In their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mask & Bauble managed not to take themselves too seriously, which is often the fatal flaw of amateur theater. However, it’s hard to go wrong with such a lighthearted play, and for this show, everything certainly went right.
For those who do not know the plot of Midsummer, first of all, high school did you wrong, and second of all, it is quite complicated. There is a play within a play; most of the actors double their roles; there are a set of couples who fall in love with the wrong people due to a spell cast by a fairy which then has to be redone so that they fall in love with the right people. And, at the end, it all works out (sorry for the spoiler). While there is no remedy for the confusion unless you’ve read and seen the play—probably multiple times to truly get it down—it is still thoroughly enjoyable, even through the complicated plotlines.
For a show put on by school that is by not necessarily known for its theater, the acting, staging, directing, and overall production was impeccable. The theater was set up in the round, meaning an oval stage sat in the middle, encircled by the audience. The only downside to this was that due to the low level seating, sometimes one actor standing on one side of the stage would be obscured by another actor on the other side. Otherwise this staging was a pleasant surprise and an overall asset to the play. Floral decor, a must for any Midsummer production, lined the seating areas and the stage itself. The use of the whole theater, from actors circling the stage to climbing up beams and banisters to sitting on the risers where the audience members themselves sat, it made the small Poulton stage feel so much grander. Everything was perfectly whimsical, as it should be, and absolutely hysterical, as it must be.
Maggie Cammaroto (COL ‘22), who played the role of obsessive and scorned Helena, was astounding. Her acting was a stand-out of the cast, which was already very impressive. She was able to make Helena’s role unique in her sassy attitude and over-the-top expressiveness. The whole cast really let loose in the course of the show, and the theatrics of it all made it impossible not to laugh out loud.
For a cast that is half freshman, it was surprising how good the acting was throughout. While there were a couple actors who didn’t truly wow, the majority of the characters did a phenomenal job with balancing the comedy of the play with the seriousness of Shakespeare. All of the dramatic monologues, particularly those of Helena and Theseus (Austin Parenteau, SFS ‘19), were delivered with perfect phrasing, emphasis, and energy.
This rendition of Shakespeare’s classic is set in the late ‘60s, which director Eliza Palter (COL ‘20) described as highly intentional due to the 50 years which have passed since said date, as well as the events surrounding said time period.
“It was a very politically volatile time in 1968,” Palter said in an interview with the Voice. “As we venture into the forest we are taking them out of their cultural temporality and putting them into this liminal space that lets us explore the themes of the play; love, friendship, loss.”
Christian Collier (COL ‘19), who produced the show, said that the impetus for the production came nearly eight months ago when he and Palter decided on bringing a classic to the Georgetown stage. They chose to use a more modern setting while staying true to the original text. This strategy, which is not rare in Shakespeare recreations, worked well for them, as it added to the magic of the show with ‘60s style costumes and music. However, it did not transform the play overall. At times it merely felt like an afterthought. But the impeccable acting, tenacious comedy, inventive staging, and overall production made up for it.
The show itself was purposefully quick-paced, but even still, the play is two hours long. Dialogue is delivered at rapid speed, which works to add to the sharp witted comedy. The set is hardly changed, only to place and remove a desk, which didn’t even seem necessary in the grand scheme of the show. But aside for the minor missteps mentioned in this review, Mask & Bauble has done a spectacular job recreating this timeless tale. The play was planned and performed to a tee, and is a must-see for theater lovers and newbies alike.
The production is running tonight, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m., Nov. 4 at 2 p.m., and Nov. 7 through Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.