Review: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Hedgerow Theatre

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“The course of true love never did run smooth.”

And in the case of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it hits every bump in the road! One of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, Midsummer follows the ever-escalating complications surrounding the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Throw in four young lovers (Lysander, Hermia, Demetrious and Helena), the king and queen of the forest fairies (Oberon and Titania), a troupe of amateur actors (“The Mechanicals”), and the mischievous “right-hand man” known as Puck, and you’ve got the ingredients for a comedy with room for multiple flights of fantasy.

Madalyn St. John. Photo courtesy Hedgerow Theatre.

Madalyn St. John. Photo courtesy Hedgerow Theatre.

Director Aaron Cromie has whipped up a lovely confection that is not to be missed. Using only six actors, he tells the tale with panache and great humor. Hedgerow is currently in the middle of a reconstruction project that has temporarily left them without their regular stage, but Cromie and Hedgerow’s design team faced the challenge with wonderful inventiveness. The playing area is level with the floor of the auditorium; wood chips have been spread over the area and random tree branches placed along the upstage wall to give the sense of a forest floor. A raised square, topped with gym mats, is at the center of the space. Cromie has his actors entering and exiting from throughout the theatre — and changing characters in an instant. It is wonderful theatrical magic that keeps the viewer engaged—and laughing—through the entire performance.

The immensely talented ensemble that pulls it off consists of Hedgerow Company Members Zoran Kovcic (Theseus/Oberon/Peter Quince), Allison Bloechl (Hippolyta/Helena/Starveling/Titania), Josh Portera (Lysander/Snug), Mark Swift (Demetrius/Francis Flute) and Susan Wefel (Egeus/Bottom). Joining them is guest artist Madalyn St. John (Hermia/Snout/Cobweb). You’ll notice “Puck” isn’t listed — something that caught my eye as I perused the program prior to curtain. Well, everyone except Kovcic takes on the role of Puck, to great amusement as one actor exits — or sneaks off — and another appears in their place, each wearing an identical costume.

Josh Portera. Photo courtesy Hedgerow Theatre.

Josh Portera. Photo courtesy Hedgerow Theatre.

There is hilarious physicality to the production as well, with Swift and Portera bringing their A-game. Wefel’s portrayal of Bottom is a hoot, proving there’s no reason why women can’t be cast is traditionally male roles. Wefel’s swagger is fun to watch. Bloechl morphs from the elegant Hippolyta to the scorned Helena to a flower child Starveling to the regal Titania with great dexterity. Portera’s dimwitted and painfully shy Snug is adorable as the lion in the play-within-the-play. Swift is equally adept switching gears from young lover Demetrius to an uber-nerdish Francis Flute. Kovcic is regal as Theseus, dithery as Peter Quince and sagacious as Oberon. St. John fits right into the Hedgerow family, giving solid performances in all three of her characters. Her Helena is feisty, her Cobweb the fairy is ethereal, and her Snug is hilariously jaded.

In addition to his deft direction, Cromie has created a terrific soundscape to support the action, and Jared Reed has provided lovely lighting as well. The costumes by Elizabeth Hanson consist of a basic outfit with assorted add-ons as the actors change characters. More in a contemporary vein, they suit each role perfectly. Well done.

Hedgerow’s highly imaginative production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is perfect for theatregoers who might be intimidated by Shakespeare, as well as those that love the Bard. Cromie and company have made the story so clear and full of fun that the audience is swept into that forest.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Allison Bloechl. Photo courtesy Hedgerow Theatre.

Allison Bloechl. Photo courtesy Hedgerow Theatre.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through June 11, 2017 at Hedgerow Theatre Company – 64 Rose Valley Road, in Rose Valley, PA. For tickets, call (610) 565-4211, or purchase them online.

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