St. Louis Shakespeare's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a funny, energetic, well acted presentation of the familiar and timeless comedy of mistaken identity, misused love potions, fairy mischief, pratfalls, slapstick, you name it. The actors have to be agile, able to take a fall, all the while reciting lines that are written in incredibly difficult Old World English. It is a romp, a marathon, a race and therein lies the rub.
With a plot as complicated as this, with a play so crammed with phantasmagorical characters and incredible circumstances, it is essential that we are given the chance at least to decipher the dialogue. Director Donna Northcott seems to have sadly fallen into the familiar Shakespeare trap of mistaking fast paced for fast talking. Many of the Bard's best puns, jibes, sass talk, bawdy jokes and clever rhymes are lost in the scramble to keep it moving.
Michael Juncal is one of the few exceptions. His Oberon spoke clearly and cleverly, enunciating almost every delicious word and phrase. Only once or twice did he rush but then he immediately corrected his pace. He's one of the best Oberons I've ever seen.
Paul Edwards as Bottom and Joshua Nash Payne as Puck competed for scene stealer of the evening, giving wonderfully physical and interesting performances.Both gentlemen have a wonderful sense of comedic timing and have the ability to give us a myriad of facial expressions without actually sliding into mugging.
Fairy Queen Titania played by Njemile Ambonisye is lovely and regal, mischievous, passionate and slightly vindictive. She has just the right royal attitude.
From the featured players to the Queen's attending fairies and the hapless townsmen and woman rehearsing in that haunted wood, this production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is loads of fun and the finale is a stunner.
I have only one question for costume designer Wes Jenkins; why were the human characters all dressed in WWI garb? Jodhpurs and straw boaters and a double breasted suit didn't take the fun out for me, but I kept wondering, as I do whenever someone makes this costuming choice, what is the point?
No matter. It is a delightful production.