Sweet Midsummer Night’s Dream

University of Victoria's Phoenix Theatre shakes up Shakespeare

If this is a dream – don’t wake me.

Phoenix theatre is at its best with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s hard to pick standouts from this solid cast of student actors – and there’s plenty to choose from in this cast of two dozen.

Unusual for any production – let alone one of Shakespeare’s most popular works – this one is tackled by actors barely out of their teens, and each one takes their piece of the stage and owns it.

Harnessing her own experiences from a summer in New York city, and some of the 1970s most iconic music, director Fran Gebhard found New York a perfect setting for, as it’s affectionately called, the “Dream.” Two pairs of lovers – Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius – wander from the safety of Park Avenue to Central Park, and find themselves at the mercy of powerful forces (and their own passions) as clashing gangs manoeuvre for control.

The punk rock Puck, cleverly played by Levi Schneider, is bold, sly and mischievous without the usual sprite-like impishness. Schneider weaves the scenes together as Shakespeare wrote them (well, almost), with confidence and 80s style, complete with mohawk and studs.

Hermia, played deftly by Laura-Jane Tressider, is in love with Lysander, a stalwart Jenson Kerr who looks born to wear that sweater over his shoulders, but her parents want her to marry Demetrius.

Logan Mitev as Demetrius is straight as an arrow until he is charmed by the fairy Puck. At this point Mitev is enticing to watch as he becomes the definition of besotted; a doe-eyed, slack-jawed version of himself who positively drools over Sara Cashin’s Helena.

Cashin seems most comfortable with the dialogue, seamlessly reeling off some of the longest speeches of the night with unbeatable aplomb. Believeably in love with Demetrius, Cashin delivers an honest, captivating performance.

The interconnecting plots feature a troupe of actors practising a play for the wedding of Hermia’s father.

The mechanicals, led by Peter Quince (a funny Frances Melling), are a solid bunch, as are the fairies – in this case a hippie coven perfectly opposing the punk gang.

Sean Dyer’s portrayal of Bottom, the driver charmed into an ass, is delightful. He sings, he sways, he brays and plays the character with ineffable charm.

Aidan Correia’s Oberon is a perfect balance of tough and tender. The chemistry between Correia and Arielle Permack’s bohemian fairy queen Titania comes across sweetly as the pair share a dance.

Full of surprises, great lighting, fun music, stellar costumes designed by Dallas Ashby, sets that simply tell you where you are, Gebhard and team make this one sweet dream.

Perfect for those new to Shakespeare, UVic’s Phoenix Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on now until Nov. 22.

Details online at phoenixtheatres.ca or call 250-721-8000.

 

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