is filled with makeshift props and emotive action. Ian Hersey makes a strong, convincing Bottom as he tries to take control of the play-within-a –play. He also does a hilarious transformation as the “ass” whom Titania thinks she adores.  Bruce Cromer is Peter Quince, the presumed director of this rather slap-dash tragedy.  Other traveling actors play a lion (McGowan), a wall (Finnegan), Man in the Moon (Kadri) and Thisbe (Blunk), who is especially fluttering and funny.

The magic weaves its spell, with lilting background music. Mayes bring s polish to the Choreographer, introducing the play while he appears to be conducting an orchestra.  Tiffany Lent’s sparkling costumes,  a simple Grecian set of columns and proscenium designed by Steven L. Beckel and imaginative lighting by Burke Wilmore round out the never-never land theme..

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a delightful way to spend an evening with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at its outdoor venue. Performances continue through July 30. For tickets, call 973-408-5600 or visit ShakespeareNJ.org.