A midwinter day’s dream in the SCC
Review — If you walked in to Hold Thy Peace’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” expecting a somewhat-faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic playthis weekend, you were definitely disappointed. I try my best to walk into Shakespeare productions with an open mind because the director will always have a unique vision or interpretation. However, I was still skeptical going forward. The play was staged in the Shapiro Campus Center’s multi-purpose room, which, beforehand, had not seemed like an optimal location for the play. I had also heard beforehand that the adaptation of the typically two-to-two-and-a-half-hour play was shortened to roughly 70 minutes.
My skepticism washed away when I entered the room. As soon as I made my way through the hung string lights, I felt as though I had not entered the multi-purpose room; I was in a dream. The set designer should be lauded for their creativity. I was immersed in someone’s twisted dream taking place in the Athenian woods, but if the Athenian woods were made of colorful lights and trash. The inspired vision is accredited to Aislyn Fair ’19, the scenic designer. The technical aspects of the play (choreography, lighting design, costume design, etc.) were all combined to create one consistent tone, an attribute of good directing.
Gabe Walker ’19, the director, clearly saw that there was potential in the story with different perspectives to explore. This may be why he chose to feature music in his adaptation. When I say adaptation, I do mean an adaptation in the loosest sense. The plot points and characters were present, but a myriad of scenes were cut to produce this abridged version. The music’s prominence replaced more than half of Shakespeare’s available dialogue. If BT Montrym’s ’19 music had not been so appropriate and complementary with Walker’s direction, I don’t think it could have been pulled off. Caitlin Crane-Moscowitz’s ’20 and Hannah McCowan’s ’19 choreography was seductive, the use of the small space was efficient and creative, and the singing was outstanding, particularly by Karina Wen ’20, Sophia Massidda ’20 and Rebecca Myers ’18, who played Hermia, Helena and Titania, respectively. However, their male counterparts, while good actors, did not reach their level.
A major problem that I had, however, was the way the play was adapted. I didn’t mind the incorporation of music and the provocative choreography, but it wasn’t a true adaptation. As one of the most famous comedies of all time, I hardly laughed, and neither did most of the audience, though it wasn’t because jokes fell flat, it was because the play didn’t seem to go in that direction. Instead, most of the evening’s laughter came from the fairies in the back (which I found particularly annoying, like how I find a laugh track during a sitcom). The performers did their job well, but I felt their incessant laughter was distracting and unnecessary.
Because I was unaware that the play was going to be altered in such a drastically unique way, I did not get as much out of it as I had hoped. If I had known this was not a straight adaptation or if I went back in a second time knowing what I was getting into or if I had known it was practically a musical, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. I’d say it’s not really a criticism of the play itself, so much as a comment on the way it was advertised. As mentioned, I like to keep an open mind when entering these productions, but I did not expect to be taken aback with such a significant a deviation from the original script.
I can’t be mad at a play that had tonal and stylistic consistency just because I didn’t expect it. I admire the risk, the expectation subversion spearheaded by Walker. I’d look out for any future directorial efforts by Walker. His quality is consistent and unique, as I wasn’t completely put off by “Urinetown,” his previous effort. Watch out for him as well as the main stars who all formed a great ensemble cast.