I’m somewhat of a Shakespearean.
“To be or not to be … To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream: Ay, there’s the rub.” Resonated all too closely with “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
The times changed, and my attitudes changed with them. I eschewed absurdism for Platonism and ontology, though I still think Hamlet is probably the best play I’ve ever read. I registered for two Shakespeare courses at this university and I esteem the Bard maybe as much as Descartes.
So when Bloc photographer Cassie Osvatics said she was looking for a reporter to accompany her to an on-campus performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I volunteered to go and write a review.
By this point, the storyline was hazy to me, as I expect may be the case for many of you, so here’s a refresher.
Theseus, Duke of Athens, is preparing to celebrate his wedding with Hippolyta. Meanwhile, Hermia, daughter of Egeus, has been betrothed to marry Demetrius, but only has eyes for Lysander. Theseus tells Hermia that if she doesn’t submit to her father’s will by the following day, she will either be put to death or forced to become a nun devoted to the moon goddess Diana.
Another Athenian noblewoman, Helena, strives to earn the affection of Demetrius, only to be mercilessly rebuked. She learns of Hermia and Lysander’s plan to elope into the woods that same night, and tells Demetrius of their scheme in the hopes of earning his love. They go into the woods after Hermia and Lysander.
Oberon, King of the Fairies, learns of the animosity between these lovers, and orders his ward, Puck, to use love potions on them in order to quell the unrest. Puck uses his potion on the wrong pair of lovers, and the ensuing events involve Oberon’s striving to fix his mistake, as well as exact revenge upon his wife Titania for denying him the use of her changeling.
In the end, the Athenians wake up the next morning believing the previous night’s mishaps to have been a dream, and Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding ceremony is capped off with an awful theatrical rendition of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Director Ben Kleymeyer, a senior theatre major, noted he intended to take a stab at a queer version of Midsummer. In the Director’s Note from the play’s program, he wrote:
“In Queer Theory we define queer as anything at odds with the socially agreed upon understanding of sex, gender and sexuality. Shakespeare, who wrote female roles to inherently be played by male actors, is queer.”
Eight actors from the Maryland Shakespeare Players took on multiple roles in order to give the audience a distinct and vivacious rendition of this play. The major twist here is that Hermia was played by a male actor and Demetrius was played by an actress.
Jonathan Wiechecki, a freshman letters and sciences major, delivered a saucy, brazen performance as Hermia. His rendition made me think both of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust days and of The Cure’s brooding lead singer, Robert Smith. He also took on the role of Fairy Queen, Titania’s henchman and Mustardseed and Flute, from the itinerant acting troupe, the Mechanicals.
As an ass-headed Bottom who was being fawned over as “handsome and wise” by Titania, he deftly replied, “No. Neither.” Tighe’s mercurial acting brought to mind Robert De Niro’s role as Johnny from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets.
Genna Godley, a senior English major, played a spritely Puck, who all throughout was simply fun to watch. With enigmatic hand gestures, she would manipulate other characters onstage into falling asleep, waking up or simply going where she wanted them to. During the play within a play at the end, she also provided some welcome roasts of the Pyramus and Thisbe performance.
My Shakespeare professor in both courses I’ve taken here, Ted Leinwand, has likened Shakespeare to a big plastic dummy who stands upright and can be smacked around, but will always find a way to return to its original posture.
Last night’s performance seems ample proof of this theory. The Maryland Shakespeare Players’ rendition proved plenty fresh, even if at one point, both stage left and stage right collapsed. Sorry, you should’ve been there to see it.
Their soundtrack was more contemporary, with my colleague, Osvatics, noting Tegan and Sara. The stage, though minimalistic, certainly sufficed to accommodate all the action. The dialogue, as far as my hazy recollection of the original text goes, was true to Shakespeare.
And most importantly, the performances were both respectable and fun. One walks away knowing the Maryland Shakespeare Players worked hard to prepare for this performance, but had a good time doing so. The two hours’ traffic of this stage felt like a walk in the enchanted woods.
Two more performances will be staged on Nov. 20 and 22. As an amateur Shakespearean, I highly recommend you go. It’s free, so don’t pretend to be too poor to take in this lush reworking of one of Shakespeare’s most playful works.
“The lunatic, the lover and the poet, are of imagination all compact.”
Featured Photo Credit: Freshman Jonathan Wiechecki (left), and Becky Remsberg (right), a freshman agribusiness major, performed in a Maryland Shakespeare Players adaption of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Cafritz Foundation Theatre of The Clarice. The play was performed in the style of Glasgow Citizen Theatre’s Queer Shakespeare. Jonathan played Hermia, Mustardseed, and Flute and Becky portrayed Demetrius, Cobweb, and Snout. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Horus Alas is senior philosophy major and can be reached at email@example.com.