Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream graces the stage at College of Charleston with a genius, unexpected twist. The world is tired of the typical Shakespearean play that involves tights and puffy sleeves. This show had neither. Even with the smallish size of the audience, the laughs were loud. By the end of the show, some audience members were shedding tears of joy, yours truly included.
The show was kept out of time in, “a time not unlike our own,” per the playbill. The costumes were excellent and simple. It was easy to distinguish the characters and their social status. The acting troupe’s costumes were perfect for their characters: somewhat sloppy and unorganized. The fairies costumes were ornate, but their makeup was the thing to celebrate. Puck’s makeup looked surreal; there was never a moment where I questioned whether or not Puck’s makeup meshed with her costume. Oberon’s hair was perfectly odd. I could never figure out if this glorious mane was a wig or the actor’s hair. The acting troupe’s costumes for their “performance” at the end of the show were wonderfully hilarious. Flute had a hair band with what looked like pieces of construction paper attached to symbolize long flowing locks; this went great with his dainty voice and curtsies.
The set was effective but didn’t seem to be very sturdy. There were lots of platforms at varying levels that were all connected with poles. At times, the poles would shake when an actor would grab them, and I was frightened the set would break; at the top of the poles lay lots of white tool and glitter tool. The top looked cheap; like something I might find in a high school set, not in a college that takes its theatre department seriously. The poles were effective and the fairy characters used them well; they glided along gracefully using the poles throughout. Other times, I felt as if Titania was going to start stripping. During the scenes she is under a trance and in love with a donkey-man, I was waiting for her to become a burlesque dancer: A midsummer night’s strip club. The platforms were brilliant; they kept the actors away from each other when needed and gave great visuals. The levels were well designed and different for every scene.
The acting was an A+. I loved how each character was unique and well thought out. Every actor in the mechanicals stood out. Throughout the play, I found myself waiting impatiently for the players’ next scene. Bottom, brought to life by Randy Risher, was unparalleled throughout the entire show. After his entrance, he set the bar incredibly high for the show; no one quite topped him. Almost every time he spoke, he caused the audience to overflow with laughter. Randy was loud and easily understood, impressively done without mics. Quince, played by Trevor Catalano, was a beautifully quirky character that could only take stairs by stepping sideways; his movements were comically stiff. He was a hilarious mix of robot and actor. Katie Metz’s rendition of Snout was nothing short of hysterical. She purposefully took on the role as bad actor during the mechanicals’ performance, breaking the fourth wall to cause an uproarious laughter in the audience. Snug, played by David Whittington, was delightfully dumb; he was the epitome of dopy in Snow White.
College of Charleston made a necessary societal statement with the slight change of characters. Helena was renamed Helenus and Lysander was renamed Lysandra.
The two main couples were same-sex.
If that isn’t genius, then I don’t know what is. I was a little nervous about how this would work out at the beginning in regards to the script, but the slight changes were unnoticeable; the change in sexuality suited the show beautifully. The lines we never thought about until now were all too fitting. “I am beloved of beauteous Hermia. Why should not I then prosecute my right?” brings on a whole new meaning with the innovative casting of the show. The actors also did a great job portraying the love story we know so well in a new way. The production eloquently fought for marriage equality. For that reason alone, it should have a sold out house every night.