Saturday, July 20, 2013

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Synetic Theater

Image found here.
 A Midsummer Night's Dream is my favorite Shakespeare play, so I try to see it whenever I can (in any form: a play, a ballet, a movie, etc.). Last night, I saw it at the Synetic Theater in Crystal City in Virginia. The venue was quite small, so there wasn't a bad seat in the house. But we were not seated until 8, the time the play was supposed to start (and I had arrived an hour early, so you can understand my frustration). But that is not the point of this post. Let's focus on the performance itself.

Image found here.

I'd like to first start off with the fact that it was obvious that this particular performance was very inspired by the 1999 movie version of the play. The performance started with a dark stage, with fairies dancing about holding gold lights in their hands that flitted about the stage; in the film, little flecks of light, much like fire flies, represent fairies as well. Also, the changeling boy is blue just like in the film; this is because the child is from India, and Vishnu (an important deity in Hindu history) is blue. The costume for Hippolyta (Jodi Niehoff) was quite similar, too (long gown, elbow-length gloves), which I think is odd, since Hippolyta is supposed to be an Amazonian woman.

But the performance did put their own spin on some things. For one, the play was silent! Occasionally one of the actors would make a sound effect, but there was no dialogue throughout the entire thing. While this was off-putting at times, since I knew the story, I knew what was happening, and could simply interpret the actors' movements and expressions. Ryan Sellers, who played Peter Quince, was especially talented in this realm, with a very expressive face and exaggerated actions (though at times too exaggerated to the point of slapstick comedy, which is not my style). Also, a piano man (Konstantine Lortkipanidze) was a key part of the group of actors, and he was incredible. He had no sheet music! I was quite impressed with this addition to the story/play. The performance also included Hermia's dream about a snake, which I had never seen performed before.

Image found here.
I was also impressed by how the actors interacted with one another. I enjoyed the great sexual tension between Titania (Tori Bertocci, with a strong face similar to Sarah Jessica Parker's) and Oberon (Philip Fletcher). They wore metallic masks and metal armor (think Princess Lea in Star Wars), and they danced so well with each other that you really felt a connection between the couple. Plus, they were both super-fit, so their half-naked bodies were easy on the eyes. The interplay between Helena (Emily Whitworth) and Hermia (Irina Kavsadze; her father also played Egeus, Hermia's father in the story. How funny!) was very good. Whitworth's humor in her face was infectious, and Irina's looks (she looks like the love child of Leighton Meester and Desiree, this season's Bachelorette) made everyone want to root for her and Lysander (Scott Brown). And Puck (Alex Mills) was as mischievous yet lovable as always; need I say more?

Image found here.
And I understand that plays are meant to be interpreted, but there are a few things this performance just got all wrong. For one, it equated the changeling boy to Puck. They are NOT the same person! This play showed Titania and Oberon paying equal amounts of attention to the boy, but Puck really only serves Oberon; the changeling boy isn't even that important of a character in the play. Also, in the play, when Puck plays the trick on Bottom to turn him into an ass, he gives him long donkey ears. But in this version, they gave him a pair of fur pants and a tail. While the message was still clear, I prefer the image of Bottom with the ears, and quite frankly, I think it would have been an easier costume to create! But instead, they made Bottom (Irakli Kavsadze) look like Dionysus/Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god. Then at the end, when the "troupe of players" had finished their play, you find out one of their actors (Katie Dubois Maguire) is really a woman; I immediately got a flashback to the movie Shakespeare in Love. So, not very original.

All in all, I enjoyed myself, and I could tell that the actors and crew put so much work into the production, which is very admirable and respectable. The set was simple yet fun, and the costumes were absolutely beautiful (I'm a girl; of course I'm going to pay attention to the clothes!). Next time, I'll just make sure not to show up so early!

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