MILL HALL - What say you? At this midsummer, shall you view one of the Bard's comedies or tragedies?
If you savor tragedy, there is always "Macbeth," so, a trip to Broadway to see Alan Cummings' one man show might be the answer - except the show closed just last week. But you can still see "Macbeth" if you head across the pond with Kenneth Branagh in the title role at England's famed Manchester Festival.
Or better yet, instead of a tragedy, stick closer to home and see one of William Shakespeare's best-known comedies.
“A?Midsummer Night’s Dream” has 7:30 p.m. performances tonight through Sunday on the Main Stage at Millbrook Playhouse, 258 Country Club Lane, Mill Hall.
Millbrook Playhouse's production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" has 7:30 p.m. performances tonight through Sunday on the upstairs Main Stage.
Midsummer means mid-season for the old barn playhouse, so it's fitting that "A Midsummer Night's Dream" sallies forth in Millbrook's historic 50th season. A favorite of Artistic Director Theresa K. Pond, the play was taken up because of her suggestion of selecting a Shakespearian work - which is a major deviation from most summer theater fare - and was enthusiastically approved by its Board of Directors.
Pond directs the rollicking version with the large cast, giving an animated delivery of this tale of romantic confusion and chaos.
As spoken by one of the young lovers, " ... the course of true love never did run smooth." And in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," not only do affairs of the heart not run smooth, but slings and arrows are constant roadblocks to the expected happy ending.
Interconnected by the wedding of Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen Hippolyta, three interlocking plots focus upon the misadventures of four Athenian lovers, a troupe of actors and the fairies who roam the forest where the play is primarily set. The fairies are graceful, the actors clumsy and the lovers are so serious, making their plights funny.
In love, opposites may attract, but in "Midsummer," casting visual opposites is integral. So, Millbrook's casting director gets top marks for selecting Helena (Madeline Wise) who is tall and Hermia (Katrina Michaels) who is short; with Titania (Mary Maloney) looking beautiful and Bottom (Corey Lawson) looking boorish in his ass-head.
There is solid casting with Josh Houghton (Lysander) and Jonathan Minton (Demetrius) as competing lovers and agile Ariel Marcus playing the mischievous Puck. (The role formerly was often played by a man with the most memorable casting in the 1935 movie version with Mickey Rooney portraying Puck.)
Probably with the best technical support in the current season, Millbrook's "Midsummer" is set in 1911. Costume Designer Roejendra Adams warrants special mention for the crisp tan, beige and white outfits for the four lovers, the mismatching getups for the troupe (including a crock-potted Richard Guido as Tom Snout-Wall) and earth-colored attired fairies.
Although Scenic Designer Mark DeLancey avoids creating a palace setting for the "wedding site," the large forest green burlap trees effectively create the woods where love abounds and magic happens.
Although Puck's misuse of a magic potion creates chaos, Shakespeare uses the potion as a symbol of the fickle, erratic power of love, which ultimately restores the balance among the Athenian lovers. So, all is well that ends well.
Played in two acts with an intermission and running over two hours, the Bard wrote the "Midsummer" to be unfolded in five acts. Many will find the language and cadence a bit difficult to decipher, at least in the beginning. But if the play's the thing, in a summer of "classics," Millbrook's selection of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is an entertaining choice, whether it be presented as an early, late or midsummer night attraction.
As an extra bonus, one of the troupe's dogs makes a cameo appearance. Now, with all the dogs available, theatergoers should be a bit suspicious that the dog is played by Gracie Pond.
That just happens to be Theresa K. Pond's pooch. To paraphrase what William Shakespeare might have been heard to say, "nepotism is alive and well, even in the confines of central Pennsylvania."
For more info, call 748-8083 or visit www.millbrookplahouse.org.