One late summer evening in the dimmed, pooling light of La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre, a brave Ben Schostakowski (director) polishes up the most performed and endeared of Shakespeare plays and gloriously messes around with it.
With flagrant disregard for traditionalists and dullards, he picks up the Athenian lovers and mischievous fairies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and plonks them in the midst of the kitsch suburbia of the 1950s. The result is a wildly hilarious experiment that feels a bit like the offspring of That ‘70s Show and Spielberg’s Poltergeist. !Puck is slightly unsettling and unlike you’ve ever seen him before!)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is by no means a small play, but in this absolutely brilliant adaptation, everything is compressed by a novel new world. The expansive Athenian woods is replaced by the limitation of walls and doors lending to some fun slapstick opportunities. Dan Barber successfully replicates our grandparents’ stuffy old homes complete with parquetry flooring, an internal staircase and retro furnishings that are used throughout to reshape the dramatic spaces. It’s not often that we see a realist set of this calibre in a small theatre and by filling it with such bizarre mysticism, yet another layer of inspired fun reveals itself.
The large number of characters are portrayed by just a few – six extremely energetic actors in total. Christen O’Leary is almost schizophrenic in her unique delivery of Titania, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed all at once. With speedy character changes happening in the time between an exit through one door and the entry from the next, there is no respite for this hyperactive cast. Emily Burton is a sure show stealer, relishing the delight of the audience over her awkward high-drama Helena and the already mentioned O’Leary is just simply divine. Kieran Law who always seems to start a little quietly, unleashes his comedic power as the hijinks kick in. It must be said that his ass is something to behold!
This production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most fun I’ve ever had watching Shakespeare, and if this is any indication of the quality of production for La Boite’s 90th anniversary year – it is going to be a great one.
At $59 per ticket ($35 for students and under 30’s) it does seem expensive for the budget conscious but rest assured it is well worth every cent. Arrive early and enjoy watching the Roundhouse Theatre fill up – there is a certain magical buzz this theatre emits, which echoes the ghosts of theatres past.