Review: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Georgetown University

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Last night I had the pleasure of visiting a 167-year-old drama society. Georgetown University’s Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society was established in 1852, making them the “oldest continuously running collegiate theater troupe in the United States.” That is an impressive tradition and made the choice of A Midsummer Night’s Dream seem fitting – a play with long-standing history for a society with the same. The production was directed by Eliza Palter and produced by Christian Collier. I had the pleasure of meeting Palter and Collier before the show, and these juniors are quite delightful and very professional. In fact, the entire production was performed, staffed, and supported by Georgetown students who all have something to be proud of.

Photo courtesy of Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society
Photo courtesy of Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society

The cast of performers worked well together and displayed a good understanding of the Shakespearean text. Unfortunately, the majority of the cast fell into the trap of a small space, speaking with conversational volume instead of filling the space with projection. Austin Parenteau (Theseus/Oberon) showed a command and performance of the language that set him apart. His diction, energy, and clarity made his scenes stand out in the best way.

Another highlight of the show was the Rude Mechanicals scenes. It was a great choice to have them played as a scouting troop. It made so much sense I wondered why I had never seen it done that way before! The Mechanicals, led by Ben Sullivan as Peter Quince, played well with each other and had some swell comedic timing. Julia Lo Cascio was a pompous but loveable Nick Bottom, as all Bottoms should be. Anika Vankatesh as Snug as the Lion was one of my favorite parts of the play; she was adorable. “Well roared, Lion.”

Maggie Cammaroto was a superb Helena, even though she was a somewhat shorter Helena. Her strong energy and emotion nicely colored her performance and made her very relatable character stand out.

The design team, comprised completely of students, did a lovely job setting the scene. The Poulton Hall Stage III was set up in the round, and on all four sides the risers were bedecked with flowers, and from the moment you enter the space you are greeted by sweet, upbeat music – exactly what you would expect for Midsummer. I did not realize it until I saw the costumes, but the pre-show music, selected by sound designer Ivy Wang, was also setting the time period for us.

Photo courtesy of Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society
Photo courtesy of Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society

The Monkees and The Crystals were spot on choices for a production set in late 1968. The costume design by Kathryn Baker and Christian Duval, and the hair and make-up design by Nat Cappuzzo really brought the time period home for the audience. The color palette, the hairstyles, and the clothing choices were unmistakable. Kali Sullivan and Chanel Cai were responsible for the set design and set dressing respectively. Together they brought you into the Athens forest with trees and flowers all around the theater, pipes arching over the stage like a canopy, and glowing globe directly over center stage, representing the moon and the sun. The pipes made for a wonderful blocking addition; they gave the fairies something to climb on, giving the impression of Puck and Oberon watching the lovers from up in the trees. The atmosphere was further set by Isaac Warden’s lighting design.

Warden showed great instincts with the timing of the light shifts and the moods being evoked, though the light shifts could use improvement. Amanda Perry and Claire Smith deserve a nod for their properties design. The large flowers that Lysander and Demetrius brandished in their attempted fight was a fun, comedic moment.

The Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a fun night out. Last night’s performance was very well attended for an opening night and was clearly enjoyed by the audience whose laughs sounded throughout the performance.

The running time is two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through November 10th, 2018 at Georgetown University – 1421 37th St NW, Washington DC 20057. For tickets, you can purchase them online or at the box office.

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