“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Hartford Stage is currently presenting a gorgeous production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” As directed by Darko Tresnjak, the show sparkles from the moment that the audience enters the theater: the curtain is up and one can immediately see Alexander Dodge’s exquisitely designed set. With a number of the actors playing dual roles, this production is richly theatrical from beginning to end and the entire cast is flawless. Even for those who don’t usually take to Shakespeare, Tresnjak’s resplendent production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Hartford Stage is entirely lucid and literate and proves to be a triumph for everyone involved.
The company of characters in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” involve fairies and Gods and there is more than a little bit of magic sprinkled during the play, involving love potions and other assorted mystical powers. While it could possibly be confusing to follow the plot, what with the actors taking on multiple roles, everything comes together beautifully in this production and the show positively shimmers throughout. This play demands a large cast and the one assembled for this show is entirely versatile and skilled, with many of the performers standing out.
Chief among the characters are the roles of Hippolyta/Titania, portrayed by the glorious Scarlett Strallen, and she is matched by the grand and imposing Esau Pritchett as Theseus/Oberon. Each actor does a wonderful job of taking on two characters and their finely etched performances are key assets in this “Midsummer Night’s Dream” working as well it does here. Strallen even displays a beautiful singing voice near the end of the play and Pritchett is appropriately commanding in his dual roles.
That’s not to take anything away from the other actors. Playing the rambunctious and raunchy character of Bottom, John Lavelle is everything you could ask for, as he struts and delivers his lines with all the gusto that is demanded of this role. Lavelle is a bit of a clown portraying this part and he wrings everything imaginable out of Shakespeare’s text. Will Apicella is just as fabulous as the fairy Puck, who acts as a sort of cupid during the show, and he practically floats from scene to scene and all over Alexander Dodge’s multi-level set.
Portraying the four lovers at the center of the plot, director Tresnjak has found the ideal actors to take on this quartet of characters. Tom Pecinka, who was so fine in Hartford Stage’s recent production of “Cloud 9,” is a stalwart Lysander, and Damian Jermaine Thompson is equally good as Demetrius. Playing their female counterparts, Jenny Leona and Fedna Laure Jacquet shine as, respectively, Hermia and Helena. Things can get quite complicated in the various couplings among these characters, but, suffice it is to say, everything turns out well in the end.
In addition to the excellent acting, every aspect of this lavish production is pretty breathtaking. Joshua Pearson’s costumes are luxurious and the lighting design by York Kennedy is absolutely perfect. In addition, there is wonderful music played throughout the show, composed by the richly talented Alexander Sovronsky. What’s more, the sound design by Broken Chord is crystal clear and the projection design by Lucas Clopton and Darron Alley positively glows.
Everything comes together wonderfully well in Darko Tresjak beautiful and flawless staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Hartford Stage and the show’s two and a half hour running time (with an intermission) passes over the audience like an ecstatic dream. This luscious production ranks as a complete success and, as stated, even those who find Shakespeare plays hard to follow will be richly rewarded. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Hartford Stage is so glorious that it should set a standard for how this play should ideally be served in future stagings.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” continues performances at Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT through October 8, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.hartfordstage.org or call the box office at 860-527-5151.
Photo: (L-R): Scarlett Stallen and Esau Pritchett
Photo by T. Charles Erickson