Review: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

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Who can resist entertaining theater on a warm, summer night? An outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is especially apropos for such nights, and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC) delivered just that at its 16th annual Chesapeake Shakespeare Company In-The-Ruins at Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a delightful evening of magical theater in the park for the entire family.

Elana Michelle and Michael Toperzer in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Shealyn Jae.

Recognized as one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies, the show centers around young, mismatched lovers, comical amateur actors, fairies, and Greek royalty. Director and Fight Choreographer Gerrad Alex Taylor, a CSC associate artistic director, emphasized the musical aspects of the play: “Midsummer is a surprising musical comedy. There are a few songs written directly into the text but aside from that, the language itself is very musical.”

To that end, Music Director Grace Srinivasan procured, and the cast performed, Ancient Greek hymns in support of the setting of Shakespeare’s play. Hymns like “Seikilos Epitaph” and “First Delphic Hymn to Apollo” gave the play, set in Athens during the Bronze Age, an air of verisimilitude. The cast also performed various 60s and 80s hits before the show and at intermission, including “At Last,” sung by Kate Forton (who played Helena) with piano by Christine Watt (Peaseblossom).

José Guzman, a CSC resident acting company member, was an audience pleaser as hammy actor\laborer Nick Bottom; he induced many a laugh and chuckle. Guzman had good chemistry with the Queen of the Fairies Titania (Elana Michelle), all while acting under a donkey mask.

The excellent Rafael Sebastian, seen last year in CSC’s The Fantasticks, was marvelous here as Lysander. Sebastian scored passionate scenes with Nina Marti, who played his on-stage lover Hermia. Marti, in her CSC debut, was compelling to watch. Collin Connor was fantastic as laborer-turned-director Peter Quince, especially Act I, Scene II, in which he handed out roles to his actors.

Imani Turner, a theater major at the Baltimore School for the Arts, brought the fairy Puck to vivid, comic life. He made every line a further embodiment of the character with knowing facial expressions and electric body language.

The cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.

CSC Teaching Artist, Michael Toperzer brought a royal haughtiness to his roles as the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and Oberon. He also served as fight captain. Nick Fruit’s performance as Demetrius was full of verve and yearning for Hermia.

Molly Moores brought a parental sternness to her role as Egeus, Hermia’s mother. Sydney Thomas was effective as Mustardseed. Tim Neil, who served as sound designer, was wonderful as fledgling actor Snug.

I loved the swinging flats, with Ancient Greek columns painted on one side and a forest painted on the other thanks to Scenic Designer Daniel O’Brien. Those flats dressed up the impressive ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute. Heather C. Jackson did magnificent costuming throughout, including Connor’s wall costume. Michelle looked regal in her Hippolyta costume.

This show wasn’t all about fun and Greek music – CSC dedicated proceeds from opening week performances to flood relief in Howard County, raising over $7,000. The standing ovation A Midsummer Night’s Dream received proved that Taylor has directed a winner.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through July 29, 2018, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performing at Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park – 3691 Sarah’s Lane, in Ellicott City, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 244-8570, or purchase them online.

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