Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a hilarious frolic through one of Shakespeare’s most beloved creations. A quirky, energetic reimagining, this production features all the familiar faces: a gaggle of mischievous fairies, a band of goodhearted craftsmen turned hopeless actors, and four misguided young lovers. Oh, and a guy with a donkey head. At a preview performance on Feb. 20, director Jeremy Dubin’s creative vision for the show and excellent comedic performances by the entire cast distilled Midsummer’s language and the plots into a well-paced, knee-slapping evening of highly entertaining theatre.
One part jazz, one part fantasy, Dubin’s production concept reframes the tale to provide ample opportunities for humor, dancing, music and spectacle. CSC makes one of Shakespeare’s more entertaining plays even more so and a true testament to the depth and diversity of the acting company’s talent. Kelly Mengelkoch as the beautiful Titania is a crooning, ballroom siren, her slightly salty voice and easy manner onstage fitting the role perfectly. The riotous Nick Rose plays her ever-so-brief love interest, the unfortunate Bottom; he goes the distance for laughs without undermining other performers. The real treat of show, however, is the four young lovers, Justin McCombs, Maggie Lou Rader, Billy Chace and Miranda McGee, who each seem to be having so much fun that the audience cannot help but be swept away in their silliness.
Unfortunately, the character of Puck does not congeal as well as other aspects of the production. Travis Emery delivers a fine performance, but his costuming, makeup and movement combine to create a presence onstage that is more frightening than funny. He sports tap shoes and a fedora but does very little actual tapping and nothing show-stopping. The idea of Puck as a hoofer is intriguing and, while Emery is charismatic, he does not seem suited to this rendering of the character. Andrew Hungerford’s lighting and scenic design are gorgeous, but the grand piano that cast members only pretend to play serves more as a distraction than an asset to an otherwise great show.
With just a few exceptions, this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is truly a dream.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, continues through April 21.