A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Reviewed by Dana Martin
The Group Rep
Through December 31
It’s hard to determine what The Group Rep was going for, exactly, in their largely uninspired incarnation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Lonny Chapman Theatre. There seems to have been little consideration of style, pace and place, and the result lacks nuance and specificity.
Midsummer is among Shakespeare’s best and most delightful. It certainly remains among the most popular to produce, even 400 plus years later. The play weaves a chase through the forest involving two pairs of lovers with preparations for the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, a custody battle between Oberon and Titania, the fairy King and Queen, and a rag-tag band of dopey actors rehearsing a play for Theseus’s wedding reception. It’s zany, brilliantly written and full of magic.
The cast delivers their lines beautifully but they don’t appear to be talking to each other — and they certainly aren’t listening to each other. It’s as if each actor is in a separate play. Anna Gion delivers a refreshingly heartfelt performance as headstrong Helena. Hartley Power’s Hermia is all posing and posturing. Doren Sorell’s Demetrius is a lovable loser. Mikel Parraga-Wills exudes boyish innocence as lovesick Lysander. Suzy London plays Titania with heart, though misses the crucial task of clearly conveying why the Changeling Boy is so important to her and why she refuses to give him to Oberon. The emotional weight within the text is not articulated. Marc Singer plays Oberon as a back-room swindler, with secrets and schemes aplenty. Bennett Saltzman finds moments of magic as Puck, though he’s not nearly nimble enough. J. Christopher Sloan is appropriately ridiculous as the self-absorbed Bottom, and Lloyd Pedersen delights as the harried play director, Peter Quince.
Director Marc Singer (who also plays Oberon) has difficulty finessing the finer points of the play and creating a cohesive evening. He’s staged the production with Oberon as the protagonist — which is tricky since Oberon definitely is not that. Singer’s choice throws the balance of the play’s action out of joint. Further, all the magic and transformation occurs just off-stage, so the audience misses the satisfaction of witnessing it in motion. The set design, also by Singer, has a cartoonish, Dr. Seuss quality, and the play almost follows suit. Angela M. Eads’ costume design is light and breezy.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Group Rep is like one of those dreams you have that is full of story and adventure, complete with plot twists and wacky characters, but you just can’t quite remember it. But then again, the course of true play-making never did run smooth…
The Group Rep, 10900 Burbank Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through December 31; 818-763-5990 or thegrouprep.com; Running time: approximately two hours with an intermission.