A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Last weekend, my husband, G. Grod, and I went to the Guthrie Theater to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I wore a dress, heels, lipstick AND mascara. It was truly an event.

Joe Dowling directed, so we knew to expect a crowd-pleasing, rather than an intellectual, take on the material. The fairy costumes were appropriately ostentatious, but looked like leftover Cats costumes. The play had other similarly dated cultural references, not surprising given it’s a revival of a production Dowling did over a decade ago.

I find the Guthrie succeeds best on a small scale, rather than when it tries to emulate New York City. The fairy productions felt weighted down with effects and gimmicks, as well as by pedestrian musical numbers. But the smaller scenes, especially those of the players, were successful. The final scene featuring their play within a play went long, but was one of the funniest parts of the production.

I followed the play by reading the text. I savor the familiar lines, like Puck’s “Lord, what fools these mortals be,” and Lysander’s “The course of true love never did run smooth.” It is not a play in which it’s good to be a woman. Hippolyta does not seem nearly as eager as Theseus to wed, perhaps because he “won [her] love, doing [her] injuries.” Hermia must choose among death, marriage to a man she doesn’t love, or a nunnery. Helena is spurned by her former lover, who wishes to marry the unwilling Hermia. And Titania is bewitched by Puck and her husband Oberon into loving the foolish mortal Bottom, whom Puck has disguised as an ass. While the ending is replete with the weddings required for this to be a comedy, I didn’t enjoy this earlier play of Shakespeare’s as much as I do the later romances.

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