In my mind, it’s safe to say when you go to the Folger Theatre at the Folger Shakespeare Library you’re in for an entertaining night where you’ll likely see a performance that embraces both innovation and tradition. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on stage until March 13, is no exception. You may even feel like you’ve attended a pep rally for Team LOVE after the exuberant musical closing scene.
This is a play most of us know, and know well. If you’re of a certain age, the mystical characters of the enchanted wood bring back memories of the heartbreakingly beautiful boys of Dead Poets Society.
You often walk into a performance of one of the Bard’s best known plays with assumptions and expectations. My own were blown to bits. From the teenage lovers recast as Millennial-clad posers and a giddily mischievous Oberon, to a spritely-yet-pumped Puck with both a magical and musical skill set, this performance was fun through and through and you could see it in the faces of the actors as well the audience.
The story, a series of romantic misunderstandings and magical missed connections, is combined with a side-romp about uniformed private school girls producing a really horrid play starring Nikki Bottom (played by the always-engaging Holly Twyford). Wearing shoes–make that hooves–as befitting Fashion Week, Twyford leads the cast in joke after joke and manages to reinvent Bottom.
Erin Weaver, as Puck, flits about a bit like Tinkerbell with a few months of Crossfit under her belt. She’s devilish as Puck always is, but her childlike adoration of Oberon is as lively as the supernatural fairies that spring from her fingers. Plus she has some mad biceps.
Director Aaron Posner does not shy away from delving into the tragic elements of the comedy. Going against her father’s wishes and eloping with Lysander, Hermia –played by Betsy Mugavero– discovers her father would prefer her dead than insubordinate. Kim Wong, playing Helena, captures romantic heartbreak and desperation in both her delivery and physicality– and in 4-inch heels! Megan Graves, with her big eyes and small voice, makes nerdy schoolgirl Snout into a standout.
The cast sends theatre goers out into the winter night with joyful harmonizing and gregarious carousing in the play’s musical wrap up. Join the fun and get your tickets while you still can.