Performing a Shakespearean play is one of the most difficult feats to pull off in theater. Those that excel at it make it look easy. Such is the case with Serenbe Playhouse’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With the performance taking place on a summer evening under a forest canopy, Shakespeare himself could not have picked a better setting to stage the production.
Under the direction of Brian Clowdus, the show presents a tightly woven, truncated story of mistaken lovers. The production showcases everything that makes a Serenbe production wonderful: enchanting scenery and unique presentations. Add to those the top-notch performances of the lead actors and actresses, and the show becomes a magical experience.
Set in the 1950s, the production uses the available landscape quite well. The show begins in an area where the ruins of a former home stand. While fairies frolic around the edges of the crowd, the arrival of a classic car heralds the beginning of the progressive show. Following the opening scene, the fairies lead the crowd into the woods where the remainder of the play takes place under the glow of moonlight.
Laura Floyd plays a delightful Hermia, complete with Southern Belle elegance. She attacks the role with unadulterated abandon, and she commands the “stage.” An equally worthy ingénue, Erin Burnett’s performance as Helena, dazzles due to her superb comedic talent. Their fight scene, one that is masterfully choreographed by fight captain Molly Schoolmeester, has to be one of the most hilarious moments seen on an Atlanta stage this year.
As the two lovers of Hermia and Helena, both Kenneth Mayfield as Lysander and Justin Walker as Demetrius pursue their roles with as much passion as the ladies. Losing themselves in the roles, the group shows no fear of getting their hands, clothes or hair dirty, making the authenticity of the performance exciting to watch.
Different from many productions, the playful Puck is played by a woman. Caitlin Reeves creates a feisty, devious take on the sprite that captivates the audience and makes the role seem as though it were always a female role. In another twist, a real mule is used for Bottom instead of a donkey’s mask, which makes the scenes with Titania (Jessica Miesel) doting on him more outrageous and funny. Additionally, instead of the fairy songs from the text, Clowdus has replaced them with ‘50s pop songs such as “Mr. Sandman” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” further adding enchantment to the evening.
A magical night out, A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays at Serenbe Playhouse through July 15. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The production has a run time of a little over an hour and a half.
– Kenny Norton